Cold Frame (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)
Using a cold frame is relatively simple. The basics involve lifting the transparent cover up a few inches on day that are sunny and warm. A good temperature guideline is 55 degrees. If left shut on a 70 degree day, plants will get overheated and die. The lid should also be kept shut on cold days and mild days that lack sunlight.
A few things that I have learned about cold framing. First of all, cold frames come in many shapes and sizes. A frame can be made from wood, cinder block, or even be a floating row cover elevated with hoops. I even visited a homestead that used white plastic 55 gallon drums that were cut in half length wise. Whatever the material, size or shape; a cold frame must have the ability to seal well and to allow light in through the top. The clear covering can be any material, including plexiglass, plastic and glass
Second, I learned that something should be used to prevent the lid from flying open during heavy winds. I have not decided what to use to stop this with mine as of yet. Ideas that I am pondering are baling twine, a notched propping stick, or a chain. As you may have noted in a previous post, our clod frame blew open in some high wind and the glass shattered all over the ground.
It is vital to place the cold frame where it is convenient and easy to see. That way it will be ever present within your mind. I have lost two tomato plants because I did not open the cold frame early enough in the day. I would suggest that the cold frame go near to the garden or close to the house. Ours will get moved down near the house, where it will be seen every day and night in the fall.
A weed barrier should be placed underneath the plants, otherwise weeds will be encouraged to grow along with the desired plants. The plants can be grown directly in the soil. They can also be grown in containers. (If transplanting is desired later on, containers would be the best way to grow the plants.)
Cold frame (Photo credit: castle79)
The only other key is to water the plants regularly. Stressed plants do not grow well. The plants tend to dry out if they are in containers, so monitoring is key. If in containers, the plants likely will need to be transplanted to larger containers as they grow to a larger size. Root bound plants also tend to become stressed.
Hopefully this is helpful. There will be more tips and tricks added as we discover more information through research and trial and error.
Well I guess it has been too much fun enjoying the 80 degree days. It was probably time for a correction, but did we have to correct to 30 degrees. I may have to fire up the wood burner. I am thankful for our cold frame. It is holding up well and the plants look healthy and vibrant.
I guess we will hunker down for the night- thankful for a warm, safe place to live.
Today we took up the task of building a cold frame to extend the growing season. So we took off to the barn to look for materials that were laying around. Our efforts provided us with wood and several old wooden windows that we have been saving. I didn’t do specific measuring, so I will give you the generic version
First we set both windows on the ground to provide us with dimensions that we would need. We selected four pieces of wood for the sides of the cold frame. We chose a wider piece for the back and a piece not as wide to form the front. This gave us a sloping frame that we could face toward the south to maximize the sunlight exposure.
We laid the two windows side by side and the four pieces of wood on their corresponding sides. We then marked all dour sides in prefer to make the proper cuts.
The front and back were about 52 inches long and the sides were about 40 inches in length. The back ended up being 14 inches tall. The front is 12 inches tall. We would have liked to have more of a slope, but we wanted to create the cold frame for very little cost.
After cutting the four pieces for the frame, we found a 2 x 2 to make four corner stakes. These were cut to make four 2 foot long stakes that were pointed on one end.
We then drilled small holes in order to help get the nails started. The wood that we used was extremely hard, so much so that we bent several nails. Once we got the four sides nailed to one another, we set about attaching the comer stakes. These will serve to drive the cold frame into the ground and keep it in place. In order the keep the frame together and hold the stakes in place, we attached two c-clamps to the stakes and sides. These clamps kept the stakes in place as we drove the nails through the side panels and into the stakes.
Once all four stakes were secured, we laid the windows on top of the frame. With a huge sigh of relieve, the windows fit almost to a tee.
Above you can see our stopping point for the day. The stakes are sturdy and the windows are resting on the top. We will need to add hinges and then located a prop stick, but the project is nearly completed. Now to finish up so we can set the plants in place.
Cold frame (Photo credit: castle79)
cold frame in situ (Photo credit: poppet with a camera)
A picture of my coldframe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I always wondered exactly what a cold frame was when I first heard the term. I will try to get an official definition below from Wikipedia, but here is what I would define it as:
Cold Frame – An enclosed garden bed or container with a removable or hinged clear lid that serves to extend the growing season in northern climates.
From Wikipedia: In agriculture and gardening, a cold frame is a transparent-roofed enclosure, built low to the ground, used to protect plants from cold weather
So I got close off the top of my head…..anyways, why would you want to add a cold frame?
- Extend the growing season
- Allows you to grow crops that would otherwise not do well in your area due to the shorter growing season
- Start Seedlings in the dirt
- Satisfy that early spring itch to plant something
- Easy to Use
- Can serve a double function of being a raised bed
- Nice project to do with the kids
- Can be made out of materials that many people have laying around
- Very versatile/ flexible design
These are just a few reasons that I can think of to build and use a cold frame. We look forward to using our new one and seeing what other benefits that we discover along the way.
So what can be planted this time of the year? Before we answer that question, let’s look at why to plant something now.
Reasons to plant early crops:
- Extends the growing season
- Produce your own food earlier….saving money
- Utilize older seeds
- Maximize space (Planting of an early crop, may allow for planting of a later crop in the same spot)
Which crops can be planted early? (This is not an exhaustive list, just a partial)
- Various Greens
It is also possible to start seeds indoors if you have a window facing South or a grow light (preferably with the ability to control the temperature of the soil). Some seeds that can be started are Tomatoes, Artichokes, peppers, and others.