How to Use a Cold Frame to Extend the Life of Your Garden

It is possible to extend the life of your garden into the fall and winter. Learn all about cold frames and how they allow you to harvest beyond the typical growing season.
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It’s every grower’s dream to extend the growing season and enjoy the fruits of their labor even further into the fall and even into the winter. While it might sound like an unlikely scenario unless you live in the right USDA plant hardiness zone, it is possible to continue to grow and harvest as the weather cools. All you need is an established garden and a cold frame. Read on to learn how you can use a cold frame to extend the life of your garden.

All About Cold Frames

What is a cold frame?

Cold frames are akin to greenhouses, but they are a low-tech, accessible option. Similar to a greenhouse, they cover the plants, but they don’t use any heating mechanisms. In their simplest form, cold frames are boxes with translucent coverings. They help protect your plants from the elements and trap heat from the sun to prevent the soil and your plants from freezing.

What can you grow in a cold frame?

There are many things you can grow in a cold frame. People find the most success with cold-season crops, but you can try your hand at extending the harvest of your already-established summer crops.

  • Tender lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Raddish
  • Herbs
  • Mature tomatoes
  • Mature peppers
  • Mature green beans

Tip: Don’t forget to consider the height of the plants you are growing in your cold frame. While the cover does help protect your plants, it can also stunt the growth of tall-growing crops like some types of kale.

Where can you use a cold frame?

Because cold frames rely on the sun to maintain heat, it’s important to place them in full-sun areas of your yard. You can either sit a cold frame on top of your raised vegetable bed or directly on the soil.

Compared to greenhouses, cold frames are a low-cost way to protect your plants. In fact, you can even make your own with only a few materials, allowing you to fit nearly any sized garden bed. There are also ready-made options if you want your cold frame ready to install.

Tips for growing in your cold frame

Now that you know the basics about using a cold frame, there are some things you should do to set yourself up for success:

  • Plant your cool-season crops in the late summer or early fall. The key is to make sure they are reaching maturity before the weather gets too cold. While this depends on your USDA hardiness zone, most crops should be reaching full size by the end of November.
  • Once the weather gets extremely cold, your cold frame will act more as a refrigerator than a heat source. This can help keep your crops fresh until you have the chance to harvest them.
  • While the temperatures are still warm, continue your watering regimen as normal. Once the weather cools, your crops will need significantly less water.
  • You don’t need to rush to put the cover on your cold frame if you are only growing cold-season crops. In fact, you don’t need to protect these hardy vegetables with your cold frame until the temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If the weather warms too much, you might need to lift the cover during the day to ensure your crops don’t get overheated. You might need to do this every day before the weather settles into the chiller temps.
  • After you harvest your plants, consider replanting lettuce and spinach seeds for an early springtime crop. Simply leave your cold frame on over the wintertime.

Give Your Cold-Season Crops a Boost with Harvest Hero

You can support the growth of your cool-season crops in your cold frame with Harvest Hero. Harvest Hero Enhanced Perlite Mix is a nutrient-rich soilless amendment and growing medium that is a 3-in-1 blend comprised of perlite, diatomaceous earth, and essential nutrients. This patent-pending mix has been designed by Harvest Hero’s team of engineers and agronomists to improve soil structure for nutrition which promotes bigger plants and bigger yields. Harvest Hero Enhanced Perlite Mix will meet your plants’ needs throughout the first critical 6 weeks of growth by improving soil quality, providing plant nutrients, and amending soil properties to make it easier for the plant to absorb and translocate essential plant nutrients to the root system.

Consisting of domestically sourced perlite, diatomaceous earth, and essential nutrients, Harvest Hero’s 3-in-1 Enhanced Perlite Mix is unlike anything on the market. Try it today and grow further with Harvest Hero soil amendment.

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