Growing with A Cold Frame

A cold frame is a great tool for any climate.  A gardener can use it to get a jump start on the growing season or to extend the growing season as winter approaches.  I was lucky enough to be gifted one this past Christmas.

What I have is actually called an  “elevated patio grow house” and is sold by Gardener’s Supply.  However, a cold frame is really just any structure that works as a miniature greenhouse.  It catches the sun’s heat through transparent glass (or in this case plastic) and keeps the seedlings and dirt warm.  The temperature at which seeds germinate is really all over the map, but a good rule of thumb seems to be that most will germinate when the dirt is between 60 and 75 degrees.

I’ve had great luck with mine so far this spring (wait…it isn’t spring yet, is it?  Oh southwest…. you mess with my mind) winter.

Cold frames can be easily constructed at home, using wood and an old window (if you are one of those people that has old windows just sitting around).  Here is a picture from  This Old House of one made this way.

I’ve also seen cold frames constructed from flexible pipe and plastic.  Such as this one. Though structures such as these are often also called hoop houses or polytunnels.
Whatever method you choose, getting a jump start on growing and having the ability to extend your season can really increase your yield.  I’m hoping to do both this year.
If you have any experience or advice, please leave it in the comments!