Make a DIY Cold Frame from Storm Windows

Salvaged storm windows and a few spare bricks are all you’ll need to assemble this DIY cold frame that will work in almost any garden space.

| April/May 2015

I wanted a cold frame in my tiny Zone 5 garden, but I lacked the tools, patience and space to make and store one. Instead, I stacked old bricks in a rectangle against the south-facing wall of my Illinois home. Each side is two bricks high.

I purposefully sized the walls to fit three scavenged storm windows, which I laid horizontally across the top of the bricks. I prop up the glass with a stick as the weather warms. My DIY cold frame was free, it doesn’t waste garden space, and it provides extra-early harvests!

Ginger Li
Homewood, Illinois

3/18/2015 12:53:09 PM

I am an old scrounger from way back. I have used/am using old shower doors, the sliding glass panels from old storm doors, 3/8" Plexiglas panels I scrounged somewhere, and other things made of glass or plastic. Fortunately space isn't a concern for me as I live in the country.

3/18/2015 9:44:54 AM

I built it against a wire fence as the back border which allows heat to escape at all times, but still protects the plants from frost. I used bigger bricks to allow for plant growth, and painted the bricks black to increase heat. I used clear shower doors for the glass top - easy to slide of lift the glass.

3/18/2015 9:27:19 AM

Response from Mother Earth News editor who uses cold frames: "You don’t have to monitor your cold frame every hour for temperatures. You should always err on the side of cool — that is, vent it when the temps are cooler than you’d think would be acceptable. Daily during the spring and fall, when temps can range widely, I always check the weather report before I leave home for work. If the forecast calls for a sunny day with temps above 50F (more or less), and the air temp when I’m leaving home is at or above freezing, I’ll crack open the cold frame a few inches. Just be sure to close up the cold frame at twilight, or when the evening temps start to drop. You have to be most careful when the day will be sunny, because the cold frame’s internal temps will rise very quickly under those conditions. If, however, the day is going to be cloudy with highs in the 50s, you can relax a little bit. So, for example, I left my cold frames closed today because it’s supposed to be cool and cloudy all day long, and the plants inside will appreciate a little extra warmth—although they would also be OK if I had cracked open the frames. Vegetables that like it cold, such as arugula or mache, are even more flexible with venting the cold frame when temps are around freezing, or even a little below (this is when you’re leaving the house in the morning, not a daytime high temp).

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