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A traditional homemade cold frame

In agriculture and gardening, a cold frame is a transparent-roofed enclosure, built low to the ground, used to protect plants from adverse weather, primarily excessive cold or wet. The transparent top admits sunlight and prevents heat escape via convection that would otherwise occur, particularly at night. Essentially, a cold frame functions as a miniature greenhouse to extend the growing season.[1]

Historically, cold frames were built to be used in addition to a heated greenhouse. The name itself exemplifies the distinction between the warm greenhouse and the unheated cold frame. They were frequently built as part of the greenhouse's foundation brickwork along the southern wall (in northern latitudes). This allowed seeds to be germinated in the greenhouse and then easily moved to the attached cold frame to be "hardened-off"[2] before final planting outside.[3] Cold frames are similar to some enclosed hotbeds,[4] also called hotboxes. The difference is in the amount of heat generated inside. This is parallel to the way that some greenhouses are called "hothouses" to emphasize their higher temperature, achieved either by the solar effects alone or by auxiliary heating via a heater or HVAC system of some kind.

Cold frames are found in home gardens and in vegetable farming. They create microclimates that provide several degrees of air and soil temperature insulation, and shelter from wind. In cold-winter regions, these characteristics allow plants to be started earlier in the spring, and to survive longer into the fall and winter. They are most often used for growing seedlings that are later transplanted into open ground, and can also be a permanent home to cold-hardy vegetables grown for autumn and winter harvest.


Cold frame construction is a common home or farm building project, although kits and commercial systems are available. A traditional plan makes use of old glass windows: a wooden frame is built, about one to two feet tall, and the window placed on top. The roof is often sloped towards the winter sun to capture more light, and to improve runoff of water, and hinged for easy access. Clear plastic, rigid or sheeting, can be used in place of glass. An electric heating cable, available for this purpose, can be placed in the soil to provide additional heat.


Cold frames can be used to extend the growing season for many food and ornamental crops, primarily by providing increased warmth in early spring. This means that it's possible to harvest vegetable crops ahead of their normal season when they are extremely expensive to buy. Some crops suitable for growing in a cold frame include lettuces, parsley, salad onions, spinach, radishes and turnips etc. One vegetable crop can occupy the whole of a cold frame or a combination of crops can be grown so that they mature in rotation in order to get a wide range of different vegetables throughout the year from a single cold frame.

Bulb frame[edit]

A "bulb frame" is a specialized kind of cold frame, designed for growing hardy or almost hardy ornamental bulbous plants, particularly in climates with wet winters. Typically it is raised further above ground level than a normal cold frame, so that the plants can be seen better when in flower. They are often used for the cultivation of winter-growing bulbs which flower in the autumn or spring. The covers are used in winter to provide some protection from very bad weather, while allowing good ventilation. Then in the summer, the covers provide dry, warm conditions which many such bulbs need.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cold Frame as Season Extension from Grass to Greens". www.grass2greens.com. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  2. ^ coldframe.org.uk
  3. ^ "A brief history of cold frames". coldframe.org.uk. 
  4. ^ merriam-webster.com
  5. ^ Mathew, Brian (1997). Growing Bulbs : The Complete Practical Guide. London: Batsford. ISBN 978-0-7134-4920-4.  Pp. 32–34

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_frame — Please support Wikipedia.
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1910 news items

Mansfield News Journal

Mansfield News Journal
Mon, 18 Apr 2016 14:25:48 -0700

MANSFIELD - Local gardeners are invited to “Get the Dirt on Soil and Chill Out with an Easy Cold Frame” with Mark Johnson from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Blust Avenue Teaching Garden, 417 Blust Ave. Johnson, a Stingel Elementary School ...

Grit Magazine

Grit Magazine
Mon, 25 Apr 2016 12:52:30 -0700

A few years ago, I was given five wood-framed storm windows, each 30" wide, and decided that they would make a great cold frame for my garden. As the growing beds were already 4' wide and the windows were 5' long, the cold frame's back height of 3' was ...

Press of Atlantic City

Press of Atlantic City
Sat, 30 Apr 2016 20:56:15 -0700

A protective device, even a simple cold frame, will get you those wonderful, fresh vegetables earlier, and they often taste better now than in June or July. Spinach is sweeter and less coarse. Arugula has less bite. Lettuce, baby beet greens and Asian ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Sat, 30 Apr 2016 02:56:15 -0700

When you have two adult leaves, harden off outside and plant out when the third leaf is just appearing. Hardening off in a cold frame or under fleece will take about two weeks; by that time, any fear of frost should have passed. Courgette plants love ...
Sat, 30 Apr 2016 21:07:30 -0700

When the saplings reach a certain size, they are moved to a cold frame outside the greenhouse, where they'll continue to grow for a couple years. Eventually, like the rescued wildflowers, they'll be planted in the MetroParks. While these conservation ...

St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert Gazette
Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:11:15 -0700

Meanwhile, we have started several Goji berry bushes – a relatively hardy plant that has been found naturalized in Edmonton's river valley system – and they've been thriving every day and even overnight in a small plastic cold-frame. Several of our ...
The Sheridan Press (subscription)
Fri, 01 Apr 2016 17:33:45 -0700

One common method is a cold frame, a simple structure that provides warmth from the sun and blocks the wind. The sun's rays enter through a transparent cover. This creates a greenhouse effect that heats the interior of the cold frame. The most common ...
Vernon Morning Star
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 01:03:45 -0700

You can get a jump on the growing season by adding a cold frame to your yard. Google: building a cold frame and you will have all kinds of pictures. See www.almanac.com/content/cold-frames-gardening for good information. This year I will have an early ...

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