This post looks at the benefits of a cold frame and shows you our clever design for transforming a raised bed into a cold frame in mere minutes.
I first became interested in cold frames a couple of years ago. I was amazed to see how other gardeners managed to to extend the gardening season with the use of a cold frame.
I was also hugely inspired by the book the Year Round Veggie Gardener by Canadian garden writer Niki Jabbour.
Who wouldn't be impressed by that picture of Niki kneeling beside a cold frame in the dead of a Canadian winter?
A cold frame is certainly more affordable than a buying a full greenhouse, yet offers many of the same advantages.
It also takes up a lot less space than a greenhouse and is the great option to consider for a small backyard.
As I indicated earlier in the post, a cold frames allow you to extend the growing season in a number of ways.
My herbs are still going strong despite the fact that it's mid-November and we have had several killing frosts. And last spring the herbs sprouting new growth over a month ahead of the rest of the garden.
You can also grow a winter crop of vegetables in a cold frame.
Like a greenhouse, I found a cold frame to be a great place to start seeds. I have limited space in the house for seedlings. Last spring I was able to start some seeds inside the cold frame as early as late March/early April.
I also found that the cold frame is a great place to park tender plants for the winter. Thanks to the shelter it provides, the top of this birdbath planter came through the ravages of a Canadian winter beautifully.
Sometimes I have trouble over wintering Mediterranean herbs like thyme, but last year I had no problem with the most of the plants inside of the cold frame. (The exception were a few thyme plants that were right in the corners. There are some very small gaps where the structure fits together and they were big enough to allow cold drafts to sneak inside and affect the plants right in each corner.)
Last year we constructed the sides of the box which transforms the one of our raised beds into a cold frame.
The smart part of this cold frame design is that it takes less than an hour to transform the raised bed into a cold frame. You simply fit the cold frame sides into position and attach the three doors. (We store the component pieces in a shed during the summer.)
For purposes of demonstration, here we have detached one of the cold frame sides to show you how it all fits into place. In the shot above you can hubby fitting one of the sides into position to complete walls of the frame.
Because the sides fit together like a puzzle no nails are required to hold them in position. Any one of the side walls can be removed in a matter of minutes.
The final stage of the fall transformation from raised bed to cold frame involves the installation of three plexiglass doors.
With under an hour to make the transformation, I have to say that I am rather proud of how easy we have made it to use a cold frame each fall and winter.
For more project details please see my blog post on the Cold Frame How-to.