Cold Frame Advice

wilsocnSeptember 20, 2011

Hi everyone

This year I have been bitten hard by the gardening / landscaping bug and I am not ready to give it up to be honest. I have been reading about cold frames but so many articles and videos, all with different advice, are starting to make my head spin.

Can someone tell me the minimum amount of space I would need to construct a low cost cold frame? I was thinking of boards for the base, pvc hoops and plastic to cover. The most low budget of the low budget I suppose.

I live in Kentucky and we have those days in Jan and Feb where the temperature does not climb above 20 but most days we probably average a high around 35 - 40 during the coldest months. It might even be a little higher but it sure feels cold as well digger's ___ when the sky is gray and the wind is blowing in from the North.

Can I get by with something that is only 3x3 or perhaps 4x4 and place it in my yard where it gets the most sun and also protected somewhat from the wind?

Im just not sure what the limitations of these things are and what the minimum requirements are if any exist at all. This will be more for a hobby and experimentation rather than trying to grow any real meaningful crop of whatever goes into the soil (probably a lot of salad greens).

Thanks everyone

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john_p_wi(4 / 5 SE WI)

I have grown in cold frames for 10+ years and have used a Juwel cold frames. From my experience, the lack of light is a big issue in December and Jan and growth is slow. In Feb the light returns and your biggest issue will be keeping the cold frame cool on a sunny day if you do not have an automatic opener. One year after over wintering lettuce, my automatic opener failed to open and the cold frame temps rose well into the 100+ F killing all of the lettuce and spinach. For fun I used two 40 watt incandescent light bulbs for heat and would cover the cold frame with 2" styrofoam insulation and snow on the very cold days.

Now I just use a cold frame to extend the season and in the spring to jump start greens. I don't try through the deep winter anymore.

As to the size, anything larger than 4 feet in any direction makes it difficult to reach in from the sides.

Good luck, John

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 4:41PM
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There is no "minimum size", just make it the right size to cover your plants.
I tend to make my cold frames out of recycled stuff- windows, used lumber,etc. About the only thing I buy is plastic. I use plastic sheet sold in rolls for painters'drop cloths.

To make it more efficient, make the North wall solid- really only cold winds and little light will be coming from that direction in the Winter. A regular "hoop house" will be sufficient for season extension.

Also, to store some of the sun's heat during the day- put rocks, bricks, blocks, concrete, dark colored jugs/barrels of water inside. This "thermal mass" will hold heat and release it at night.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 12:01PM
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