Cold Frames: Great Fake Greenhouses!

Cold frame

Ready to get serious about your gardening but don't have space (or money) for a few acres of your own? Consider using cold frames to fake your way to a full-fledged greenhouse for a lot less space.

 

What are Cold Frames?

A cold frame is a garden enclosure that has a transparent (often glass) roof and is built low to the ground. Often made using old doors and window panes, cold frames are basically low, small greenhouses that have hinged doors for access. Like cloches, they help gardeners extend the growing season because they raise the air and ground temperature of the area inside of them.
 

Who Uses Cold Frames?

Cold frame

Because cold frames are so financially and spatially economical, they're popular with serious gardeners who want to:
 
  • Start seedlings early.
     
  • Keep cold-weather crops well into winter.
     
  • Protect their garden vegetables and plants from predators and pests.
     
  • Follow environmentally-friendly, sustainable gardening practices.
And, because cold frames are so effective at extending the growing season (by keeping plants cozy even when it's cold out), they're usually used for winter and fall gardening. Another nice thing about cold frames is that as effective and economical as they are, they don't take up much space (and are easy to custom make). That makes them great for city gardeners and urban farmers looking for ways to maximize valuable patio, porch and backyard gardening space.
 

How to Use a Cold Frame

Cold frame

Like cloches, cold frames are a breeze to use. For the most part, you just have to occasionally adjust the heat inside by either propping the lid open (if it's too warm inside) or insulating it with an old carpet or blanket at night (if it's too cold outside). It's also smart to prop it open a bit to allow air circulation (unless it's cold out and you want to conserve the heat inside). Letting air circulate inside improves plant health and prevents fungal diseases like botrytis.

Types of Cold Frames

Most cold frames are made using wood or aluminum, although sometimes they're made from heavier materials like brick and concrete. In general:
 
  • Aluminum cold frames are cheaper, lighter and easier to move around (but they're the least effective at retaining heat).
     
  • Wooden cold frames are easy to make yourself, can add a stylish shabby chic element to your garden (or patio!), and provide perfectly adequate protection.
Do you use a cold frame? What tips can you share for using a cold frame in the big city?
 
(Images graciously supplied by moonrising and razzmataz @ flikr. Thanks!

One comment on “Cold Frames: Great Fake Greenhouses!

  1. I built my cold frame an old antique door. I love it! And when I'm not using it to keep growing vegetables in winter, I keep extra garden supplies and tools in it!