|DIY Construction: Up to $50||Basic Manufactured Cold Frame: $30-$100||Large Cold Frame: $100-$600+|
Like a miniature outdoor greenhouse but without heat or lighting, a cold frame is used to start new plants or to grow vegetables when outside temperatures are too low for standard gardening. Cold frames work on the same basic principles as greenhouses, but are typically much smaller and less expensive.
Related articles: Portable Greenhouse, Greenhouse
- A simple cold frame can be constructed fairly easily with do-it-yourself supplies that can be free or cost up to $50 or more, depending on the size and whether scrap lumber or other recycled materials are used. DoItYourself.com describes the general process for building a box-like cold frame using boards and an old window sash; organic-gardening-and-homesteading.com explains how to build a cold frame with concrete blocks ; and a GardenForkTV.com video demonstrates building a hoop-style cold frame using 2x4s, pvc pipe and translucent plastic.
- A basic cold frame from a manufacturer costs $30-$100, depending on size and materials. In this price range the box is usually made of metal and/or plastic, and the lid is generally a clear plastic panel. For example, the Garden Harvest Supply Cold Frame Single Mini-Greenhouse at $49 is 41"x22"x18" with an aluminum and plastic frame and a plastic top, and is easily moved from one area of the garden to another.
- Larger and more durable cold frames can cost $100-$600 or more depending on size, quality of materials, number of lid panels and options such as automatic venting. In this price range the box frame may be made of wood such as redwood or cedar, and the top may be glass or high-quality plastic. For example, a redwood-and-aluminum 4'x2'x16" Cold Frame Starter Box sells for $140-$160; the Maine Garden Products Cold Frame is made of eastern white cedar, has two top panels and sells for $325, with an automatic vent opener available for an additional $50; and the hoop-style 8'x6'x31" Solexx Deluxe Cold Frame sells for $450-$550.
What should be included:|
- Placed on or slightly buried in the soil, a standard cold frame is a low (8"-30" high) wooden box with no bottom and a transparent lid (usually glass or plastic) to admit sunshine -- although some modern cold frames are made with hoops covered by strong translucent plastic. The University of Missouri Extension program provides a detailed overview of traditional cold frames .
- Assembly is typically required. Many kits for lightweight cold frames include anchor stakes to secure the cold frame to the ground. Double-glazed glass is the best material for the box lid, but also the most expensive. Plastic lids might not warm the frame as well as glass and inexpensive ones can get cloudy over time.
- The lid is usually hinged so it can be propped open when the outside temperature changes.
- Cold frames trap heat by admitting sunlight during the day and retaining heat during the cold night. OrganicGardening.com gives tips for successful placement and use of a cold frame .
- Plants can be grown inside the cold frame in pots or flats, or directly in the soil; Ed Hume Seeds gives an overview of growing vegetables in a cold frame .
- If outdoor temperatures drop, some people choose to add heat to their cold frame, turning it into what's known as a hot bed. Heat can be provided by electrical cables or, less commonly, by the natural warmth generated by fresh manure buried below the rooting zones of the plants. Soil-heating cables (with an extension cord to an outdoor outlet) can cost $20-$50 or more for 6' to 48' of cable. Vegetable Gardener magazine provides an overview for turning a cold frame into a hot bed .
- Some online companies offer free shipping, but others may charge $10-$50 or more.
Shopping for a cold frame:
- Cold frames of all sizes and types can be constructed with recycled materials for little or no cost. A Colorado sustainable gardening enthusiast made a low-cost cold frame using a wall of chicken wire stuffed with leaves plus row covers and plastic sheeting, and a 7'x9' cold frame using straw, clay and wooden pallets for about $100 or more.
- When choosing or designing a cold frame, size is often dictated by space available and the type and number of plants to be covered by the cold frame.
- Major manufacturers include Beam , MD , NuTone , Vacuflo and VacuMaid . Most manufacturers' websites offer installation tips and a way to search for local dealers.
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