26 Cold Frame Plans to Keep you Growing - Backyard Boss
We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

26 Cold Frame Plans to Keep you Growing

The cold frame can be the secret to growing plants and vegetables all year round in harsh climates. Garden covered in snow? No problem. A cold frame relies on some simple laws of physics to make sure that you have a suitable climate for plant life in even the harshest climates.

And they’re not just for vegetables either. You can grow beautiful flowers in cold frames too. They’re even a good place to overwinter your perennials that might not make it outside by themselves.

It sounds like some fancy contraption, but it’s really not. If you’re asking the question what is a cold frame?, take a few minutes to discover all there is to know about these nifty tools. Then dive into the list below to find the best cold frame plans to suit your needs.

As Simple As It Gets

To prove my point that cold frames don’t have to be complicated structures, let’s start off as simply as possible. This is no more than an old window fitted onto a raised bed. This DIY cold frame plan could be adapted to any size window or garden bed you have available.

Sunlight Box

Keeping with the simple theme, here’s another cold frame that could’ve been made with reclaimed materials. If you manage to source some old windows in their frames, you could easily turn them into a cold frame like the one below.


Most of the plans for cold frames you’ll find on the internet use reclaimed materials. These plans are no different. This plan will show you how to slap together a cold frame from whatever materials you have lying around. Cheap and effective.

Insulated For Extra Performance

This is a simple cold frame using an old window just like some of the plans already mentioned. This plan includes straw in strategic places as well as horse manure inside the contraption to add its heat as it decomposes.

Cute And Cost Effective

Starting to move away from the completely reclaimed plans, this plan still uses old windows. Besides that, the result is a cute and effective cold frame that your plants will love when the mercury starts to drop.

No Glass? No Problem

If you don’t have a set of old windows lying around it doesn’t mean that you can’t whip up a cold frame before winter rolls around. Any clear material that allows light and heat in could be up to the job. Such as this plan using an old skylight dome.

Plans From The World Wars

The plans below originally appeared in the book “Crockett’s Victory Garden” by James Underwood Crocket. As you can see, the cold frame isn’t a new idea, and it was used during the dire days of the world wars to produce food in the harsh winters. They’re still being used today.

DIY Dream

Even as the instructions get more sophisticated, the general concept behind the cold frame remains the same. This plan supercharges your cold frame with bought materials and a few more tools; but still simple as can be.

Gabled Plant House

Not all cold frames have to look alike. This design uses PVC to create a frame resembling a gabled house to keep your plants safe. You can use any covering fastened onto the frame to provide adequate light and protection from the elements.

Hoop House

Whether you call it a hoop house or a cold frame, the idea is the same; keep plants protected in inclement weather. This plan was designed to fit over already existing raised beds. The PVC hoops will also stay in place as a frame for bird netting in the summer.

Mini Greenhouse

What else is a cold frame if it’s not a mini greenhouse? These plans mimic the style of a larger greenhouse, but shrunk down to cold frame size. I’m not too sure about using tape as the transparent covering, but you could substitute it for something with a bit more strength if you feel its necessary.


This design blurs the lines between a cold frame and a greenhouse, but if you can’t walk inside it, it’s a cold frame in my books. Efficiency is the name of the game here. This design means that you don’t have to open your cold frames to water your plants (only if you live in a wet climate). What’s more, the whole thing fits perfectly on a pallet.

Self-watering Cold Frame
Image credits: via https://www.instructables.com/Self-watering-Mini-greenhouse-With-Europallets/

Pallet Cold Frame

It was only a matter of time before pallets entered the conversation. And here they are. Another simple design for a quick and easy cold frame. Only this time, made out of pallet wood.

Cold Frame Made Out Of Pallets
Image credits: via https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/how-to-make-a-cold-frame/

PVC Cold Frame

Cold frames can easily be snapped together with a variety of abundant, cheap and easy to find materials. If you have some PVC leftover from a plumbing project, and have any idea what coroplast is, why not whip up a cold frame? Your plants will love you for it.

PVC Box With Coroplast
Image credits: via https://www.instructables.com/Coldframe-from-PVC-pipe-and-Coroplast/

Winter A-Frame For Your Plants

For something a little different, why not build an a-frame to keep your plants cosy in winter? These plans can be adjusted to fit the size of your current vegetable beds. I would personally choose an alternative to the plastic covering used in these plans, but each to their own.

