Jeff and I have created quite a few different cold frames over the years, usually with reclaimed windows. Jeff used them to start seeds in the spring many times, before we had a greenhouse. As we talked about year round gardening, cold frames were in those plans. We wanted to set some up over our garden beds to extend our gardening season and protect our plants from frost in our winter garden.
Then last summer we went to a re-use store. We love re-purposing, recycling, and giving things a longer life, and going to that place is like a fun treasure hunt we all enjoy. You can hear our family saying things like “Look at this!”, “Check this out!”, and “This would be perfect for…”, the whole time. Jeff called me over to see his find- two A-frames made with clear, corrugated polycarbonate panels. We were quite excited about them, knowing they would be perfect for cold frames! (We’ve loved all the cold frames we’ve made with windows, and they’ve all worked great, but we liked how lightweight the frames with polycarbonate were, making them easy to move.)
In the fall, Jeff and I covered the two ends of one of the A-frames with greenhouse plastic and attached it to one of our wooden raised garden beds. (We’ve since decided that instead of using greenhouse plastic to close up the ends on the next one, we will use screen instead so there will be more air flow.) Jeff planted the bed with greens, and I loved seeing them looking so tucked in and cozy underneath the protection of the cold frame during the snow we had in December.
Things like kale and endive don’t need to be planted under a cold frame because they don’t mind the frost and snow. The snow makes the kale sweeter!
Here’s a better view of the cold frame, on a day in January, propped up with a 2×4 to get some air flow. (The garden bed is pretty wide, the cold frame doesn’t cover the whole bed, Jeff planted in the area it covered.) The cold frame can be easily removed when the season warms up again, and used again the next year.
When the sun is shining, we like to open it up all the way and let the greens enjoy the sunshine. Planted here is a variety of lettuce, tatsoi, some mustard, and an over-wintering arugula. If you are wanting to extend your growing season, cold frames are a great way to do that. What you are able to grow in the colder months will depend on where you live. (We are located in the Coastal Range of Oregon.) Even with having a greenhouse now (we are so grateful!), we still like to utilize cold frames in the garden as well. The more room to grow food for a longer period of time the better! Whether greenhouse or cold frame, we always fill them up fast and need more space to plant things. Do you use cold frames in your gardens? What are your favorite ways to extend your gardening season? We’d love for you to share all your tips in the comments so new and seasoned gardeners alike can be inspired. Happy Winter Gardening!
P.S. I was excited to share our biggest lettuce harvest we’ve ever had in January! Jeff grew this lettuce in our greenhouse. Each and every year we grow a bit more food. And you know what? Good food is a great reward for hard work!