It is that wonderful time of year again! We are enjoying the Autumn Harvest, picking pumpkins, sipping cider, and basking in the red and orange glow of fall. It is also the time of year where our lovely, productive summer crops have dwindled away and our gardens are being put to rest for the season. Wouldn't you love to go outside and pick fresh greens all winter long?! Believe it or not, you can! And it is not as difficult as you think.
Using cold frames to extend your planting season is a sure fire way to grow more veggies and sustain yourself through the colder months. A cold frame is simply a place to shelter your plants from the elements and to trap solar energy for heat. It acts as a small greenhouse! What more could a gardener want for these upcoming months?!
These awesome mini greenhouses can give you a 4 season harvest because they keep plants 7-10 degrees warmer than the outdoors and can even radiate heat up to 20 degrees warmer! Using a cold frame is equivalent to moving your garden plot at least one zone south. When choosing a location for your cold frame keep these factors in mind:
- South facing
- Protected by a fence or wall on the north side
- Sunny spot
- Good drainiage
- Protection from wind
Choosing materials for your cold frame is important. You can place your veggies in a bottomless wooden box that has NOT been treated, inside barrels of straw, or even a box lined with cinder blocks. Top the box with glass or plastic. You can use recycled windows or shower doors. Be sure to not use any recycled pieces with a frame that could have lead in the paint. If in doubt, DO NOT USE, as lead can seep into the soil and your food. Lexan is one of the best materials to use for the top closure on your frame,
During the harshest cold spells it is important to keep your cold frame warm by covering it with tarps, straw, or mats. On the flip side, you do not want to overheat your precious plants. It is important to have the ability to prop open the lid for air circulation or shade it with a sash. Be sure to put a thermometer inside to better monitor your crops.
Cold Frame Crops:
- Leaf lettuces
- Salad Greens
Read more from Niki Jabour, our favorite winter gardener!
Check out these tips on how to build your own cold frame!