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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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1001 news items

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 ...
Vermont Public Radio
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:52:30 -0800

Believe it or not, I'm still eating lettuce and other greens from my cold-frame as well as kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli from my community garden plot. I cover the cold-frame to protect the plants from freezing rain and cold to extend the ...


Wed, 12 Nov 2014 09:37:30 -0800

In colder areas, you can extend the growing season with greenhouses, cloches (a transparent plant cover used outdoors especially for protection against cold) or a cold frame. A cold frame is wonderful -- it is a simple structure that utilizes solar ...


Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:41:15 -0800

Forget the cold frame. If you want to protect the new planting from heaving over winter, mulch the bed with an inch of pine straw or well-shredded leaves. (No wood or bark mulch, and no whole leaves. Any mulch must be light enough for the shoots to ...

SurfKY News

SurfKY News
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 23:18:45 -0800

US (11/22/14) — Spring and summer have the colorful blooms and rich greenery that make the great outdoors so lush and inviting. Autumn is awash in vibrant colors that beckon people outdoors to explore. But winter has a poor reputation with regard to ...

Appleton Post Crescent

Appleton Post Crescent
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:56:15 -0700

It is not necessary to spend a lot of money or time creating a cold frame. Create one quickly and easily by making a box shape or border from straw bales or concrete cinder blocks. Cover with an old storm window or patio door that you can pick up from ...

Michigan State University Extension

Michigan State University Extension
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:34:57 -0800

You can also begin growing your cannas in a cold frame or outdoors under a clear tarp. With soils warming up after Memorial Day, it is much safer to place them into the garden at that time. This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.


Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:56:15 -0800

It will also do well on a very sunny, cool windowsill, or even in a cold frame or greenhouse. In order to have lots of parsley all the time, it pays to sow seeds in the fall, in early spring and again several times during the summer. Besides doing this ...

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