Fall Project: Build a Gardening Cold Frame

Four-season locales face a dilemma once winter sets in. How to extend the life of your garden (and keep alive those plants that are still producing in fall)? The answer is easy: build a cold frame.

Cold frames serve as mini greenhouses, allowing light in and trapping heat while providing aeration simply by lifting the top. Here’s how to build your own cold frame and enjoy the fruits of your labor all winter long.

  1. Find or re-use two old window frames with glass windows. The frames should be at least 3’X4′ each and should match in size. Alternatively, you can use an old storm door (as shown). An added benefit to using a storm door is that you can lift the frame by the handle when you need to aerate.
  2. Purchase non-decomposing wood large enough to cut to fit your frame in the front at a height of approximately 1′ and at the back at a height of approximately 3′, with wood panels to fit the sides sloping downward, in a long triangle.
  3. Purchase nails.
  4. Purchase two to four heavy-duty hinges depending upon the final length of your frame.
  5. Cut the front and back pieces to match in length.
  6. Nail the sides and back together to form the bottom of the cold frame.
  7. Nail the two window frames together securely.
  8. Secure the hinge to the back of the window frames and to the rear top of the cold frame.

The cold frame can be built directly over prepared soil or a plot you already have growing, or you can enlist in the help of a friend to lift and move the cold frame to the locale where you need it.

Be sure to face the cold frame so that it will receive maximum sun exposure during cold months. Aerate at least once a day and during days when it’s sunny or warmer than usual.

Gardening doesn’t have to end just because cold weather has set in. With your cold frame, you’ll be able to continue growing, extend your gardening season and can even get seedlings started earlier provided you’re planting appropriately for after final frost depending upon the crop. Enjoy!

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