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

  • Cold Frame 1st Position
    1st Position: Glass cover down.
    DON OSBY
  • Cold Frame 2nd Position
    2nd Position: Glass and reflecting covers slightly open, about 30 degrees, an angle best for spring and fall.
    DON OSBY
  • 120-074-01i1
    You can sum up the virtues of this innovative cold frame in one word: security.
    PHOTO: WILLIAM WALDRON
  • Cold Frame 3rd Position
    3rd Position: Glass and reflecting covers up high, at about a 60-degree angle—great for absorbing winter sun.
    DON OSBY
  • Cold Frame 5th Position
    5th Position: Both covers down, for extra insulation.
    DON OSBY
  • Cold Frame Construction Detail
    Construction schematic of MOTHER's cold frame.
    DON OSBY
  • Cold Frame 4th Position
    4th Position: Both covers off.
    DON OSBY

  • Cold Frame 1st Position
  • Cold Frame 2nd Position
  • 120-074-01i1
  • Cold Frame 3rd Position
  • Cold Frame 5th Position
  • Cold Frame Construction Detail
  • Cold Frame 4th Position

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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