DIY Cold Frame Gardening

Adapted from The Fruit Guys Community Fund

Cold frame gardening can extend your growing season. Traditionally cold frames were placed against the south facing wall of a heated green place. They are the perfect place to grow cool weather crops and to harden off seedlings each Spring before transplanting them outside.

Choose a Location
Face frames south to get as much light as possible. Choose a location close to your home for easy access to the plants.

Create a Top
Create the top of your frame first, then build the bed to fit the lip. It should fit snugly without gaps and you should be able to prop it open on a sunny day. Tops can include an old window, sliding glass door, or a polycarbonate roofing panel.

Build the Frame
The more insulation the better. An easy and quick option would be to use straw bales. They will create great insulation, but will only last one season. You can also make a frame out of wood planks. Use rot-resistant wood like cedar. Add bricks underneath to keep the frame off the ground. Do not use pressure-treated wood as it will leach chemicals into the soil. The frame should have a higher back compared to the front so that the lid sits at an angle which encourages the most light into the frame.

Put It All Together
If you’ve opted for the simple straw method, all you have to do is place the window on top. For more permanent construction, build a frame for your lid and attach it to the frame with hinges. Add a prop stick for venting and access.

Add soil
Add some good quality compost and break up existing soil with a garden fork.

What to Plant

Hardy greens like kale, arugula, collards, and spinach as well as green onions, turnips, beets and radishes. Be patient. Growth may be slower due to reduced daylight hours in the winter.

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