What You Need to Know About Cold Frames

In an ideal world, year-round gardening would be possible for all gardeners - no matter the location or season. But for many, once summer turns to fall and cool temperatures set in, gardens are often put to bed until the next spring arrives. However, cold frames give avid gardeners the opportunity to garden well into the cold months - and sometimes even through winter. 
 
Cold frames are enclosed structures that consist of a lid for garden beds to trap warmth, while allowing plenty of sunlight to reach plants. They are specially designed for use in fall and winter to protect plants from extreme temperatures and seasonal conditions, but can also be used in early spring to help start seedlings and aide the transplanting process. 
 
While the cold days ahead are inevitable, keep your green thumb thriving with these need-to-know cold frame tips.

 

Materials

Cold frames are usually made of wood and plastic, while other materials like glass and even bottomless wooden boxes can be used. It's important, though, to refrain from using treated wood to prevent any chemical exposure to soil or plants. As a rule of thumb, be sure the top or cover of the cold frame is made of material - like glass or translucent plastic - that permits sun to easily shine through to reach plants for growth and warmth.

 

Location

Cold frames are intended to protect plants from harsh environment conditions. However, you still need to select a location that isn't in the direct path of harsh winds, or in areas that experience flooding or fall into snow drifts - all elements that can wreak havoc on the growth process. You should also select a space with well-drained soil, as sitting water can deter growth, encourage disease and even kill plants; opt for a location that receives direct sunlight.

 

Maintenance

Factors like soil moisture and composition, temperature and growth should be monitored regularly to ensure plants are growing in an appropriate environment. While the lid of cold frames serves to give accessibility to plants for ongoing maintenance, it also provides a dual purpose for ventilation, should plants need to 'breathe' on warmer fall and winter days.