Friday, January 18, 2013

Building Your First Cold Frame

     The best way to cut expenses in making a cold frame from wood is to use recycled or repurposed material.  The most commonly repurposed material is a salvaged window.  It doesn't matter if it is a wood framed window or an aluminum framed window.  Here are pictures to illustrate my point.  Please feel free to click on the credited websites for more instructions.
The above photo is an example of a simple cold frame of windows attached to each other with hinges.  Straw bales are used to insulate the ends.
This one to the right, takes only a few more windows, creating a glass green house.  If this were to become a permanent feature in your garden, a framed piece of glass hinged for the door at the end might be better for the neighbors.  We are currently having zoning hearings in our county regarding gardens and structures.  Please check with your local authorities before building.  WE will soon be limited to four feet in height and 25% of a lawn!  Outrageous!

Do not be discouraged by your lack of wood and building skills.  Get around the internet and you will find alternatives.  This is the time to be curious and experimental and a little adventurous.
1600 × 1066 - My "instant" cold frame
brick scavenged from a faux wall in my garden
550 × 412 - Working Cold Frames
Insulated cold frames – on the south side 
        When I was a kid, we lived in an old farmhouse with a fireplace.  The best place to be was outside sitting up against the chimney brick.  It was always warm and the sun shined on that side of the house from 9 am to 4 pm.  The photo above from Mother Earth News shows a cold frame built against a house that allows the windows to open and let heat out of the house into the garden.  

     If you look around your house you too may have a warm spot.  If the snow never builds up next to the heat pump that may be the right place for the cold frame.  Usually the outside temperature control units are on the "ugly" side of the house, hidden behind fences or in the back away from street side.  Cold framing may spruce up the area, give you more use of unused, untraveled area of the yard where your plants can enjoy the extra protection of that "lost" heat. 

     Now, for those of you who live well North of me and wonder about the poor old cold plants when it snows, some people heat rocks in their fireplaces and place them in the cold frame on a snowy night.    But if you are concerned about extreme temperatures, I suggest you dig down.  Dig a hole larger than the cold frame and deeper than the frost line.  Insulate with straw bales or cinder blocks ( the dead air in the concrete blocks is insulating) and set the cold frame on the bales, return the soil from the hole to the sides of the frame.    This photo shows an additional sun amplifying layer of foil that is also insulating.
     Make the most of the ground you have to garden.  If you have a slope where you do't really plant, use it for your cold frame location.  You will get more sun on the slant without having to learn to measure and cut angles.

       No matter how you do it, cold frame in your garden and extend the fresh food in the home without running to the store.  Start your seeds now, cold frame until it's safe to get those plants in the ground and make the growing season last longer no matter where you are.                                                                                                              

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