Barrels - Creative Cold Weather Protection

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If you garden in northern areas you know that spring and fall are dangerous times for young seedlings. This spring has been a perfect example of why gardeners need to keep frost protection “at the ready”. We had frost on May 25! I keep a gigundo bin of old sheets in the shed for frost protection. Then – – at a recent vegetable gardening class, friends Kathy and Keith shared their homemade “barrel cloche”. Keith’s son makes these to sell but Keith has given me permission to share the idea. Keith tells me that he and Kathy grow lettuce under these cloches almost all winter – in northern Ohio. The cloches are simple to make, are made from recycled barrels, are sturdy, and won’t blow away in high winds.

You will need plastic barrels. Mine came from a dairy farm and were used for disinfectant. You can also find them at car washes – they hold the soap – ask for them – you might get them for free. Any size barrel will work – bigger means more to move around. If you are a tiny person or have limited strength you might look for 15 gallon barrels. Make certain you know what your barrels held – you don’t want dangerous chemical residue in your garden and you don’t want to clean dangerous chemical residue from a barrel.

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My three barrels have been hanging around the back of the barn for a few years and had to be scrubbed before Greg began to turn them into frost protectors. This barrel is ready to be converted into two cloches.

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The tops of most barrels have a thick handle – don’t worry it will not be a problem.

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You will also need inexpensive screen door handles. Actually, any handle that can be screwed onto the top of the barrel will work.

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A skill saw will easily cut through the thickest plastic – borrow one if you don’t own one.

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Begin by marking your cutting lines with a black marker and a square. Mark along the center of the top (parallel to the handle), bottom, and sides of the barrel.

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Following your drawn lines – begin your first cut with a hand saw – then switch to a skill saw.

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The skill saw will cut neatly through the handle area. Just take your time! Cut through the handle support not the actual handle.

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You now have two “almost” cloches.

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Next you attach the handle. Measure the barrel top to bottom and mark the center – then center the handle and holding it in place, use a pencil to mark the four the drill holes.

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Drill the marked holes, place the handle over the holes, push the screws through the holes and anchor the handle on the inside with washers and nuts.

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Keith gave me a cloche and I noticed that his did not have washers and nuts – he simply screwed the screws through the plastic. Nuts and washers came with our new handles so we used them.

Flip the half barrel over and TaDa!! The 6 smaller cloches were 15 gallon barrels. The bigger cloche was a gift grom Kathy and Keith. I do believe I have the nicest people in my classes!! Thanks, Kathy and Keith, for being generous with your cloche idea. I am certain that many gardens will benefit from your idea.

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FYI: Keith says to push the cloche into prepared soil so the edges leave a rectangular imprint. Remove the cloche and you know just how much room you have to plant. I think I will use some of these inside my hoophouse this winter. I should have no problem growing lettuces, spinach, kale, radishes, green onions and ???? all winter. I also think these could be used during the winter right in a landscape – for example in a foundation planting next to the house for winter lettuces. Just imagine – it’s January and you have just cut a basket of mixed salad greens for supper. Not a bad idea.

Hey from the farm,

Fran The Country Cousins

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