By April 19, 2012 Read More →

Using A Cold Frame To Start A Garden

My daughter is into organic gardening and has been a vegetarian for a very long time.  She has a degree from Kent State University in Community Health, and she is a wealth of information.  I’m not a green thumb, but I do have carpentry skills, and the tools.  She explained to me what she wanted and why she wanted it and it made sense to me.  The cold frame is to protect young, cold sensitive plants from frost and the cold Ohio spring mornings.  Also, the cold frame can extend your growing season into the fall.  You do not place dirt into the box itself.  The individual plants are in small containers and these are placed into the box.

The plants thrive in the protected, warm environment of the cold frame box.  It will keep deer and rabbits from the tender sprouts.  I’m lucky enough to work at a company that receives all sorts of wood crates and some are rather large.  It is smart to re-purpose items that otherwise would be tossed out into the garbage.  Wood is expensive to buy and lets face it.  If the SHTF you will have to use any item at your disposal to survive.  It might be a good idea to get used to it, when you look at something think “re-purpose”.  The crate that serves as the base for my cold frame was used to ship a large electric motor.  It is 45” x 29” x 22” and it sits off of the ground attached to a pallet.  I made the window frame by using scrap 1×2’s which I made into a frame using a simple biscuit joint and glue.

I used old hinges to attach the window frame to a frame I built inside of the box to stop the window. The glass window was from an old storm window that I saved from the garbage.  I attached the window with small screws through holes drilled at the ends of the aluminum frame.  Be very careful if you do this, to make sure that you miss the glass when you drill the holes for the screws.  I drilled a few holes in the base of the window frame to let the rainwater out, also in the sides and bottom of the box.

The cold box top has a slope (to let the sun in and heat the trapped air) of 1” per every foot. So, at 29” wide, the slope was 2 -1/2” from the back to the front.  One inch thick Styrofoam panels were glued to the plywood front and back for insulation.  I painted the box with some leftover paint.  Cost of the box? $0.00.  You can find plans online to build a box.


The plants she will place in the box are started from seed indoors in small bio-degradable pots.  They can be planted in the garden.  This is so you will not have to transplant.  She uses organic soil.  The best organic soil to use is from a composite pile made from kitchen scraps.  Your local county extension office will have the information you will need to start a composite pile.

One of the easiest ways to compost is to have a compost barrel.  This is a rotating barrel that turns the compost so you do not need a shovel to do it.  Compost piles also work very well.  She likes to do herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and winter squash.  Squash has a high yield and lasts for months, no refrigeration required.  These squash are little seed factories for future squash.  They are hearty, nutritious, and very tasty.

When you think of a garden, according to my daughter, think of things that go together such as a “Pizza Garden” or “Salsa Garden”.  Grow everything that would go on a pizza, or into a salsa.  Herbs are important because they enliven food.  Think of where you are growing food such as Kale for colder environments.

It is smart to use good gardening practices such as mulch for weed control and water retention.  Use your garden space wisely and have a plan.  Know how to manage the plants that you are growing.  Again, a great resource is a university extension service.  In Ohio, it would be Ohio State University Extension service (  Start gardening now, because the time to learn is when it is not a matter of life and death.

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2 Comments on "Using A Cold Frame To Start A Garden"

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  1. Julie McElroy says:

    Great article!  Another free/cheap idea for cold frames involves taking rectangular bales of straw and simply placing a window or glass of some sort on top (or you can use a transparent tarp weighted with brick or stones.  But of course, the one you built looks much prettier! And tell Rachael that lettuces do really well in them! 

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