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Cold Frames, How and Why


Before moving to the temperate climate, I’d assumed that winter was pretty much a wash for growing a decent crop. I knew soils were good and summers abundant, all of which led to lots of food storage for getting through winter. I even looked forward to the squashes and pumpkins, and I couldn’t wait for the berries and hard fruits. That all seemed doable, even exciting in a way, but the thought of shutting the garden production down still felt scary.

I always assumed some winter crops were there to be had in a glasshouse. I imagined growing enough greens for salads, but I also knew that a giant glasshouse is a bit too costly for a low-income homesteading couple, even without trying to heat it. Emma and I, as with every hopeful designer, daydreamed of a small attached glasshouse to help with passively heating our house, but there is only so much that can grow in one of those.

Cold frames were something I knew about, and even before investigating them further, they seemed a decent solution to this problem. Now, I ‘m really keen. Not only are they a way of growing a full bevy of crops in the winter (there is a lot to be grown, even in freezing weather), but also they can pretty quickly be pieced together with scrap and salvaged materials. In other words, they are effective and inexpensive, as well as easy to sustainably source.


Courtesy of Marc Smith

Cold frames are so simple in design: Essentially, it’s four sides of a bottomless box with a window on top. They aren’t necessarily restricted by any size specifications, so they can more or less be designed to fit whatever windows or storm doors someone happens to find. The sides can be made from many different materials, including stones, bricks, cob, straw bales, logs, or scrap wood.

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