Cold Frame Gardening | 4 Easy Tips For Success

Trying to extend your growing season? This is where cold frame gardening comes in handy to help you keep growing throughout the winter. Cold frames have been used in many forms for centuries to help gardeners supply their kitchens with fresh vegetables. 

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What Is Cold Frame Gardening?

Cold frames come in many forms from strawbales with windows over the top to brick sides. The basic idea is to use passive solar heat to keep the plants warm and prevent them from freezing which gives you the ability to grow food even after your first frost. 

Easy Cold Frame Gardening Tutorials

Here are some really easy to build cold frame gardening ideas to help you extend your growing season:

What Can You Grow In A Cold Frame?

There are a lot of options when it comes to cold frame gardening, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Greens
  • Radish
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Scallions

How Much Warmer Are Cold Frames?

Typically using cold frame gardening to extend your season will keep your plants 5-10 degrees warmer than outside. On very cold nights you can add a blanket over the top of your cold frame to help conserve the heat inside (but this will only keep it a few degrees warmer), you can also use things like gallon water jugs painted black, or Christmas lights strung around your plants to help keep them a little warmer. 

When Should You Plant In A Cold Frame?

A cold frame can generally be used season round in different ways, over the winter you can grow cold hearty veggies in it, in the spring you can use it to harden off your plants, and in the summer you can use it to start fast-growing summer vegetables. The answer to when to start planting in a cold frame garden really is going to depend on what your end goal is. A Cold frame can be useful in any season in your garden. 

Can You Start Seeds In A Cold Frame?

Yes! When cold frame gardening you can absolutely start your seeds in a cold frame in small pots or by direct sowing. The passive solar heating will help keep your seedlings warm while they sprout. Need some help getting your seeds started? Check out our article on How To Start Seeds!

How Big Should A Cold Frame Be?

The size of your cold frame is really going to depend on your needs, however, the ideal size should be 3 by about 6 feet and 12 inches deep in the front and sloping up to 18 inches in the back. 

Tips For Successful Cold Frame Gardening

Here are some of our best tips for getting started with cold frame gardening:

  • Place your cold frame in place 2 weeks before direct sowing seeds to prewarm the soil.
  • Make sure that you ventilate your cold frame garden when it’s warmer so it doesn’t kill your plants. 
  • The more plants that you squeeze into your cold frame the better! This helps to prevent air pockets that can turn into cold pockets in your cold frame garden. 
  • Use straw, crinkled newspaper, dried leaves, or mulch to help keep your plants cozy in your cold frame by helping to fill gaps and insolate your plants. 

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