After the session with Fannie, I headed to “Extending the Growing Season for Increased Harvests” with Vinnie Bevivino of Master Peace Community Garden.
Though the Riverdale, Md. operation is technically in the ‘burbs, Vinnie had brought a very applicable idea to present—creating a cold frame. This is basically a small-scale version of a greenhouse. It can keep conditions nice and comfy for your veggies into the late fall, or let you start your plants earlier in the spring, thus extending a growing season of six months to nine or 10.
You can make one of these with a used window, reclaimed two-by-eights and one-by-fours, used mountain bike tires, hinges, screws, and a latch. You’ll probably also need some handiness, and definitely access to power tools that go beyond my electric drill. But if you know what you’re doing and have a friend with a circular saw and such, Vinnie assured us, you can make one of these babies for under $20.
An alternative is to create a “low frame,” or mini hoop house. A member of Master Peace described how she had done that with some CPVC and copper piping, “elbows” to connect them, and heavy row cover.
I was delighted with both of the workshops I attended, and my fellow gardeners enjoyed their other workshops and discussions. They also got a whole bunch of free seeds for our ’09 garden season.
The coolest thing was this: These organizers were not just master gardeners and experienced farmers, but people who knew about the needs, desires, and challenges of the urban gardening set. They knew about gardening in containers and fighting the onslaught of a mild but veggie-killing winter, and even about rats loving your compost.
Like a microclimate, DC has its own tiny gardening system. This day was so focused on our little constellation of conditions, I wanted to find whoever was responsible and promise that person every perfect tomato of my next five growing seasons.
We tried one of those in my first house in DC! Our yard was not so conducive to gardening, so we didn’t manage to feed ourselves through the winter with it. But it was a fun project and maybe if we had gone to a workshop we would have been more successful….