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Cold Frame Gardening

A cold Frame gives you many more options for growing crops...............

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Growing From The Ground

If you intend to plant directly into the soil, then it’s best to prepare the ground prior to placing your cold frame. Ideally dig down to a depth of 12-18 inches, mixing in a good amount of organic matter to create a nutrient rich environment for your plants. Once your cold frame is in place, if you intend to leave it in the same situation all year round, after a couple of years you will need to repeat this process of digging in organic matter to replenish the soil.

Food and Water

If growing from the ground, if you’ve added organic matter as described above, then extra food will not be necessary. In regards to watering, depending on the weather and what you are growing will affect how often you need to water – it’s often a matter of experimenting a little at the start of the season until you can judge the amount of watering required.

Ventilation and Shading

For good ventilation throughout the warmer, sunny days, you can leave the lights open – hinged top cold frames often have brackets enabling you to ‘lock’ the lights in an open position. If may also be necessary to protect your plants from strong sunlight – you can easily do this by either placing shade netting over the top of the frame or by using a paint on shading on the glazing of the cold frame.

Insulation and Heating

During the cold months of the year, if you are using your cold frame to protect plants, you’ll need to provide some form of insulation. This could by garden fleece which you place over your plants, heatsheet insulation (like bubble wrap) to line the cold frame or place a cover over the outside of the frame – such as hessian sacks or carpet. The benefit with using garden fleece or heatsheets is that these can be left in place – carpet or hessian sacks would need to be removed during the day and replaced at night as they would block out too much light if left in place all day. Another possibility for raising the temperature within your cold frame is to use a soil warming cable in the ground or a small heater.

Fresh Vegetables All Year Round

If you haven’t got space for a greenhouse, a cold frame is the best alternative if you which to raise crops of vegetables all year round. Crops such as chard, endive, herbs, leaf lettuce, radishes, salad onions, spinach, small carrots etc are all perfect for growing in a cold frame. Your cold frame unheated should provide your plants will sufficient protection in even the colder months – a cold frame will keep vegetables 10-20 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.

Seeds and Cuttings

As well as being an ideal place for growing vegetables, your cold frame will also be suitable for you to start new plants from either seeds or cuttings. If you have a soil warming cable installed below the cold frame, this will make it possible for you to raise plants from cuttings all year round. When raising cuttings replace the soil with sand, peat or other growing medium for cuttings. Ideally, you could split your cold frame into two areas – one section for starting plants from seed – so in pots or trays – and one section for propagating cuttings with them planted directly into the ground.

Using Your Cold Frame For Hardening-Off

Plants raised in your home or in a heated greenhouse will need a hardening-off period of between 10 -14 days before they are placed in your garden. This period is important as if you move plants directly from a heated area into your garden the plants will suffer from the massive change in temperatures, so slowing down establishment and growth. If you use your cold frame as a halfway house – so protecting your plants from the worst of the weather but making them used to the cooler temperatures – they are more likely to establish quickly when you do transfer them into your garden.


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