Shorter days and tumbling temperatures needn’t put a halt to your supply of homegrown food. When the growing gets tough courtesy of Jack Frost and company, take action by outfitting your garden with a homemade selection of season-stretching gear. The icing on the cake? Many of the devices you make can also get things growing sooner come spring!
Here, you’ll find our best ideas and plans for DIY cold frames, greenhouses, hoop houses, low tunnels, cloches and other tools that can keep the harvests coming throughout fall and beyond. The dozens of projects range from elaborate and permanent to quick and simple, and many can be made from recycled materials. Have some juice or milk jugs? Turn them into fast cloches. How about some used windows? Fashion an easy cold frame (see photo, right).
No matter the size or style of your plot, you’ll find an effective garden-protection strategy that fits your budget.
General Season-Extension Information
Winter Gardening Tips: Best Winter Crops and Cold-Hardy Varieties
Growers in any region needn’t resign to experiencing fresh harvests solely in summer. Try cultivating these 13 stalwarts of the winter garden that have proved hardy in the face of tumbling temps.
Garden Know-How: Extend Your Growing Season
MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributing Editor Barbara Pleasant shares how to craft an amazing array of season-stretching devices on a shoestring budget, including cloches, tunnels, a classic cold frame and more.
14 Ways to Extend Your Gardening Season
Savor produce straight-from-the-garden, no matter the season, by using raised beds, trellises, crop rotations and other growing strategies that encourage year-round harvests.
Extending the Season
New to the art of coaxing crops to grow out-of-season? This primer will get you started strong. You’ll learn how to set up a tunnel cloche and a cold frame, how to use and maintain them, and which crops you can grow in them.
Undercover Device: The Cloche
Used in gardens since the 1800s, the cloche — which means “bell” in French — is a low-cost season-extending structure that you place right atop your plants in their existing location. Get the goods on a variety of cloche designs — individual, tent, barn, umbrella-style, tunnel — so you can select the best for maximizing your garden’s productivity.
How to Make Mini-Greenhouses
Turn familiar “throwaway” items — peanut butter jars, plastic milk containers, 1-gallon glass jugs — into easy cloches to combat the chill of early spring and late fall.
Use Cold Frames to Grow More Food
December 2007/January 2008
So you can’t afford a $5,000 greenhouse? You can still grow fresh fare in the face of frosts! This cold frame primer tackles basic designs, low-tech climate-control options, how to garden in a cold frame, the top 12 winter cold frame crops, and how to make seed starters from milk jugs.
Cold Frame Gardening Success
Build a Cold Frame for All Seasons
How to Make an Inexpensive Cold Frame
Build a Ventilated Cold Frame for Winter Vegetables
Exercise your right to homegrown salads year-round! This sturdy, thrifty twist on the homemade cold frame is ideal for growing winter lettuce, carrots, beets, chard and more.
Building a Cold Frame
How to Build a Cold Frame and Hotbed
Build This Easy Hoop House to Grow More Food
Extend your season like never before for less than $1,000.
Low-Cost, Versatile Hoop Houses
Make an Easy, Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse With Low Tunnels
Try Quick Hoops — Easy-to-Make Mini-Greenhouses
Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter: Quick Hoops
How to Choose the Best Greenhouse Kit
DIY, Low-Cost and Multipurpose Greenhouses
This collection of greenhouse ideas will inspire you to design and build your own greenhouse from recycled or inexpensive materials.
The Amazing, Low-Cost, Multipurpose, Solar-Heated Greenhouse/Guesthouse
A Small Greenhouse From a Bus Stop Shelter
Build a Greenhouse From Used Windows or Storm Doors
Triple the length of your growing season with this simple, energy-efficient design.
Choosing a Greenhouse
MOTHER’s Portable Garden Room
Designing and Building a Recycled Greenhouse
How to Build a Window Greenhouse
You Can Build Your Own Add-On Greenhouse
Cut on a Hot Tin Roof
How to Build a Low-Cost Greenhouse With Pine Poles
Greenhouse Growing: Tips for Basic Greenhouse Cultivation
MOTHER’s Backyard Greenhouse
Build a Solar Window Greenhouse
How to Greenhouse Garden
A greenhouse can be as extravagant and costly or as utilitarian and inexpensive as you want to make it. No matter the route you embrace, this comprehensive, tried-and-true advice for planning, building, maintaining and gardening in a greenhouse will guarantee success.
Build an Ecosystem: The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse
How to Build a Pit Greenhouse
Readers’ Season-Extension Tips
Real-World Winter Gardening Tips From Your Growing Zone
Use Hog Panels for a Greenhouse Frame
Heavy-duty wire fencing — also known as “hog panels” — can be arched over an existing garden bed to create a simple, cheap greenhouse frame in a jiffy.
Raise Seedlings With a Greenhouse on Wheels
Your vehicle can provide a warm, nourishing environment for seeds.
This raised garden bed mini-greenhouse has railroad ties for its base and some scrap wood and sheet plastic as its cover.
Lightweight Plant Protector
Use a lightweight fleece blanket to safeguard your plants from early frosts.
A Frost-Free Garden Greenhouse
This simple greenhouse design will let you get a big head start on spring planting.
Simple, Heated Cold Frame
Use a birdbath heater or a crock pot to warm up a small cold frame, extending your growing season even further.
Freezer Cold Frame
Transform and old chest freezer into a cold frame.
Build a Free-Standing Greenhouse
Reader Clara Coleman of Woody Creek, Colo., designed and built this 200-square-foot greenhouse.
Photo by Paul Gardener