Gardeners use cold frames to "harden off" seedlings that were started indoors or to start their vegetable plants from seed. Here are tips on how to make cold frames.
Sow seeds of crops such as radish, lettuce, endive, and scallions directly in the frame for an early or late harvest. You can even raise them there all summer as long as the cover is removed when warm weather arrives.
Make a Cold Frame
- Construct a bottomless box and set it in the garden or atop other good soil in a sunny location.
- Frames are usually made from scrap lumber, but concrete blocks or bricks can also be used.
- Top the box either with glass (perhaps an old storm window) or a frame covered with clear plastic.
- Hinge the cover so that it may be opened for ventilation on warm days.
- Temporary frames or "cloches" can also be made by leaning old storm windows tent-style over the plants along the length of the garden row.
- To protect individual seedlings, cut the bottoms out of plastic milk jugs and place them over individual plants, holding the jugs in place with mounded soil. During sunny days, remove the caps for ventilation.
A Hot Bed
A hot bed is a cold frame that is heated. The method of using horse manure or compost works well and is more economical than electric heating cables.
- For a nonelectric hot bed, excavate 18 to 24 inches under the frame and add fresh manure or compost.
- Turn and moisten this material every couple of days for a week until it settles, then cover it with 6 inches of soil.
- As the manure or compost decomposes, it will generate enough heat to protect against early or late frosts.
He who sows thickly, gathers thinly.
He who sows thinly, gathers thickly.