Solar pods

Living in a colder part of the UK we have always been interested in extending the season to have at least some fresh veg all year round. A few years back we used a version of solar pods originally developed by Leandre Poisson & Gretchen Vogel Poisson and described in their book: “Solar Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-round the American Intensive Way” (1994.) It is available  as a free download at Google Books and used copies from various sellers.

At our larger garden we had four pods made to fit the existing beds, 1.5m x1.2m. They worked very well and extended the season giving us fresh veg virtually all year round.

This time the beds are only a metre square which makes the pods much easier to construct and manage. They are used on the three beds closest to the path.

The below shows the three new pods in place. The beds are 2m x 1m with a central divider make 2, 1m square beds which gives more flexibility.

The pods were all built on the dining room table after sawing the wood to length outside!

Remember to measure the width of the beds to the outside edge of the edging board so that the pods sit on top of the boards and not on the soil.

  1. The side panels which are made from 19mm plywood. Make a cardboard template as shown in the photo 1 above. Note that the curve does not extend to the bottom but stops above where the bottom rails are joined, see photos 3 and 4. Place the template on the plywood and mark a line for cutting out the shape using a jig saw. DIY stores will cut a ply sheet into rectangles of the right length and maximum width at the top of the curve.
  2. The next step is to cut the other lengths of timber to size as follows
    2 bottom rails starting with the two bottom rails. using 63mm x 38mm dry wall timber
    2 battens to hold the sheeting to the bottom rails, 38mm x 17mm
    1 reinforcer for the top 30mmx 20mm
  3. Screw the bottom rails to the sides checking that they are square.
  4. Fix the top rail in place making sure it is central to the ends, mark as shown.
  5. By now you should have a pod as shown in this photo.
  6. Now it is time to protect the wood. Use anything suitable you may have like this half empty tin of Ronseal. It is water based so no noxious fumes. Don’t forget to include the 2 battens used to secure the insulation.
  7. When everything is dry attach the sheeting.  The Polycarbonate Store supplied the sheets cut to size. When ordering allow a bit extra and trim to size. You can use the plastic screw head cups as shown or a different kind of water proofing to stop the screws rusting.
  8. Use a G clamp to hold the battens in place while attaching them to the bottom rails.
  9. Finally use clear silicone sealer on the open ends of the flutes to seal against water, dust and insects.

The project was a bit late for start of winter 2019/2020  but we did manage to plant some left over lettuce in the lower pod and enjoyed fresh salad leaves in January 2020!

Update May 2020
The pods were well but require slight modifications. They need some extra wood fitting to the hinge side to stop them sliding off the beds. They will certainly be used later in the 2020 season to prolong cropping. Look out for a new trial/project making removable cold frames layer this year.