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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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6987 news items


Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:34:40 -0800

"An inexpensive, homemade cold frame can work just as well as a fancy store-bought one," says Lancaster County Master Gardener Laura Griffith. She and her husband built their own permanent cold frame to extend the growing season when they lived in ...

The Journal News | LoHud.com

The Journal News | LoHud.com
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:03:45 -0800

Vegetables and fruits: A cold frame can be used all winter for lettuces and spinach if it is convenient to the house. When ordering tomato seeds, be aware that determinates make little or no growth after the fruit is set. Indeterminates continue ...
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:52:30 -0800

Start garden woodworking projects like cold frames, trellises, arbors and benches. A makeshift but functional cold frame can be set up using a few bales of straw on which an old wooden storm window is propped. Slide back the window to vent heat on ...

The San Luis Obispo Tribune

The San Luis Obispo Tribune
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 04:45:00 -0800

Inland gardeners might start seeds indoors or use a cold frame. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are timely choices. While you're digging around, transplant artichoke crowns, asparagus crowns and rhubarb rhizomes. Plant camellias and ...
Washington Post
Wed, 28 Jan 2015 04:56:15 -0800

In a month or so, they will pot up the seedlings from 72-cell flats to individual pots, before moving them to a barely heated cold frame in March. Here the transplants will harden off for a couple of weeks before making it to the vegetable garden ...


Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:56:15 -0800

You should not need water them much until the warmer weather arrives, but keep an eye on the compost if they are growing in a cold frame outside, an unheated greenhouse or on the windowsill in a cool room. Don't forget to pinch out the growing point ...

Big Picture Agriculture

Big Picture Agriculture
Fri, 14 Nov 2014 09:40:07 -0800

Building a cold frame was last weekend's project at our house and we did it in the nick of time, just before the cold blast of arctic air and many inches of snow hit us this week. Although we built a winter greens hoop garden a few years ago and it is ...
CT Post
Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:15:00 -0700

With 30 square feet of growing space inside the cold frame, a variety of salad ingredients can be planted. Several short rows of radish seeds are planted alongside a row of onion sets leftover from the spring planting. Arugula is interplanted with ...

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