Using cold-frames is a good way to get a jump on the season and have your hot weather loving plants in the ground well before Victoria Day weekend, the traditional day to transplant these vegetables. My introduction to cold frame gardening came as I was wandering the streets of Little Italy and noticed all sorts of plastic coverings placed over planters and some directly on the ground. The "cold-frames" that made me most curious appeared in gardens all over the neighborhood. These were 2 liter pop bottles with the bottoms cut out and placed over top of plants. Thinking that all the vegetable gardeners in Little Italy had gone completely insane, I asked a lady who was working on her pop bottle covered plants what she was doing. She explained that the pop bottle creates a miniature green-house that traps in the heat from the day and prevents frost from landing on the plant at night.
Realizing the brilliance of these simple green-houses I went home to do some research so that I could construct my own cold-frames. After a little research in a readers digest book called Back to Basics, I learned that cold-frames can be as simple or as complex as you want, ranging from a simple pop bottle to a walk-in green-house. I decided to construct something in the middle.
The Back to Basics article that I read suggested the best material for cold-frames to be old windows. This gave me an opportunity to perform one of my favourite activities, riding my bike around and rummaging through peoples garbage to find thrown out treasures. Eventually I did find a set of great old windows which I attached together so that it could run overtop of the tomato plants. For the cucumbers I made a simpler cold-frame, constructed out of clear plastic sheeting and wires bent to shape.
I put both of these cold-frames in place just before the last couple of frosts and have been worried about whether the plants are going to make it. I raised the tomato's and cucumbers from seed and don't have a back up set of plants if they die, so there is a bit of a gamble here. But if it is successful we could get an extra two weeks of production out of the plants.