Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cold Frame Gardening

cold frame  /kōl(d) frām/
A four-sided frame of boards with a removable glass or plastic top. The frame is placed on the ground and is used to house, protect, and harden off seedlings and small plants, without artificial heat.
-- New Oxford American Dictionary
I've wanted a cold frame for a long time but never imagined I would own such a grand one. Years ago, I coveted a potting shed/greenhouse combination I spotted at one of the big box stores. We purchased it and placed it as the focal point of my yet-to-be-planned-and-planted kitchen garden. We built raised beds around the shed (we couldn't plant directly into the ground with the proximity of a walnut tree and its toxic roots) and eventually added fences. My kitchen garden took shape.

The construction of the potting shed completed 2006

Raised beds for square-foot gardening

We added a picket fence on two sides and a pasture fence on the other sides.

Over the years we made important changes to the inside of the potting shed. H.H. hung shop lights with grow lamps over the potting bench for my trays of seedlings on sunless days. We added a framework to support roller shades of bamboo for too-sunny days.

Potting bench with seedlings.

Always wishing to extend the growing season, we added insulation to the potting shed so that I could put seedlings (that I start in the house) out in the shed a little earlier. I painted the inside a sunny yellow and added treasured items from the attic of our 1850's farmhouse.

We added insulation in 2013
Purdy's rocking chair is a family piece probably more than a century old.

I painted the shed a barn-red color, added some chickens (H.H. wont let me keep real ones because of the foxes and coyotes that inhabit our fields and woods) and I was content ... for a time.

My collection of chickens

I love my potting shed and have written extensively about it over the years. You'd think I would be satisfied, wouldn't you? But I saw a cold frame at the Bloomsburg Fair last year and started reading about winter gardening with cold frames.

Bloomsburg Cold Frame

I pictured my seeds sprouting in a warm protected enclosure; my tender seedlings kept safe from wind and frost. I visualized a simple box structure, maybe topped with old windows, like the one at Bloomsburg. Then I talked with Victor.

The son-in-law of a dear friend, Victor is a musician, photographer, graphic designer, owner of a small construction/renovation company, and (cold frame) visionary. I told him I would like my cold frame attached to the south side of the potting shed. We discussed materials (non toxic, of course), size, and pitch of the roof. The latter proved to be the critical factor in making the add-on look part of the original building and, incidentally, very attractive. Victor felt the pitch of the cold frame's roof should match that of the shed/greenhouse structure. He was right!

Victor used cedar wood that he insulated and lined with a composite material.

He put wire mesh in the bottom to keep out critters.

Victor made four separate 'lids' covered with the same plastic material as the roof panels -- called Lexan®. The lids are very light and attached with lift-off hinges so I can remove them easily.

 Victor put a new coat of barn-red paint on shed and on cold frame to complete the 'look.'

You may notice in the picture above that Victor also replaced the rotting logs that bordered the long lasagna-garden on the extreme right. He used the same composite that lines the cold frame. Now my kitchen garden, with all it's new construction, is very snazzy!

We shoveled endless loads of my special compost mix into the new planting area. I couldn't wait to add plants although it was a record 90°F day in May. I sowed a row of Swiss chard at the back where the design allows for taller plants. I sowed carrots and, of course, you have to have lettuce in a cold frame, don't you?  I can prop the lids open or take them off, but I soon found it is easier to heat the soil up in a cold frame than it is to cool it down ...

Fried lettuce

Obviously, the cold frame will come into its own at each end of the gardening season. I plan to get a jump start on my spring garden by planting cabbage, chard, kale, radish, spinach and, of course, lettuce, in late winter next year. This should add more than a month to my spring garden season. I dread the coming of the first fall frost and look forward to planning how I will extend this year's growing period.

Thank you, Victor. I love it! Now I trust I've made some of my dear gardening friends green (appropriate color) with envy. Please check out Victor's website by clicking here. He enjoyed the challenge and would love to make more.

Pamela x

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Absolutely gorgeous!! Victor did an amazing job - the cold frames look like they came with the potting shed. So adorable! I am excited for you with the addition of more time to your growing season. I know you will have so much fun planting stuff in there!

  2. Yes, you are right: I'm so jealous! Of the entire thing! Your kitchen garden is awesome, along with the cute-as-can-be potting shed! I have a tiny, simple coldframe and I love it for warming seedlings and for early season lettuce.

  3. What a spiffy coldframe! I love the barn red color too. Also, composite materials. Very, very nice. I also noticed your square foot gardening templates on the raised beds. Girl, you are serious! Thanks for always stopping by to visit and for commenting Pam. It helps all of this remain worthwhile.~~Dee

    1. I enjoy visiting your wonderful blog, Dee. Thank you for your positive comments on mine.

  4. The potting shed and cold frame are magnificent! If I owned such a structure, I might just take up residence there. My own potting bench is outside, along the side of our garden shed, and I don't have a cold frame - not much call for one here. Nevertheless, I am filled with envy. Yours are beautiful.

  5. What a fabulous coldframe. I've always been envious of your potting shed but this is now the icing on the cake.

  6. Oh I think I would just move into that potting shed! It is so amazing. I've never tried cold frames, opting for a hoop house instead, and I'm looking forward to seeing how you like yours!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Faith. I'll stop by your blog to see your hoop house.

  7. That's really new lesson for me. Thank you for sharing

  8. Victor is definitely a jewel and very skilled at problem solving. I'm so happy you are happy with his work. Victor is my kid in many ways as he and his brother grew up with my daughters in Africa. I only wish he and I lived closer together. I believe you will love working with this cold frame. :)

    1. I didn't know Victor lived in Africa. I continue to learn new amazing information about him.

  9. What a very professional-looking cold frame -- something the big country estates would have in England! I've never had one before either, and just talked to our handyman last week about constructing one to a plan I found online -- I'm looking forward to reading about how you use it, since I'm not entirely sure what to plant in them (beside lettuces, of course). Wonderful story! -Beth

    1. Thank you for your comment about English country estates -- now that makes me feel really good.

  10. I adore your potting shed and am very impressed with the cold frame. What a wonderful addition to your garden.

  11. I could live in your cold frame /shed. Nice job !

  12. My goodness Pam, your garden ambitions know no bounds. Wonderful work!

  13. Oh, I am so green with envy! And I also love the clear part of the roof on your shed, I have to replace my shed roof soon as it is leaking and I have been thinking of doing exactly the same. I have a bench just like you with a row of windows, but they are quite small, getting a clear roof would be amazing. Maybe I can manage to squeeze in some cold frames too? I feel so inspired now!