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Homemade Cold Frame

by Margaret on March 20, 2012


In March you:

• start your seeds (indoors) and

• tend to them daily by spraying them with warm water to keep them moist, and turning their light on and off to give both a bit of heat and a bit of light.

You can:

• add a box filled with Christmas lights that warm the seed tray’s underside (the seeds really like this method…an amazing amount of heat is thrown off by those lights).



• allow your seeds to occupy their own corner on your office floor/dining room table/clothes dryer. It’s okay, the seeds won’t be there long, so you just deal with them. It’s best if they’re in a place you need to walk by everyday, that way you can check on them often.



But this March, because in the Northeast we’ve been hurled into spring temperatures at least a month or so early (I am loving this), you can also take your seeds outdoors to warm up for a few hours in the direct sun…hardening them off as they grow.

I did this this past weekend and within a day or so, my zinnias thanked me by sprouting.

And, because of the unseasonal weather, with the help of a cold frame, you can direct-sow your Red Planet Salad Mix and Arugula. Any cool weather-loving crop, really.

Thanks to my enterprising husband, my new cold frame came together in a few hours. It’s made from scraps of wood and old windows he salvaged during our home remodel.

It’s recommended that you paint the interior of your cold frame silver or white to help reflect heat to your plants. I haven’t done that yet. I may, or I may not. Let’s see how fast the seeds sprout first.



According to Eliot Coleman, entrepreneur, Master of the organic garden, writer and owner of Four Season’s Farm:

“Gardeners should dedicate a monument to the cold frame. It is the simplest, most flexible, and most successful low-tech tool for modifying the garden climate.”

Check out Eliot’s excerpt on the benefits of cold frames here.

Don’t have scraps of wood or old windows around (or a clever person who can build one)? Here’s a cold frame built with cinder blocks and shower doors. I’ve seen them made this way with bricks and rocks too.

Or maybe try something super simple by tossing some well-vented plastic and clips (or stones) around your box of seeds?

And I love the idea of the all-natural cold frame made from four hay bales and a window or two. This method is temporary so it’s easy to move once your seedlings are ready for transplanting or shoot up and grow on their own without the extra protection from the frame.



Just in time to welcome the first day of Spring: All this planting, thoughts of budding flowers and warm-your-back weather is a fine thing. Rather than getting stuck in March as I usually do, I’m launched into the new season with extra energy. And, sooner than expected, some homegrown lettuce.

Oh, my.



  1. I love your cold frame, too! I just bought an Eliot Coleman book recently and am trying to learn as much as I can from it to help me get a jump on the growing season around here. I bought a floating row cover last year from Lee Valley and I’m using that in the garden this year, so far so good.

    • Margaret permalink

      Which book did you buy? I love Eliot Coleman–we visited his farm 2 summers ago. The cold frame has been awesome…and today I added my potted seedlings to the box so they could enjoy the extra sun and warmth. Thanks for the tip on the floating row cover!

  2. I adore your cold frame…been trying to figure where I can locate one…for now I use row covers on the veg gardens and it works great…

    • Margaret permalink

      Thanks! It works great. I need some row covers…where did you get yours?

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