Owning a cold-frame for the first time this year has been a bit of a revelation for me. I didn’t appreciate how many uses they have and what a handy bit of gardening kit it could be.
We moved house a few months ago and left the greenhouse behind, we’re not ready to install a new one yet, so the cold-frame was bought out of necessity to over-winter plants.
but I soon realised I could use it for lots of other things,
1. in early spring:
- starting off seeds like kale and several varieties of squash seeds for the allotment
- the tomato plants, started on the window-sill, have been moved out there to harden off before living outside permanently, though they haven’t responded well to starting life on a window-sill
- dahlias and eucomis have been housed there from the shed, where they’d spent the winter.
A cold frame is ideal for a small garden if there isn’t enough room for a greenhouse.
It works so well because it offers a more even temperature to plants so they’re not so affected by drops in night-time temperatures, there’ve been a lot of those this Spring. It also shelters plants from the wind, which is important for those new, tender leaves.
Given this better environment, plants respond by growing more quickly, so everything gets a bit of a head-start, extending the growing season by a few weeks.
2. During the summer chilli and basil plants will be housed there and it’ll make a good place to germinate biennials like foxglove seeds.
3. In autumn I plan to sow winter lettuce, oriental leaves and I’ll keep the more tender herbs like mint in there.
4. In winter some of the tender plants will be kept in it.
Siting the cold frame:
Light, sun and shelter are the main requirements. Ours is on a level piece of ground in a sheltered, sunny spot near the house for convenience, and so I can see it easily and be reminded to close the lid at night.
It needs checking every day to see what needs watering and if any pests have got in, fortunately this hasn’t happened so far.
The landscape fabric stapled to the base to make a floor has helped to keep slugs and snails out, and it lets water drain through so the plants don’t get water-logged.
I intended painting the wooden frame with a coat of black stain, but the frame was put into use straightaway, unfortunately the colour hasn’t faded, it’s definitely orange.
I dream of a more stylish version made from Victorian recycled window frames, but in the real world where time is short, it does very nicely for now.
Happy gardening, Jill