How to - Projects

Extend the growing season with a cold frame

Stretch the growing season in fall and spring with this versatile, easy-to-build, modular box

Cold frame tips

  • Place your cold frame on well-drained soil that doesn’t get flooded.
  • Orient the frame so the window faces south: its sides will provide protection from the easterly and westerly winds.
  • Save yourself work by siting your cold frame near a water source.
  • Paint the inside of your frame white or silver to reflect more light onto the plants. Do not treat the wood with creosote or pentachrophenol, as these are poisonous to plants.
  • Bury a heating cable under the cold frame to keep soil warm and extend the season even further.
  • On really cold nights, increase the insulation around your cold frame with an old blanket or carpet, straw, leaves, newspaper or even snow.
  • In very cold areas, use pink builder’s foam for extra protection on the sides.
  • Be mindful of warm weather, too—ventilate the cold frame when necessary. In early summer, you may need to provide shade for the cold frame to prevent plants from overheating or burning.

Cold feat

Fall: Prolong the season for these veggies and herbs

Plant, Height, Frost-tender below Zone
Basil, 30 to 60 cm, 8
Beets, 30 cm, 7 (tolerate light frosts)
Carrots, 30 cm, 8 (tolerate light frosts)
Chives, 30 cm, 3
Eggplant, 60 cm to 2.5 m, 9
Garlic, 60 cm, 3
Kale, 60 cm, 6 (tolerates light frosts)
Lettuce & salad greens, 30 cm, 8 (tolerate light frosts)
Parsnips, peppers, tomatoes & turnips/rutabagas, 30 cm, 7

Spring: Give these plants a jump-start

Plant, Height, Frost-tender below Zone
Basil, 15 to 60 cm, 9
Beets, 30 cm, 7 (tolerate light frosts)
Carrots, 30 cm, 8 (tolerate light frosts)
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage & Brussels sprouts,  30 to 75 cm, 7 (tolerate light frosts)
Eggplant, 60 cm, 9
Onion seedlings, 30 cm, 7 (tolerate light frosts)
Peas, 90 cm to 2 m, 7 (tolerate light frosts)   
Peppers, 60 cm, 9
Radishes, 30 cm, 7 (tolerate light frosts)
Salad greens, 30 cm, 8 (tolerate light frosts)
Tomatoes, 60 cm to 2.5 m, 9
Annuals from seed, 15 cm to 2.5 m, varies
Perennials from seed, 15 cm to 2.5 m, varies
Cannas, 45 cm to 2 m, 8
Castor beans, 1 to 2 m, 8
Cleome, 1 to 1.5 m, 8
Hibiscus, 30 cm to 2 m, 8
New Zealand flax, 15 cm to 1.5 m, 7 (tolerates light frosts)
Purple fountain grass, 1 m, 9

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