ISSUE 53  |  A Fresh Start

5 Favorites: Cold Frames to Warm Up the Garden

January 04, 2013 8:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

A simple cold frame keeps seedlings warm when the garden is frozen. The baby lettuces will love you for it.

As humble as many of these mini-greenhouses may look, cobbled from bits of scrap wood and salvaged windowpanes, cold frames have an amazing ability to create micro-climates. You can buy a ready made one (see “10 Easy Pieces: Cold Frames“), or build your own in an afternoon, following Martha Stewart’s meticulous step-by-step instructions. Better make that two afternoons.

Or wing it, with an old piece of glass and some two-by-fours, because as the garden writer Henry Mitchell once put it, “it is more important for the gardener to be enchanted than for critics to be pleased.”


Above: In Santa Barbara, California Rob Maday Landscape Architecture created a year-round edible garden for clients who were East Coast transplants. for more see Gardenista Considered Design Awards 2015: Best Edible Gardens.


Above: At Vervain Nursery in the UK, cold frames keep tender flowers happy in winter. For more, see Studio Visit: Glasshouse Flowers with India Hurst of Vervain. Photography by India Hobson.

Above: An elaborate Victorian scheme, in the melon yard of the Heligan estate in Cornwall, England.


Above: A Farmer D Cedar Cold Frame measures 3 feet by 3 feet; $199.95 from Williams-Sonoma.


Above: Monitor soil for optimal germination temperatures for healthier seedlings. We favor using a simple dial model, like a sturdy Taylor, available for $9.99 from Grow Organic.


Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle. For more, see DIY: Reviving the Cold Frame.


N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published February 28, 2012.