Organic Gardening Cold Frame
How to Build and Use One

Organic gardening cold frame helps the self reliant gardener raise salads and other vegetables even during winter. Here's a simple, low-cost cold frame you can easily build.

It's wonderful for so many reasons – it provides you with salads and vegetables during the winter months, it's easy to build and best of all, it can be made with items laying around the place or items you can buy on the cheap.

What is it?

A cold frame is a miniature greenhouse, typically a box with a piece of glass on top to allow in the sunshine. If you've ever been in your car on a winter day, you know the sunshine can heat things up nicely.  The same goes with a frame you build to grow vegetables.

How Can You Use It?

Not only can you grow lettuce and other greens in the winter months in a cold frame, you can also use it to harden off seedlings you started indoors or even start seedlings, such as tomato plants a couple of months before they are ready to plant in your garden.

Building an Organic Gardening Cold Frame

The easiest way to top off your frame is to find a used window. If you don't have one on hand, check with the local Habitat For Humanity Store in your area. They often have used doors, windows and other materials for a very reasonable price.

If your building skills are close to none (much like mine), then the easiest organic gardening cold frame you can build is one of cement blocks and a used window sash. Line up the blocks and set the window on top. You're done!

If you choose to build a wood frame, things are a bit more complicated, but still fairly simple. You will need to use treated lumber so it doesn't rot. Cedar or cypress wood are both excellent choices – the same materials you would use for building a deck. Because the window will be heavy, you will also need to find a heavy-duty hinge to hold it in place.

It's crucial that you don’t make your cold frame too wide. You need to be able to reach the plants at the very back of your cold frame. It should be no wider than three or four feet, so keep that in mind when you are shopping for a window, since the size of your frame depends on the size of your window. You are building a frame around your window.

When you build the frame, make the back part higher than the front – that will help keep the window from blowing open on windy days. Also add weights to keep the window down. You will also need a prop to keep the window open on days when the temps reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Organic Gardening Cold Frame
Where Do You Put It?

The location of your frame is crucial to your growing success. You need a spot that gets plenty of sunlight each day. Don't put your frame in a shady spot.

The best place for your frame is next to a building to help block the wind. Your home is the best choice because it will provide extra warmth for your frame. A south-facing wall is the best choice.

Find an area with good drainage. You don't want your plants sitting in water all winter. The best solution is to put your frame on a slope so the water can run off, away from the frame. If you don't have a slope on the south side of your house, consider building one. It will be well worth the extra digging. While you're at it, set the frame into the earth a bit to add to the insulation.

Learn More About Organic Gardening

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