Plastic A-Frame Cold Frame
Image credits: via https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/diy-tomato-planter-tent

Mix And Match

There are no rules saying you can only use one type of reclaimed material for your DIY project. This design uses PVC piping and wood to create a lightweight cold frame. This plan is a little more technical than the rest, but nothing you can’t handle.

Wooden Cold Frame With PVC Piping
Image credits: via https://www.finegardening.com/article/build-a-cold-frame-with-a-lightweight-lid

Plastic Bottle Plant Box

Now here’s a novel idea; use those plastic bottles that are choking up the earth to build a cold frame. There are no step by step instructions here, but I’m confident you’d be able to figure out how to turn your trash into a winter treasure just by looking at the pictures.

Plastic Bottles Made Into A Cold Frame
Image credits: via https://threehundredandsixtysix.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/plastic-bottle-cold-frames-and-greenhouses/

Plastic Bottle On a Window Sill

Sticking with the plastic bottle theme, this plan goes back to basics. Absolutely no frills required. Calling this a cold frame might be a bit of a stretch, but it has the same goal in mind and may achieve the same result. You can consider this your gateway to cold frame gardening.

Plastic Bottles Growing Seedlings On A Windowsill
Image credits: via https://www.instructables.com/Cheap-Easy-indoor-plants/

More Hoops

A hoop house and a cold frame are more or less the same thing. Some might argue that it’s the shape of the structure that assigns the definition. I say “Who cares?” As long as it’s keeping those plants warm in winter, then you can call it whatever you want.

Cold Frame Covered In White Fabric
Image credits: via https://cookingupastory.com/how-to-make-a-cold-frame-for-a-raised-garden-bed/

PVC Pipes

The number of projects that can be done with PVC pipes is quite astounding. In fact, there’s an entire website dedicated to just that. And wouldn’t you know it, they have plans for a PVC cold frame too.

Cold Frame With Gabled PVC Lid
Image credits: via http://www.pvcplans.com/coldframe.htm

Mobile Plant Home

Here’s another plan using mostly salvaged materials. Of course, the plans still work if you want to use new materials too. These plans add a handle on other side so you can move the unit to wherever you need it. Like most cold frames, this one doesn’t have a bottom so that you can position it in the garden that you already have.

Wooden Cold Frame With Dog
Image credits: via https://www.instructables.com/Build-a-Cold-Frame-with-Recycled-Materials/

Recycled For Winter Warmth

Recycled materials are a favorite with the cold frame crowd. And why not? They’re really cheap (or even free), are often cluttering up backyards or storage spaces all over the world, and giving them another life reduces land fill waste. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where they keep your plants warm in winter. Sounds like a win for everybody.

Two People With Recycled Cold Frame
Image credits: via https://www.instructables.com/Cold-frame-construction-with-recycled-materials/

Bottles In The Garden

Once you understand the concept behind cold frames, everything starts to look like one. Take a look at these instructions that use just one material that you probably already have lying around somewhere. Plastic bottles. Cut off the bottom and stick ’em in the ground.

Plastic Bottles In The Garden
Image credits: via https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/diy-bottle-greenhouse/

Natural Materials 

Cold frames don’t have to be all old windows and PVC pipes. You could use suitable branches to frame the structure too. Once you’ve attached your transparent covering, you’re done. Easy as that.

Seedling Cloche Made With Branches
Image credits: via https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/how-to-make-an-instant-cloche-to-protect-seedlings/

Accordion Style

This ain’t no standard hoop house. These plans include a novel method of opening the structure, similar to an accordion. This means you can open up your hoop house cold frame without having to bend over. Save your plants and your back this winter.

Hoop House Folded To One Side Of Garden Bed
Image credits: via https://www.grit.com/farm-and-garden/pvc-hoop-house-zm0z13jazgou

Straw Bales Make It Simple

For a simple, effective cold frame that only takes a few minutes to put together, take a look at these plans. The thick straw bales provide superior insulation for your sensitive plants in winter. The whole structure is so simple to put together that it hardly requires a plan.

Strawbales With Window On Top
Image credits: via https://thereidhomestead.com/straw-bale-cold-frame/

Wrap It Up

So there you have it. A cold frame can quickly be whipped up with a huge number of readily available and cheap materials. They may range from something as simple as a modified plastic bottle all the way up to automated opening sequences, lighting, and self-watering properties. It all depends on your intentions and what resources you have available.

The first step would be to understand the difference between a cold frame vs a greenhouse. That way, you can direct your search in the right direction. Either way, there’s bound to be a cold frame plan that suits your needs in the list above.