The hacker spirit…and vegetables!

So, here is a little project that we started to help us grow some vegetables. Now I know you are saying it, Larry, this blog is about technology, how are vegetables related.

In short, they aren’t. In fact this posting is more about the hacker spirit in using something in a manner in which it was not intended. Ultimately, that’s how a lot of things are going to need to be done when the SHTF, so why not practice now.

Here is the problem with our garden. Sure it is a raised bed, but the soil still tends to be rather hard and not an ideal situation for growing root vegetables such as carrots, beets and potatoes. Also, in New England, it gets cold and we have a relatively late planting date. How can we solve both of those problems?

With some hackery of course!

So, we were familiar with the concept of a greenhouse, or on a smaller scale, a cold frame. So we looked around our stores of junk and found the perfect stuff for building them. Many years ago we removed all of the single pane window sashes from our old house and replaced them with vinyl replacement windows. We kept the old sashes almost 10 years ago to use for the stained glass paint on stuff and never got to it, and those were perfect for the lid of a cold frame. We also had some 2×6 lumber and furring strips that we had used for a ramp when moving out of the old house laying around and those would make a perfect frame.

First off, we laid out all of the sashes to find those of similar size. We found 8 sashes that were identical, and decided to make two frames each with 4 windows in a 2×2 configuration. We got them both laid out, cut a furring strip across the middle (the long ways) and one on each side (with an overlap to the inside to act as a lid lip). A bunch of drywall screws later and we hat two lids.

Now that I knew the dimensions of the windows, I could begin constructing for the frames. I cut four sections of 2×6 for the rear, and two of the same length for the front. The sides got six pieces cut as two were held together and cut diagonally, one for each side. Some lengths of furring strip scraps and some drywall screws held them all together. One note, when cutting our lengths, me mindful os which parts go on the inside of the box ends, and shorten the appropriate pieces!

I laid them parts out where we were going to build ght cold frame and they cold frame parts were loosely used for measurement…


Of course there is lawn there, and I had to dig all of that out and remove all the grass. I want to spend as little time as possible weeding them. Also, turing the dirt underneath will help provide even more loose soil. Once dug we assembled the cold frames with some 3″ drywall screws.

Next up, the lid was placed on top, adjusted for square. We had to add a scrap of 2×4 at the top (due to the angle cut being longer than the actual lid, and I’m bad at math), which provided a perfect place to fasten some recycled door hinges for the lid, and now it opens up and can be supported by some side supports.


Yes, add some support. Whey I first started adding some dirt a gust of wind came and blew the lid closed right on my head, shattering one of the panes! Ouch. No lacerations or any cuts. but I had a headache for a few days. I ended up using some scrap cut down to about 1″ x 1 1/4″ and about 7′ tall and pounded in about 2 feet into the ground behind the cold frame to hold the lid up with a loop of string. This also has the aded benefit of keeping the lid fully up to be able to use rainwater and to keep the beds cool in warm weather.

Oh yeah, that dirt stuff? Well, less important to the post, but we used a whole bag of peat moss and some composted soil in about a 50/50 mix with the intent if keeping the soil loose. No idea if it will work, be we will find out…

Here’s a pic of the final result of the first prior to number 2 assembly and before the lid-holder-openers, complete with busted out window from my head.


See? used a bunch of stuff we had laying around that could have ended up in the landfill, and used not as originally intended that will help provide food. I call that hacking survival if you ask me.

– L

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