A simple cold frame

A cold frame will get your seedlings off to a flying start in spring. Cold frames don’t have to be complicated structures or require carpentry expertise. We make ours from some old bricks and windows, and a small quantity of watered-down white or cream house paint. Materials for this type of cold frame can be found at the local tip or building recycling centre. If you don’t have any left over paint, a small sample pot from the hardware store will provide enough paint for this job. Dilute the paint until it provides a slightly opaque coating to the glass. Some hessian bags, an old blanket, or a large piece of shade cloth or weed mat can be used as a cover at night to prevent warmth escaping.
The size of the cold frame is determined by the size of the window. If we only have a small quantity of seedlings that require warmth, we build it to suit one window frame. Three layers of bricks provide ample room for most seedlings. The cold frame will have to be set up in a warm spot to be effective. Close to a north-facing wall is best. The bricks in the cold frame will absorb and store heat during the day and release it slowly at night, keeping the seeds and seedlings warm. However, the cold frame can lose warmth through the glass at night, if it is not covered. Place hessian bags a folded blanket, or crumple shade cloth or weed mat on the glass panels in the late afternoon, and remove them mid morning when air is warmer.
Once seeds have germinated, prop the front of the lid open slightly with a half brick or something similar during the day to allow adequate ventilation.
This type of cold frame is easy to construct and to dismantle when the weather warms. The bricks and window panels can be stacked behind a shed or in an unobtrusive corner.

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Plastic PET bottles

It’s a shame to throw empty plastic soft drink and soda water bottles into the recycling bin because they have a number of uses in the garden. If you cut the base from each bottle, you have an instant miniature green house. Cucumber, pumpkin, rockmelon, watermelon, zucchini and Brassica (cabbage family) seeds are particularly attractive to mice, and plastic bottles can be used to protect them in pots and garden beds. Once the seeds germinate, the bottle lid can be removed to provide ventilation for the growing seedling until it is strong enough to survive without protection. This will also protect them from birds that enjoy newly sprouted seeds. The green houses will also provide humidity for tip cuttings, and protect sensitive seedlings from cold.
Turned upside down, with the bottle neck buried in garden soil, plastic bottles can be used to apply water, through mulch, directly to the root area around shrubs and trees during water restrictions. Propped at a slight angle and filled with water, a couple of plastic bottles can be used to slowly release water to plants in large pots while you are on holiday, provided the plants are watered thoroughly before you leave.
I use a plastic bottle, cut in half, as a funnel for pouring liquid fertilisers into a watering can. If the fertiliser requires straining, I put a length of old panty hose into the bottle as demonstrated in the photo.
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