It’s that time of the year again when we gardeners are thinking about our vegetable gardens and how to get an early start on our favorite vegetables. One way to get that early start on the growing season is by using a cold frame or hot box.
A cold frame is basically a miniature greenhouse. They can be built any size you may desire from housing only a few seedlings to a few hundred. They are simple to construct so you do not need any special skills to make one.
I made the one pictured above out of discarded lumber from a torn down barn and an aluminum storm door that had been replaced. No expertise or finesse is required (I sawed the boards with my chain saw). My only expense was a few nails and a little effort to put it together.
Any kind of non tinted windows will work as will plastic sheeting. Old windows, aluminum storm doors, sheets of Plexiglas, plastic painting drop cloths, and other things will work to let the sun through. You can build or use any kind of box you like as long as your glass or sheeting will cover it. I have seen cold frames made from wooden shipping crates, old refrigerators and freezers, and just about everything else you could imagine. You are only limited by your imagination and what is available. Of course you can buy new materials and build a one of your own design or buy a commercially made cold cold frame here.
I like to start my seedlings 5 or 6 weeks before the last frost date in my area to give them time to come up and grow to a size that is suitable for transplanting and I like to grow them in peat pots to make transplanting less of a shock to the new seedlings. You can find the last frost date in your area here.
One thing I like about growing my own seedlings in a cold frame is that I have much greater control of their soil, moisture, and nutrition. Another thing I like is that there are a much greater variety of plant species and varieties available as seeds from catalogs and other sources than are available in the local nurseries.
By using a cold frame I can sprout and grow them in a controlled environment to the point that they are hearty enough to withstand the elements, and I can get a plant in the ground that has a head start on the growing season to produce vegetables earlier than I would otherwise be able to do.
A cold frame;
- is easy and inexpensive to build
- gives you a controlled environment for your seedlings
- can give you a month or more head start on the growing season
- gives you more varieties to choose from
As you can see, using a cold frame will make your gardening experience much more successful and productive for very little expense and effort. I have used them for many years and highly recommend them to anyone that has or plans to have a vegetable garden.