A cold frame is a box made out of clear materials that will let the sun in and help to keep the plants inside warm by containing the heat. They are perfect for spring and fall planting because they provide a protective space for your plants to grow during cooler seasons. They give your garden more warmth than they’d otherwise get if they were simply planted in open air.
There are some really nice cold frames on the market that can be used to extend your growing season in this way. Some versions will have vents that you can use to let some of the hot air out during the warmer parts of the day in order to prevent your plants from being scorched. However, one of the problems with commercial structures is that they can be expensive.
Luckily you don’t need to purchase one to reap the benefits of one, but instead you can get creative with different materials to build one on your own. Here are four ideas for creating a cold frame for your plants.
1. Find Materials to Upcycle
Upcycling is a popular movement that goes hand-in-hand with the green movement of recycling. The idea is to items that were previously used for one purpose and use them to fit a new need.
Some upcycling materials that you can use to create creative cold frames are windows and screen doors. You may even have some of these materials lying around your home collecting dust. If you don’t, that’s okay, as there are plenty of programs that can help you to score materials at a free or reduced price.
For example, you may have a local program where members of your community put items up for sale that they are getting rid of. You can take advantage of this by placing an ad for materials that you’re looking for, so if someone has what you need, he or she can respond to your ad telling you where you can pick them up.
If you can’t find a program like that, you can always look into your local resale shops. Habitat for Humanity has a great resale shop that is perfect for this type of project, as they often sell old windows and doors out of homes that they’ve rehabbed or that have been donated to them.
2. Use Straw Bales
Straw bale gardening is pretty popular by itself, but did you know you can also make your own cold frame using straw bales?
If you choose to go with straw bales, you’ll want to stack the bales up in a square or rectangular shape with the middle section left open. Unlike straw bale gardening, your cold frame shouldn’t have soil coming all the way up to the top. You’ll want to keep it a bit further down to allow the straw to act as a wall that insulates your crop. Then, you’ll just need to find some materials to cover the top of your cold frame. This material should be clear enough to let the sun come into your cold frame.
Keep in mind that with this type of construction, it’s also important that you think about where you’re going to place your straw bale cold frame since the sun won’t be able to penetrate the sides like more traditional structures.
3. Construct With PVC Pipes
PVC pipes are another great material for using in your garden construction. They are often affordable to purchase per piece, and they can be used to build just about anything you have in mind. They work well for cucumber frames or building a pest barrier around your whole garden to keep netting in place. They can certainly be used to build a nice cold frame.
Once you build the basic structure, you’ll need to find a nice, clear plastic material that you can stretch over the hoops or frame to finish off the project.
4. Use What You Already Have
One creative way of creating a cold frame is to use your existing raised garden bed. The wood of your raised bed is the perfect place to build up a the frame. You can easily use PVC pipes (or other materials) to construct the top of the structure. Then, cover and seal the container with clear plastic. You’ll basically be building your own mini greenhouse.
5. Build Your Cold Frame From Scratch
Another creative cold frame idea is to just go ahead and build your own from scratch. So, if you’re good with your hands, take a visit to your local home improvement store and take a look at a commercially available model to use for inspiration.
You can make your own frame using wood and glass panels available through your local hardware store. The beauty of building your own as opposed to buying one is that you can personalize it to completely fit your space and needs.
Final Words of Wisdom
No matter what creative materials you choose to build a cold frame for your backyard, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of a longer growing season. You’ll be surprised at the kind of crops you can get even during the coldest months of the year with a little planning and a solid cold frame.