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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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73 news items

The Independent (blog)

The Independent (blog)
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:01:03 -0700

If you want salad leaves all winter, sow these outdoors now and then a second batch in a cold frame or greenhouse in late September/early October. I sowed a range of the usual suspects: Mizuna, Mibuna, Pak Choi 'Yuu Shou', 'Joi Choi' and some 'Tatsoi', ...
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:33:45 -0700

Keep materials on hand to protect plants when frost threatens, such as floating row cover, a cold frame or a cloche. On frosty, cold nights, move container plants to a protected spot. Not sure when frost will arrive in your area? Check out this USDA ...
Victorville Daily Press
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:11:15 -0700

To extend the growing season and offer more protection, consider using a cold frame, greenhouse, row covers or planting in containers that can be moved into warmer areas at night. Typical vegetables that are successful for end-of-summer/ early fall ...


Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:34:55 -0700

For sheer versatility and dependability as a season extender, however, the cold frame wins, hands down. A cold frame is usually a bottomless wood box with an easy-open (for harvesting), adjustable (for ventilation) top made from a repurposed window, ...
Mail Tribune
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 00:07:30 -0700

Coming up: Kelly Brainard, of Ashland Greenhouses will talk about how to extend the growing season by using structures such as a hoop house, cold frame or greenhouse. The class will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Southern Oregon ...
Farm and Dairy
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:29:16 -0700

A hotbed or cold frame should have full sun exposure, protection from the wind, a water source and good drainage. A hotbed or cold frame can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deep in the ground and four to six feet wide. The base can be built ...
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:41:15 -0700

Keep materials on hand to protect plants when frost threatens, such as floating row cover, a cold frame or a cloche. On frosty, cold nights, move container plants to a protected spot. The end of summer doesn't have to herald the end of your garden harvest.
Appleton Post Crescent
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 21:05:19 -0700

As the end of August arrives, now is a perfect time to begin sowing the seeds for cool-weather crops that will last into October, even longer if you use a cold frame, or if warmer weather holds out. Late-summer planting brings a refresher for children ...

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