Coldframe/hoophouse question/confusion

kroach001February 17, 2013

Hi All.
I'm hoping some of you that have grown in cold frames and/or hoophouses can shed some light on this for me.

I just can't wrap my head around how a cold frame or hoop house helps you grow things over the winter. I get how it warms it up nicely during the day. Got that. But it won't hold in enough heat at night to keep common cold crops from dying. Temps inside are maybe 1-3 degrees above what they are outside overnight. They may have protection from direct frost, but effectively none against temperatures. I've tried lettuce and broccoli that both died in low 20's temps. I have one friend that has a cold frame, but they bring their plants in the house if its going to be really cold overnight. But I know people say they grow/keep things in there all winter. Over the winter we commonly get overnight lows in the teens and occasionally in the single digits.

If someone could help explain how it keeps plants from dying from extreme cold overnight, I'd love to understand! People say they grow with these methods over the winter and it bugs that I can't seem to understand how it works.

Thanks!

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csmartyonline(7a)

I don't know about hoop houses. But one of the keys to successful use of a coldframe is growing very cold hardy/cold tolerant plant varieties, choosing vegetables that thrive in or tolerate the cold. Another critical point in using a coldframe is to start your plants early enough before cold weather arrives.

Cold frames often need to be "insulated" with hay or straw piled around them, making berms or stacking hay along cold frame sides and covering the top of the frame with blankets or straw at night to extend the growing season. Some people use heavy black plastic bags filled with leaves to insulate. Some cold frames are even sunk into the ground somewhat. Your zone conditions dictate the type and amount of additional protection needed.

Hardy perennials don't work well in a cold frame, but some annuals can get a faster start in a coldframe.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:20AM
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wally_1936(8b)

For hoop or coldframes some users bury a thick layer of fresh manure which is covered with soil for more ground heat, or place large drums of water for heat storage from the sun which helps hold the temp down over the nighttime inside, string lights for added heat during cold days and nights. Even black plastic on the soil should add to the daytime heat in the soil.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:28PM
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livelydirt(Zn 4, Lively, ON)

Get a copy of Eliot Coleman's 'The Winter Harvest Handbook' and treat it like your garden Bible. In Zone 6, you can effectively become a zone 9 following Coleman's advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lively Dirt - The Garden Blog

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 11:09PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

You grow cold hardy crops. If you are expecting to grow tomatoes or cucumbers, you will fail. You can grow lettuce, kale, swiss chard, bok choy, napa cabbage, cilantro, spinach, green onions, arugula, mustard, carrots, many other asian greens. Many of these crops will freeze and thaw out and keep growing. You don't really "Grow" during the winter, it is more you grow before it gets too cold and then you "Harvest" during the winter. The plants do grow, but due to the low light levels, the grow at a very slow rate.

How big are your cold frames? Size does matter. If you have a very small high tunnel, it won't hold enough heat to be successful. I have 6 high tunnels and grow produce year around. We also use row cover with low tunnels inside our high tunnels.

If you read the winter harvest book, you will be in business.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 9:17AM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

I have a friend in MI. that uses hoop houses and I would dearly love to do this in the wintertime as well. I need to pick her brain. :-)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2014 at 10:24PM
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WIgardenrookie

Also check out Niki Jabour's book she's up in Canada, it's totally cool. This is my first year trying it out but I'm in Wisconsin and am trying it out for the first time. I'm going to document how long each type lives. Here's the hoop house and current state.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hoop house creation

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 11:31PM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

I just got the winter harvest handbook from the library today. Eliot Coleman. going to check it out and see if I can use some of his info in South Ms.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2014 at 12:35AM
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