The Best Portable Cold Frame — Our 2021 Reviews
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The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants Warm

When the weather starts to get cold, you probably start thinking about how you are going to keep your backyard garden thriving. Cold weather can wreak havoc on sensitive plants and vegetables, and when you’ve spent all year cultivating them, losing them is a real downer. That’s why a cold frame could be a great option for you when the winter starts approaching.

We looked for the best portable cold frame to help you keep your plants happy when the frost starts coming in. We also found some other options that might integrate better into your particular garden. A cold frame can not only be functional, it can be an interesting design element, too.

Backyard Boss Top 5 Portable Cold Frames for 2021

PRODUCT FEATURES
VegTrug 1m Cold Frame - The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants WarmVegTrug 1m Cold Frame
  • Material: Cedar
  • Weight: 16 pounds
  • Color: Natural
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Outsunny 39 Aluminum Vented Cold Frame - The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants WarmOutsunny 39 Aluminum Vented Cold Frame
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Color: Silver
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Aivituvin Green House Cold Frame - The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants WarmAivituvin Green House Cold Frame
  • Material: Fir
  • Weight: Not Available
  • Color: Gray
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Seven colors house Reinforced Portable Mini Greenhouse - The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants WarmSeven colors house Reinforced Portable Mini Greenhouse
  • Material: Polyvinyl
  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Color: Transparent
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Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame - The Best Portable Cold Frame to Keep Your Plants WarmGardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame
  • Material: Wood
  • Weight: 15 pounds
  • Color: Natural
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Why You Can Trust Us

In my years of writing about gardening and backyard cultivation, I have found that there is one question on everyone’s mind: how do I keep my plants happy in the winter? So many people have had their plants wither and die when the weather turns, and this can be frustrating. After doing some research, I found the answer: a portable cold frame.

I always suggest cold frames since they are relatively inexpensive and don’t have to take up a lot of room in the backyard. Plus, they are easy to assemble and can be removed when the weather gets nice again. One thing I have learned from my years of experience writing for gardeners is that they don’t want to add any more to their workload.

Best Wooden Frame

VegTrug 1m Cold Frame
    This all-wood construction cold frame has a natural finish and will fit into any style of garden for winter protection

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Why We Like It: The VegTrug 1m Cold Frame is a great, simple option for keeping your plants warm and protected from the elements when the winter rolls around. Its classic wood frame is durable and stylish and it has a simple design that will fit into any garden decor. Its natural finish blends in with the organic feel of a backyard garden and won’t be an eyesore that you can’t wait to remove.

Its lid opens at the top and provides easy access for watering and caring for your plants. Plus, it has a low profile that still has enough room for taller plants. This, along with the cedar frame, makes it light enough to move and put in storage when you don’t need it anymore.

Who Should Buy It: People who don’t want something that will change the whole look of their garden. It is also good for people who want easy access to their plants without having to lift anything heavy or awkward.

Best Cold Frame Kit

Outsunny 39 Aluminum Vented Cold Frame
    This aluminum cold frame kit has a lightweight construction that is easy to move around when the weather starts to get warm and you don't need it anymore.

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Why We Like It: This Outsunny 39″ Aluminum Vented Cold Frame Mini Greenhouse Kit is a great example of when a DIY cold frame is one of your best options. The polycarbonate panels are light but still have enough strength to hold together in inclement weather and wind. It has an adjustable roof that you can raise or lower to accommodate all sizes of plants and make sure they aren’t constricted.

The aluminum frame is light enough to move around and store away when you don’t need it anymore. Plus, since it is a kit, you can even disassemble the whole thing for convenient storage. That makes it a great option for places with more extreme seasons.

Who Should Buy It: People who want something portable and collapsible. This would be a good choice if you don’t have a lot of storage space and want to be able to take your cold frame apart in the summer.

Best Vertical Frame

Aivituvin Green House Cold Frame
    This vertical cold frame could be a good choice if you want a more permanent solution for keeping your plants warm when the weather gets cold.

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Why We Like It: This vertical cold frame by Aivituvin is a great choice if you want to add a little bit of style to your garden in the winter. While standard cold frames are very functional, not all of them are going to add a design element. This vertical frame has a unique look that can add to your garden instead of just protect it.

The vertical orientation is a nice feature if you want to have easy access to your plants. Bending down to water and tend to your garden can get tiresome, and this could be a good way to mitigate that stress. This is especially important in the winter when you just want to get back inside.

Who Should Buy It: People who want a little something extra with the protection they get from a cold frame. If you want to add some style and unique accents to your garden, this could be a good addition.

Best Tunnel Frame

Seven colors house Reinforced Portable Mini Greenhouse
    This mini-tunnel cold frame is as portable as it gets. Its transparent panels let in a maximum amount of light and it can be easily moved when the weather gets warmer.

