How to Extend Your Gardening Season With Cold Frames

None of us want garden season to be over, but with the right tools at your disposal, it doesn’t have to be! Cold frames are a great way to extend your garden season well into the cooler months.

While fall officially begins this week, many gardeners are still in full swing, and those who know how to use season extension tools such as cold frames may garden up until and even after the first snow.

Cold frames are a great example of an easy way to protect your crops from freezing temperatures, and they work great for fall and early spring crops as well. By keeping the temperatures above freezing – or at least out of killing-frost range, you can keep many hardy cool weather crops going for several months beyond the end of summer warmth.

Check out these tips for using cold frames to get the most out of your fall garden:

What Is A Cold Frame?

Nothing more than four walls to trap heat and shelter plants, and a transparent lid that admits light. You can make the walls from any sturdy material—plywood, concrete, even bales of hay. An old window works perfectly as a lid, but you can also use Plexiglas or plastic sheeting tacked to a frame.


Choosing A Site

The best site for your cold frame.., is a south-facing, sunny spot with good drainage and some protection from the wind. Ideally, the site should get full sun from midmorning to midafternoon. You can set up a cold frame permanently in your garden, or make one that you put away when you’re not using it.


You can grow cold frame plants in pots, flats, or, if you’re growing just one type of plant (say, salad greens), plant right in the soil.

The key to using a cold frame successfully is paying attention to the temperature—and the trick is in keeping it cool rather than warm…. A good rule of thumb: When outdoor temperatures are above 40 degrees, prop open the lid 6 inches; when the outdoor temps clear 50 degrees in the spring, remove the lid. Be sure to restore the lid in late afternoon to trap the heat inside for the cool night….

On frigid nights, the plants inside the cold frame may need a little extra protection to keep from freezing. Most heat escapes through the glass, so pile insulation on top. You can use old blankets, straw, newspaper or whatever is handy. Snow insulates well, too….

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Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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