Like most gardeners I have been looking for ways to get the most out of my garden. I don’t know about you, but feeding my family is a year round deal, my garden plays a huge role in that. Extending the season with cold frame gardening is one of the simplest ways to do so. It allows gardeners to acclimate seedlings to the outdoors, and protect plants from frost by trapping heat inside of the cold frame. If you haven’t started a garden yet, check out THE FIRST 5 STEPS TO STARTING A GARDEN.
What is cold frame gardening?
A cold frame is just a box with a transparent top, and preferably bottomless. You could use an old window, polycarbonate, or plastic sheeting. As long as it is transparent it should work just fine. I found two cabinets with glass doors. I found them at a second hand shop for really cheap, because one of them was broken. I slapped some duct tape on it to put it back together. Duct tape fixes everything, right? You can make the box out of scrap materials or do what I did and find something cheap that will work for this project that is already put together.
How do cold frames work?
Cold frame gardening lets the sun and heat inside through the transparent top. Which keeps the plants warm, even when it is cold outside. it is not only warm inside the box, but the soil is warmer also. As a result the plants will be protected from frost. When you place seedlings inside a cold frame it helps them to get used to being outside and they will soon be ready to plant in the ground if you so choose.
A cold frame will help keep the plants warm when it is cold outside. Although, you will have to watch the temperature. Fall/Winter crops will like temperatures below 60ºF and above freezing. Summer plants should be below 75ºF, but no colder than 60ºF degrees. There may be days where you will need to prop open or remove the lid completely to control the temperature. Prop open the lid several inches if it is 40ºF, and if it gets up to 50ºF, take the lid off completely.
If you have many cloudy days, painting the inside walls white, or lining them with aluminum foil will help drawn in more sun. Also, if it is going to be a really cold night you may want to think of covering the transparent top with something that will help keep the heat in. You could wrap the entire thing with a blanket, or anything that can provide some protection from the cold.
You can use potted plants in a cold frame or you can plant directly into the ground. It will depend on your preference and the type of plants that you are sowing. I like to start carrots out in a small pot inside, but once the seedlings are big enough I will plant them in the cold frame.
You will want to place your cold frames in a sunny spot. It is recommended that you place it facing the South. It is better if you can bury the box just below the frost point. Especially, if you will be planting things like carrots, that need to grow deep into the dirt. Burying the box will help keep it well insulated throughout the winter. Bury the box at an angle, so that more sun can get in.
Fall cold frame gardening
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Not only are we harvesting our pumpkins but we can use a cold frames to plant carrots, cabbage, radish, leeks, and our leafy vegetables.
Winter cold frame gardening
Depending on where you live, winter can be the hardest time for growing. Many people have to cover their plants up completely to protect them from the frost. Using cold frames is a simple and beautiful way to garden during the winter. In the winter your leafy greens such as, chard, spinach, and lettuce will do well throughout the winter in a cold frame box.
Spring cold frame gardening
You can get a head start on the summer garden by using the cold frame in springtime. Sew your seeds about 5 weeks before the last frost occurs. You could also do another round of leafy vegetables if you like!
Cold frame gardening is one of the easiest ways to extend your gardening all year round. Not only that but they look much prettier than row covers. You can make large cold frames or a small one, to fit your individual needs. Using scrap materials, cold frame gardening doesn’t have to be expensive either.
Bonus Cold Frame Gardening Tip:
If you already have a raised garden bed, you can turn it into a cold frame by finding old windows, doors or making your own transparent lid to go on them.
What is your favorite cold frame gardening trick? Let us know in the comments below!