Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ad Hoc Wind Shelter for My Tomatoes

I have a 10' by 20' garden plot at Hummingbird Community Garden (Brandon, MB, CA—see here for info).  Last year I planted muchos herbs and dried them, but maybe more on that later.

At the garden I get to see how everybody else does their garden.  Sheltering your tomatoes from the wind while they are young seems to be very popular.  I've seen it done with milk container, sour cream containers, 11 liter ice cream pails with a few holes cut in the sides (to let more light in), cedar shakes or shingles, and I've even seen a bit of plywood (protecting I-forget-what, but probably tomatoes).  I've not seen the like of 6 mil polyethylene on the garden sites in my past years at the garden, but that has changed this year.  Behold, the monstrosity which I have erected:

Allow me to enumerate its most noteworthy features:
  1. Ugly.
  2. Cheap.
  3. Reasonable resistance to wind.  This picture is after a 51 km/h wind...No, it looks the same as it did before the wind...well okay, one of the more rickety posts was even more rickety, but still standing.
  4. Some assembly required.
As so often happens in life, not long after I built the silly thing, I thought of a significant improvement to this design.  But first, what is good about this design?  

The key thing I want to point out is the means of attachment of the poly to the posts.  If the poly was merely stapled to the posts, that 51 km/h wind previously mentioned would have made short work of the shelter.  By screwing through plywood into the posts, I have spread out the stresses on the attachments.

But there's a better way than what I've done above and it isn't too much work with the right tools. (Which I do have, so I don't have that as an excuse.) It's dirt simple:  

1)  Make rectangular frames out of 2×2s. Two sidewalls, two end walls. Dimension the lengths according to the needs of your plants.  You probably don't need them any higher than 2'. (The wind shelter is really only to help them through the earlier part of the season.)

2)  Staple the poly to each frame and trim off excess. Probably the smart thing would be to have a wrap around the outsides of the frame (as much of a wrap as you can manage). The advantage of the wrap is that the tighter you pull it the more frictional force develops between the wood and the poly which (partly) helps the connection.

3)  Screw strips of plywood though the poly into the frame. Use 1 1/4" ceramic screws @ play it by ear O/C. An adhesive might also help, but I'm optimistic it wouldn't be necessary.

With your frames ready, all you need to do now is put posts in the ground and attach the frames to them. Now if you want a cold frame, you have a more interesting task ahead of you to put a roof on the thing, but I would like the rain, so I will skip that challenge.

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