March 29, 2011

Cold Frames are Easy!

Have you ever seen cold frames, hoop houses or other season extenders in catalogs, magazines or on the television? They're much easier to make than you might think. Cold frames give you additional ways to start seeds early, overwinter veggies, save some herbs for you or your dinner, or grow some nice native plants to put out in your gardens. Here in the Pikes Peak region we have a very short growing season, mine is approximately 90 days from last frost to first frost, so any help in extending it is most welcome!

This is the space the cold frame sets into - about 5 feet wide
and 6 feet deep. The flagstone was set in previously, 
with gravel for drainage.  The half-height walls provide extra
insulation and wind protection.

Here's a simple slide show to give you an example of how to build a walk-in cold frame in the window well of your house. We built this 1 1/2 years ago to overwinter plants, and take off the plastic during the summer. You can build it to your exact specifications, and the parts can be purchased at any hardware store. It cost less than $30.00 to build, not including the shelving. Enjoy!

Having trouble viewing the slideshow?  Here's a direct link.

After having the walk-in cold frame up for a year, there's a few things I would change:

  • The plastic sheeting needs to be cut into 3 pieces to make it easier to open/close. A front, back and side piece would also allow better venting.
  • I would add extra supports along the top between each hoop because of the very strong winds we have here.
  • I'd remember to take off the window screen during the winter to be able to reach into the plants from inside the basement!
  • The low shelves I added last year (not shown) were made of repurposed boards that were not waterproof and so warped and expanded too much when wet. My new low shelves will have drainage to prevent that!

We also have hoop houses over the raised garden beds in the backyard, which can be taken down over the winter.  I'll post pictures of them soon, as they're very useful for season extenders, keeping critters out and are so easy to make!

If you'd like to find out more about building one of these in your yard and would like some hands-on help, contact me and we can setup a time to get started!

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