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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.