Sunday, February 22, 2009
Using Cold Frames
Cold frames are one of the greatest resources that a gardener has. They are easy to make, inexpensive and allow for you to extend your growing season. We've been using cold frames for years. Recently, we got ours ready for spring. This is where we will get an early start on lettuces, cabbages, radishes, carrots and green onions. In my opinion, the best reference on extending your growing season and using cold frames is Eliot Coleman's book Four-Season Harvest. Any book by Coleman is a gold-mine of information, but this is one of the best because it provides information that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. He even gets very scientific about what varieties will perform best for you throughout the winter.
I have already started some seeds to go in my cold frame. Most everything that I put in there will be a transplant. I will direct seed carrots, green onions and radish, though. The temperature inside the cold frame is much higher than outside, so even though it is still very cold in Kansas City, I will start plants under the cold frame this week. Don't forget they are there, if you have an unseasonably warm day, they can overheat and die very quickly. Also, don't forget to water these plants. There still isn't a lot of direct sunlight right now, so these plants will grow much slower than they would in the summer. Plants that I put in in two weeks will quickly catch up to the ones I will plant this week. It will continue to be that way until spring.
Cold frames are extremely easy to make. They are basically wooden frames covered with plastic. The weight of the plastic is fairly important, i'm not sure what weight ours is, but don't get the thinnest and don't get the heaviest - it won't let in enough light. We used reclaimed wood to make ours and we have been using it for a couple of years. My husband puts it together using screws, he says, these will hold better than nails. We staple the plastic to the frame, unfortunately the plastic doesn't seem to last us longer than the one season.