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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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1032 news items

Bellingham Herald

Bellingham Herald
Fri, 29 May 2015 14:56:15 -0700

Michigan State University horticulture professor John Biernbaum checks the vegetables he is growing in a cold frame in Lansing, Mich. The boxes can be made of almost any scrap material. Sunlight goes through the clear cover, warming the soil while the ...


Fri, 29 May 2015 23:11:15 -0700

Pots of pencil thick stems pruned from roses were buried into the cold frame soil, mulch mounded around them and largely forgotten. Now, they are covered in green leaves ready for transplant. The Pilgrims brought roses across the Atlantic in much the ...

The Independent

The Independent
Fri, 29 May 2015 10:26:15 -0700

These chaps had been hardened off in my ramshackle cold frame, and I gave them a little chat about toughening up. Like my grandfather and my dad, I love growing vegetables, even posting pictures on Twitter (#vegporn) and having a little sulk with each ...
Kenosha News
Thu, 28 May 2015 07:26:15 -0700

Starting them under a cold frame will give them a great head start and sowing more seeds in September and then putting a cold frame over them will assure you the freshest of greens into the Christmas season. Most of the greens, including lettuce, pak ...


Fri, 29 May 2015 23:00:00 -0700

We put ours out of the way in our coldest north-facing cold frame, but anywhere cool will do. Make sure you keep them well watered. From chilly mountains to fiery desert: where your seeds come from. Orchids, bluebells, sweet Williams and primrose, ...
The Denver Post
Thu, 21 May 2015 23:13:17 -0700

While I wasn't watching, seeds carefully spread in a harlequin pattern in the cold frame have grown up into leafy diamonds of lettuce, kale and spinach just begging to be part of a meal. Onion seeds I thought were lost to worm mining by the chickens ...

The Independent (blog)

The Independent (blog)
Tue, 26 May 2015 02:56:15 -0700

These are ready to go outside to be hardened off in the cold frame for a few nights before planting out. The first half of May has been unseasonally cold, but it seems like we're coming out of it and I think, in the south at least, it will be fine to ...
The Denver Post
Fri, 15 May 2015 01:12:19 -0700

I've taken some baby steps toward a garden filled with more than iris, potatoes, onions and cold-frame-grown kale. Too many heirloom tomato plants — eight? really? — and a Fairmount rose are sheltering against freeze on the front porch, snuggled up ...

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