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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.

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"[1] before final planting outside.[2] Cold frames are similar to some enclosed hotbeds,[3] 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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ coldframe.org.uk
  2. ^ "A brief history of cold frames". coldframe.org.uk. 
  3. ^ merriam-webster.com
  4. ^ 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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68 news items

The Coloradoan

The Coloradoan
Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:41:15 -0700

Cold frame function improvements can be explained using the analogy of layering clothes for the coldest days in the winter — each layer and the tiny airspace in between keeps you toasty warm. By using floating row covers inside your cold frame or ...


Fri, 24 Oct 2014 23:11:15 -0700

Nothing is more adaptable for capturing the sun's complex measures of light and heat than the cold frame. The earth's natural warmth, fueled from deep within, is present only a few feet beneath our feet. Combine the two energies and already you're ...
News Sentinel
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:56:15 -0700

Allow them to set in the sun then position them around the planting area inside the cold frame or greenhouse, etc. They hold the heat from the sun and will help keep the air and soil temperature at a safe level through the night. Q: Is parsley a ...
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:24:19 -0700

To encourage even earlier germination than would normally occur, you could place a cold frame over selected portions of the garden in late January. A cold frame is nothing more than a bottomless box with a clear or translucent top. You can build your ...
Chicago Daily Herald
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 02:22:30 -0700

For example, you could place the pots inside a cold frame outside, plunge them into the soil and spread mulch over them. Do not allow the pots' growing medium to dry out. When you bring the pots inside, gradually acclimate them to inside conditions by ...

The Coloradoan

The Coloradoan
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:37:30 -0700

A cold frame is a low-tech alternative to a greenhouse, with a lower profile (in case your HOA is watching) and smaller footprint. While not without some effort, making and using a cold frame can harness the benefits of solar energy to keep mature (or ...
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 06:18:45 -0700

Hardy kale tends to be quite frost resistant and may be sown in a cold frame outdoors in the fall for early winter harvest. However, indoor planting is fun for kids and adults. It also means that you can pick a handful or two for supper without ...

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 04:15:40 -0700

Green-thinking pupils get warm praise for their work on Oxburgh Hall's cold-frame. The new plant cold store was opened in the kitchen garden at Oxburgh Hall, after it was built by pupils from the Iceni Academy - From left. Rosie Morris, Luke Johnson ...

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