Cold Frame Greenhouses From A To Z

Cold Frame Greenhouses From A To Z

Cold frame gardening is by no means a new practice. It’s been around for ages, but many people are still at a loss when it comes to understanding the driving concept behind them.

Arm yourself with patience and let’s break down the idea of a cold frame greenhouse together.

What Are Cold Frame Greenhouses?

Simply put, cold frame greenhouses are tiny, enclosed greenhouses. They can be installed within a larger greenhouse or as stand-alone ones. Their frames are usually made of wood.

Cold frame greenhouses come in various shapes and sizes, but always have a transparent roof or transparent windows and doors, so the warmth from sunlight (or the heating system) can be transferred into the enclosure.

Cold frame greenhouse.

This type of greenhouse is used primarily during the winter when sunlight is scant and plants die off as a consequence. In order for you to understand how a cold frame greenhouse works, imagine a box with a transparent roof.

In that box, there are certain plants. Sunlight or heat is passed inside that box through the roof and it’s trapped inside. Therefore, the plants can grow properly even if the weather conditions outside are awful.

How Can I Build One?

In order to build a small cold frame greenhouse, you need a couple of pallets and an old window. Use your tools to create a box out of the pallets but make sure the side panels that go on top of the box are angled.

Once the box is done, screw in the hinges of the window (you’ll have to put it on the side, not upright) and that’s about it. Of course, you’ll have to sand down all the wood, install braces and do some trimming where needed, but that’s basically the process.

It’s easier than it might look at a first glance. There are plenty of tutorials all over the Internet that will provide more insight. In a few paragraphs, we’ll also take a look at some of the most known plans.

Benefits Of Cold Frame Greenhouses

A cold frame greenhouse allows you to grow plants during the cold season (fall and winter) for an extremely low price. These greenhouses are usually made out scraps and, in many cases, the owners don’t spend a buck on other materials.

Subsequently, a cold frame greenhouse is the cheapest way of growing vegetables when the temperatures drop. You can’t grow all types of vegetables, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Cold Frame Greenhouses Plans

In this section, we will talk about the types of cold frame greenhouses you can build whenever you please with a very small amount of materials. Since we’re quite limited here, we will tackle some of them very briefly, so you get a sense of the time you’ll have to spend building them.

  • Hoop – the Hoop cold frame greenhouse is one of the simplest plans. This one features a few PVC pipes (for the hoops), some metal bandings and plastic (for the cover).
  • Plastic Bottles – of course, you can build a genuine cold frame out of empty plastic bottles. You can give it any shape you want. You’ll need some wood for the frames and the plastic bottles will serve as walls.
  • Portable – this is extremely easy to build. You’ve got to create a small wooden box and insert glass on the sides. The plan works perfectly for very small cultures (herbs, for example).
  • Removable Cold Frame – this looks just like one of those covered wagons from the days of yore. To pull this off, you need a large wood frame, some PVC pipe, a few staples and two pieces of chain (to open and close the greenhouse).
  • Instant Cloche – a few branches and plastic – that’s all you need to make this. Make sure that the branches are flexible and won’t break when you make them into hoops. Conifers, in particular, provide sturdy yet malleable branches that you can use for this plan.
  • Plastic Bottles no.2 – this is different from the previous plastic-bottle greenhouse, in the sense that, instead of creating an actual greenhouse with plastic walls, you simply cut off the bottom of the bottles and then put them over your vegetables. This works best for tomatoes (provided they have a certain length).
  • CD-Case Greenhouse – yes, you can totally build a cold frame greenhouse out of old CD cases. It takes a little bit more time and skill than many of the previous plans, but it’s worth it. A downside would be that you can’t build a very small greenhouse this way. It will accommodate 3-4 plants at best.

What Are The Best Cultures For Cold Frame Greenhouses?

Now you know how to build a greenhouse, so you can move on and find out how to use a cold frame. Due to the fact that this type of greenhouse is used during fall and winter, it goes without saying that the number of plants you can grow in it is quite narrow.

Cold frame greenhouse.

Many of the regular vegetables you grow during summer can’t withstand the cold. Don’t worry, though. There are still a couple of plants that will thrive in a cold frame greenhouse: radishes, lettuce, spinach, mache, arugula, mizuna, carrots, and beets.

You can also plant scallions, kale, parsley, kohlrabi and Swiss Chard. That’s not too bad, considering that many people have to waste some insane amounts of money to get fresh vegetables during the cold season.

  • Pro Tip: Don’t let these plants grow to full maturity because they’ll be more affected by frost this way. When they’re halfway through the growth cycle, get them out. Also, install your greenhouses in a space that isn’t very windy (against your house, for instance).

The Bottom Line

This article gave you the answer to “What is a cold frame greenhouse?” If you have a lot of spare materials lying around your house, consider putting them to good use. With just a little effort, you might have fresh lettuce and baby carrots on the Christmas table.

Take your time and study a few plans in order to see what you’d like best. We hope that you’ve got the necessary impulse to have greens almost year-round with a minimal investment of both effort and money.

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