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Why We Like It: If you want the most portable and collapsible option, this Seven Colors House Reinforced Portable Mini Greenhouse could be the thing you are looking for. Its domed design and PVC film construction gives your plants access to the sun when it is out but protects them from UV rays at the same time. At just 11 pounds, it is a lightweight option for temporary protection.

Who Should Buy It: People who want something simple and easy to protect their plants in the winter without having to construct a big project or take up too much room in the backyard.

Best Large Cold Frame

Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame
    This large cold frame is big enough to cover up a large area of your garden and offers enough protection for heavy winters and poor weather.

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Why We Like It: If you’re more serious about winter protection for your plants, this Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame could be a good option for you. The heavy-duty wood frame is tough enough to take a battering from the most brutal winter weather. The polycarbonate walls are also built to last and can withstand many years of use.

The 35 x 31-inch area is enough to protect a fairly large garden and the open bottom means it can be set right on top of your existing plants. Because of this, you don’t have to worry about whether or not it will fit over your planting area.

Who Should Buy It: People who have a large garden that they want to protect without having to construct a massive canopy or greenhouse.

Best Place to Put a Cold Frame

Potted Plants2
Image credits: Quang Nguyen Vinh via Pexels

Cold frames are a great way to keep all your plants warm when the weather just isn’t cutting it. However, in order for them to be as effective and useful as possible, they need to be placed properly and put in the right position with the right considerations. If your cold frames aren’t correctly placed, they won’t do much to hold in the heat.

To ensure that you’ll be able to use your cold frames to their highest capacity, plan on their placement when you plant your garden. Having your more sensitive vegetation planted in the best spot for their winter shelter will make it much easier to place the cold frame properly.

Face South

Your cold frame should be facing south in order to get the most from the sun when it decides to actually come out. In the wintertime, the south is the best direction to get the warmth while the sun is both rising and setting. This way, you won’t have any hours where it is dropping in the opposite direction.

Buffers

Consider placing your cold frame in a position that is buffered by other structures in the garden. For example, placing it against a shed will give it some cover when the wind starts to blow. This will also help block snow and rain when it gets too heavy to be beneficial.

Drainage

If possible, place your cold frame on a hill to allow for proper drainage. Excess water from rain or snow can build up inside the cold frame and over water the plants. Placing it on a hill will allow this water to drain out the bottom.

How to Keep a Cold Frame Warm at Night

Image credits: Madison Inouye via Pexels

Painted Bottles

Paint some plastic bottles with a heavy black paint and place them inside the cold frame. They will absorb the heat of the sun during the day and slowly expel it over the course of the night. This may only increase the temperature by a couple of degrees, but that could make a big difference.

Compost

Compost emits heat as it breaks down and enriches the soil. Spreading plenty of compost around the plants in the cold frame will keep the temperature up. Keeping the layer fairly heavy will also help retain some of that heat.

Line the Cold Frame with Foil

If you line the bottom of your cold frame with reflective foil, you can harness some of the sun’s energy during the day. This will help keep the inside warm and insulated at night. The more heat you can draw in when the sun is out, the warmer the plants will stay when it sets.

Light Bulbs

Non-LED Christmas tree lights are a great source of gentle warmth for plants if you line your cold frame with them. They will heat up just enough to raise the temperature without getting too hot. Plus, they can turn your cold frame into an attractive light fixture in your backyard garden.

Electric Heating

If you really want to make sure your plants stay warm in the winter, installing insulated heating cables inside the cold frame will work wonders. Be sure to get the kind of cable that regulates the temperature and always keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too hot.

How We Picked

For this article, we went through all of the best cold frames on the market and tried to find the ones that were best suited for smaller gardens and people who need portability. While it is one thing to put together a large structure like a greenhouse to keep your plants warm, not everybody has this luxury. All of the cold frames on our list are easily packed away and stored once the weather turns nice and they are no longer needed.

That being said, we also picked cold frames that are of a high structural quality and won’t deteriorate with heavy snow and rain. Odds are, if you’re picking out a cold frame, it’s because your area experiences harsh winters. By choosing cold frames that can stand up to this kind of abuse, we were able to ensure that everyone would be able to find one that will last through many seasons.

The Final Verdict on Cold Frames for Winter Garden Growing

We looked at a lot of different cold frames to try and find the one that was the most versatile and effective for your backyard garden. We loved the VegTrug 1m Cold Frame for its simplicity and quality craftsmanship. It is designed to last many seasons and is easy to store once winter is over and your plants can stay warm on their own.

By choosing a high-quality cold frame, you don’t have to worry about your garden frosting over and withering every winter. You can plan for winter vegetables and be confident that they will be protected from the snow and other less-than-ideal weather. A cold frame that works for your backyard will ideally serve you for many years and keep many cycles of your garden safe and thriving.

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