Lamenting the loss of your fresh veggies and herbs to that fall frost? Consider installing cold frames, which can seriously extend your backyard gardening season, keep the young plants in your spring garden safe from chilly nights, and even allow you to grow through the winter.
Cold frames are bottomless boxes that act as little greenhouses, capturing the sun’s heat during the day and slowing the soil’s release of heat at night. Leverage your existing assets by building your cold frames against the south-facing wall of your home and by using leftover construction materials.
A few other tips and tricks:
- Use old storm windows as the top panels.
- Use screws instead of nails so you can deconstruct and store the frames in the summer.
- Watch the weather: it is possible to ‘cook’ your greens on a sunny day if you don’t crack the lid!
- Keep frames small (4×4 is recommended) so you can move them around to different crops in different seasons.
- If you’re purchasing pre-fabricated cold frames, purchase the automatic venting arm as well.
- Make the north-facing side slightly lower than the south-facing side to maximize the power of the sun.
WHAT TO GROW IN YOUR WINTER COLD FRAME GARDEN:
ARUGULA: The Even Star variety is one of the hardiest. Also, try Sylvetta, a wild arugula relative.
CARROTS: Get ready for some of the most flavorful carrots you’ve ever tasted: The cold soil keeps the roots small but incredibly flavorful.
BEET GREENS: Dwarf Siberian is a great cold frame variety. Its small size keeps it close to the ground and further from potential frost damage.
PARSLEY: Curly parsleys are hardier than flat-leaf varieties. Great for flavoring those winter soups and stews!
SPINACH: Who doesn’t love fresh greens in the winter? Spinach stays close to the earth, keeping warm and abundant. It’s one of the most reliable green winter crops.
Learn more about how to build and utilize cold frames in The Four Seasons Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Barbara Damrosch & Eliot Coleman.