If you live in a colder climate, cold frame gardening can extend your gardening season through autumn and even into winter! Cold frame gardening is also great for starting seedlings in the early spring for summer planting or for root vegetable gardening and many tender plants such as lettuce.
While there are a few basics to keep in mind when building and placing your cold frame, you can let your budget and your imagination be your guide. You can build your frame out of almost any material ranging from bales of hay to concrete or brick. Building a cold frame is a great way to re-purpose wood and windows. All you have to remember is that you need 4 walls to trap heat and moisture and clear lid to let in the light. This can windows, plexi glass, or plastic sheeting.
Your lid size will determine the size of your cold frame. They can be as large as you want to make them, but usually they are no larger than 3x6 with the back at least 4-6 inches higher than the front.
You will want to place your cold frame facing south with good drainage and some protection from the wind. If you have an area that is slightly sloped, this would be ideal. You can make your cold frame a permanent fixture or design it so that you can break it down when not in use.
Temperature is the key to gardening with a cold frame. You will want the temperature to be cool instead of warm. You can adjust the temperature by raising the lid. Just be sure to close it at night. If it is extremely cold, you may have to add some additional insulation such as hay, old blankets or newspapers to the top.
Cold frames are also great for storing dormant plants over the winter. You will want to place them in pot and cut them back before storing. Place them tightly in the cold frame and add leaves or mulch to any gaps.
Cold frames are great to start seedlings since they will be better acclimated to the climate outside. If you are using a portable cold frame, make sure to have it up and ready at least 2 weeks prior to starting your seedlings to give the soil time to get warm.
Here are a couple of sites that offer much more information regarding temperature regulation and ideas for types of plants that you can grow in your cold frame.
As always your comments are welcome!