Homesteading in the Winter Series: Post 1 – Cold Weather Plant Protection

Over the next four weeks, we will be posting a series related to the topic of “Homesteading in the Winter.”

Each Thursday there will be a new post on a different issue associated with the needs and unique challenges of living on a homestead (big or small, urban or rural) during the winter.  I am teaming up with several other bloggers to bring you this series and couldn’t be more excited.

Today’s topic is “Cold Weather Plant Protection.”  

I have to start this post off by saying that I have it easy.  I live in the southwest and honestly, winter is really, really mild.  In a post I wrote the other day on finding your first and last frost dates, I pointed out that the Old Farmer’s Almanac can’t even give dates for first and last freeze for my area because it is so unpredictable and sometimes doesn’t even happen!  Crazy.  I know.
That said, winter (and DEFINITELY fall) are the prime growing season for us.  We cannot grow much at all during the summer so we rely heavily on fall, winter, and spring to bring in our harvest.  That is why being prepared to protect our plants from frost and/or freeze is so important.
On our homestead, we rely on: hoop houses, row cover and our cold frame.

Hoop Houses

Hoop houses are a generic term for any long tunnel-like structure that protects rows of plants.

We make homemade hoop houses on our homestead.  I wrote a post about how we improvise them using masonry ladders a while back.

My friend Heather, The Homesteading Hippy, also did a post not too long ago on how she made a hoop house to extend her growing season. You should check it out.

Row Cover

Pretty simple idea row cover Dalen HG25 Gardeneer By Harvest-Guard Seed Germination & Frost Protection Cover is just any fabric you can use to cover your plants and protect them from frost.  To get the most bang for your buck, the fabric should not be touching the plants themselves, which is why it is good to use it in conjunction with some type of hoop house.

Growing up in Florida, my parents would just use a lot of old blankets and sheets to protect our plants.  Personally, I try to use Agribon or other specially designed fabric to protect my plants.  The problem I have is finding the stuff!  It seems that row cover only shows up on the shelves the DAY of the expected frost.  Whatever happened to planning ahead?

Cold Frame

A cold frame is basically a mini greenhouse.  Generally, they are seen as boxes with glass or plexiglass on top and are placed directly on the ground to protect growing plants.  Different plexiglass or even correx sheet options you can check at online shops that sell different wood sheets.

The cold frame that I use is elevated.  I use it to start seeds and keep my late winter/early spring seedlings protected from low temperatures.  (I wrote about growing with a cold frame here.)

Cold frames are very simple to build and use.  DIYs abound on the internet.


A greenhouse is one of the best options for protecting your plants if you have the money and space.  I dream of having one, one day in the future, but I am reluctant to do it on our current lot, as space is at a premium.

I think that about summarizes our winter plant protection on our homestead.  What am I forgetting?  What do you guys do where you live?