Build a Cold Frame for All Seasons

Use this all-season cold frame to shelter and raise spring seedlings, summer lettuce, winter kale—even a few baby chicks!

| November/December 1989

Feeds a family of four from just 18 square feet! 

Shakes off the deep chills of December, ignores the moodiness of March, scoffs at scorching August afternoons! 

Can be built in a half day by any preliterate four-year-old (with a little help from Mom and Dad)! 

OK, OK, maybe MOTHER's versatile four-season cold frame isn't really that good. But I've been gardening for 15 years and have seen and made my share of cold frames. (The first one I built was a primitive wooden box I stuck a foot deep in red clay. I came back after the first rain to find a box of water that didn't drain for days. Plants never entered its domain.) I've learned enough by now to know what features I'd want a good cold frame to have—and I think I've come up with a design that will suit most other gardeners as well.

Let's face it: The basic open-or-shut cold frame is a tricky fellow to operate. Open it up too early in the morning, and you're liable to nip the life out of those tender spring seedlings; leave it closed too long when the sun's out, and you're just as likely to cook 'em crisp.

Fortunately, I've figured out how to build a cold frame that tackles those problems: by offering more options than just wide open or shut tight. Instead, it has four settings: first position—that's completely closed, with the glass cover flat on the box. Second position—that's with the glass lid lifted partway up at about a 30º angle. Third position—the cover's now a good bit higher, at about a 60º angle. And fourth—that's with the cover swung all the way off the frame. Oh, then there's completely closed with the attached insulated cover down too—for an extra, fifth, position, to keep plants cozy on cold winter nights.

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