In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
March, 2012
Regional Report

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4032

Young neighbor Ty'jah and her cousin Asia had fun scraping flaking paint from a door sash intended as a cold frame top.

Young Angels in Pink and Purple?

"A cold frame?" asks upstairs neighbor Greg, quite puzzled. "What's that?"

I explain the project as best I can -- a box-like, wooden frame topped with a glass door as protection for young plants. "Oh, like framing a door, but on the ground," he rephrases to his perspective.

"Yes. Right," I say. "Good way to describe it."

Many of us gardeners are familiar with the concepts of cold frame and hotbed. Each is a structure built to protect and grow plants off-season -- in early spring or into winter. A cold frame relies on the sun for heat and light. A hotbed is usually sunken and constructed with an internal heat source such as heating coils, cables, steam, or hot water. Frames can be metal, brick, or wood; hand-made or commercially manufactured.

This spring I'm starting veggies galore indoors under grow lights and on heat pads. The first batches of 'Catalina' baby spinach and 'Lacinato' Italian heirloom kale have their second set of leaves. Cold-weather plants, they'd thrive outside in our 40- to 50-degree days, protected, of course, from chilly nights. Moving these seedlings into a cold frame would make way for other starts like 'Little Jade' Chinese cabbage, 'Garnet Rose' romaine, 'Chioggia' beets, 'Garden Babies' butterhead lettuce, and the annual flower 'Allure Pastel Blend' sweet alyssum.

Cold Framing
Enter carpenter Ben, who drops off the cold-frame top -- a hefty, 8 by 2+ foot wooden door with three large glass panes -- in exchange for allowing him to put a beehive in the garden. Pollinators AND cold-frame sash -- jackpot!

The outdoor green-paint side is solid; white paint flakes off the other side though. I'm stymied. With one working arm, how do I how scrape it smooth? Saturday morning the doorbell rings. Pink feather earrings bounce as young neighbor Ty'jah sways in pink leggings and purple hat. "Anything I can help you with?" she asks.

Yes! Meet me in the backyard in fifteen minutes. I hurry to the basement to find paint-scraping tools, small-sized pink and purple gardening gloves, and a plastic shower curtain to catch the paint scraps.

Ty'jah and her cousin Asia stand beside the picnic table, laughing and chatting. I encourage them to slather their fingers with moisture cream, then slip on gardening gloves for hand protection. They watch me demonstrate how to gently yet firmly glide the scraping blade over the wood. Paint chips lift easily.

Each girl chooses an opposite end. The fun and competition begin, turning this chore into a game. They talk about their birthdays, their cousins, missing Hannah who moved to Boston, helping Farmer Mel in his garden. All the while, carefully scraping and smoothing and proudly discussing their progress. Amazing. Delightful. I finish a few rough edges. Mission accomplished.

The glass is spotted and dirty, they notice. "Can we wash it?" "Certainly," I say, thanking the gardening goddess of helpful youngsters. "I'll bring out paper towels and window cleaner." They spray and rub, eyes eagerly scouring the glass for brown spots to erase.

Chilly air's replacing the warm sun. "How about hot chocolate?" I offer. Asia smiles, Yes. Ty'jah mentions glazed donuts on sale at the local Seven-11. I oblige, gratefully.


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