When winter approaches, you probably want to start thinking about your sensitive plants and how to protect them. Frost and adverse weather can be incredibly detrimental to your seedlings and even full-grown plants. That’s why a cold frame is a necessity for climates where the temperature drops in the later months.
We’ve put together a complete guide on how to use a cold frame and which plants can benefit the most from using one. By understanding exactly what these garden features are used for, you can set your plants up for success, even when the ground starts to frost over. Plus, they can be aesthetically pleasing and add a lot to your backyard.
What Is a Cold Frame?
A cold frame is a protective shelter for your plants that’s meant to preserve your seedlings and more sensitive plants and keep them safe from frost, snow and ice. The name is a bit misleading as they are meant to keep plants slightly warmer than they would be if they were left unprotected.
Cold frames are usually built from lightweight wood like cedar that’s strong enough to withstand wind and snow but light enough to be moved when the weather warms up. They also feature clear panels made of glass or plastic that give the plants inside access to any sun that might peek through.
How to Use a Cold Frame
A cold frame can be built and used for a variety of different purposes depending on what you’re growing and the kind of gardening you’re doing. If you have tender plants that can’t take a lot of abuse from wind or snow, putting a cold frame over them is a great way to make sure they thrive in the winter. You can also use a cold frame to grow vegetables and plants that might not otherwise do well in the colder months.
Cold frames are generally small and portable and have an empty bottom so they can be placed over the desired area where your sensitive vegetation is planted. Sometimes though, cold frames can be a more permanent solution if you consistently have cold weather where you live. Many are even big enough to walk into and are a great place to start seedlings that need a little extra protection.
Protecting Sensitive Plants
One of the main purposes of a cold frame is protecting your sensitive plants and seedlings that might not be able to withstand some of the harsher elements of winter. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, peppers and leafy greens like chard and cabbage don’t do well in the frost. Other plants such as begonias and bougainvillea also need some extra shelter when the weather starts to get cold.
To help keep these plants safe inside the cold frame, you can also add a layer of mulch around their roots. Mulch will break down and this chemical reaction results in heat being transferred into the soil. This will keep the ground from frosting over and becoming inhospitable.
Extend Seasons for Certain Plants
On top of adding an extra element of protection, a cold frame can also extend growing seasons by a matter of months. Root vegetables and other fall crops can be grown well into November and even early December in a cold frame. They can also help you raise plants to full size earlier than you would normally be able to and keep them productive for longer.
Cold frames are also a great choice if you want to start seedlings and make sure they’re protected from all the elements. This can give them a head start on their growth cycle and help them yield better results. Even if the weather where you live is generally mild, keeping your seedlings protected could be a good idea.
Hardening Off Seedlings
The process of hardening off seedlings is incredibly important if you want them to be able to thrive out in the open. If your seedlings were sprouted indoors, they’ll need a place to transition and get used to the open air. A cold frame is a great way to gradually introduce them to the elements.
Herbs, vegetables and flowers will need to be hardened off before they make the transition to the outdoors. Using your cold frame to gradually introduce them to the outdoors is a great way to keep them from going into shock and languishing in the elements.
Cold Frame: The Solution to Winter Gardening
Using a cold frame to help your plants thrive in the often harsh outdoors is a great way to keep your garden flourishing and productive. Plus, they can often be packed away and stored when the weather gets nice again, so they don’t even have to be permanent fixtures if you don’t want them to be. No matter what you use it for, a high-quality cold frame is an incredibly useful addition to your backyard garden.