Thursday, 5 April 2012

building hot boxes

My daughter Alex and I took a long weekend at the farmhouse to make 3 hot boxes. The original concept is Victorian. Fresh horse manure is used to heat the boxes which are placed against a south wall to collect the reflected light and heat. I'm hoping to use them for peppers and eggplants with which I've never had much success.

We both liked the idea of using materials at hand and salvaged so we got the pallets from Timber Mart and the local garden centre. We had a roll of heavy gauge plastic in the basement, stakes left over from election signs and a bag of nails we inherited with the house.

Alex cutting the stakes to size

The first step was to come up with a design.  We decided to place the first pallet on the ground and use the stakes to nail the plastic in place. The pallets are approximately 40" by 48" with major emphasis on "approximately". The sides would be 30'' so we placed the second pallet that distance from the first and again nailed the plastic to the pallet. 

Hitting my stride....
Then we stood it upright. At this point it was three sided. The fourth side was then nailed in place from the inside of the box. We decided we would have to break down and buy wood for the two narrow sides. We decided on 1" by 8" roofing pine. Since we needed 24 pieces each 40" long and had nothing but hand tools we decided on treating ourselves to paying to have the wood cut to length.

Screw it!
Because the pallet wood was so weathered we decided on #8 1 1/2" wood screws rather than nails. So a box of screws was our other purchase. As it would turn out we were short three screws. We scrounged around and made do with some larger screws.

The whole project was way harder than we had anticipated. The pallets were not remotely square and the wood on the pallets kept splitting. My aim was pretty true for most of the hammering but I accidentally punctured the plastic when I started to get tired.  It took three days and neither of us could believe how every muscle ached and we could hardly keep our eyes open each evening. But ultimately we felt a great sense of accomplishment - akin to a surviving a wilderness trip. Blame the whole thing on Canada Blooms - many displays used pallets and it caught our imagination. 

The next step is grading the ground so they are level and then filling them. But that's for another weekend and another blog. 


  1. Great accomplishments! The boxes and the blog. Looking forward to eggplants, peppers and more blog posts. Diane

  2. All that yoga is really paying off!!! You're well on your way to doing the splits in photo #2!!!