A greenhouse of your own

  • Suzanne Mackey and her homemade greenhouse built for about $400 from recycled materials from recycle town at the dump on March 1, 2013. Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat

So you've finally plunged your fork into the compost and planted a garden. You've discovered the delicious satisfaction of growing your own produce and now, you couldn't imagine a summer without dirt-fresh tomatoes and squash pulled from your own soil.

Now that you're thoroughly hooked on your kitchen garden, you may be feeling the itch to advance it to a new level. And one of the next logical steps is growing your own starts from seed.

If you're going to sow inside, March is the right time to get your summer crop going so they'll be ready to put in the ground by May — things like onions, lettuce, brassicas, chard, leeks, parsley, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

While you could find space in the garage for tables, heating pads and grow lights, you could also just bypass the baby steps and advance right to the big stuff — a cold frame or small greenhouse of your own.

Cheap to buy

These glass houses that deliver passive solar heat may seem like equipment reserved for professional growers, landowners with acreage or well-heeled hobbyists.

But cold frames, small moveable boxes with solid sides and a glass or clear plastic opening for ventilation, are cheap to buy and easy to build and can work for even condo and apartment dwellers.

Even greenhouses are available now for every budget, every space, however small, and every skill level.

At one extreme is IKEA's Sokker Mini-Greenhouse, a steel-framed glass box that is cute as a button and appealing to design geeks. But at only 17 inches long and 13 inches high, it is little more than a toy.

There are, however, many functional yet compact and easy-to-assemble seedhouses and cold frames that are small enough even to fit on a deck, where seeds can be started for container vegetable gardens.

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