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Blog: My Little Farm in Town

My Little Cold Frame

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I’ve got the fever. Temperatures are going to be in the 40s (F) for the next four or five days. It’s time to plant the cold frame. 

Last year was my first season using the cold frame on the south side of the house.  I wish I had room for a couple more! My husband made it for me out of scrap wood and one of three large storm windows I junk picked from a neighbor years ago. (The other two are installed in the south wall of the chicken coop with a three- inch air space between for insulation value.) I planted greens in March and then harvested in April and replanted with cabbage and broccoli for transplant. I used the frame for hardening off seedlings in May. This year I’d like to see how long I can extend the growing and harvesting season by planting another crop of greens in August/September.

It wasn’t as complicated as I thought to grow things in the cold frame. I did have to pay attention to temperature and open the frame when it got too hot inside. Watering was a key issue as well. It dries out fast when the sun is shining. I had some problems with squirrels digging around on warm days, but this year I am going to cover it with a screen of ½-inch hardware cloth from a dismantled chick play pen.

I prepared the soil in the frame last fall so it would be easy to pop the seeds in and water. Today, I divided the frame into two parts and planted two kinds of cut-and-come-again greens (mesclun) mixes plus spinach and radishes. I’ll have to cover the frame with Styrofoam insulation board at night until the temperatures quit falling into the 20s and teens (F).

Some good references for extended season and four season gardening are Building and Using Cold Frames by Charles Siegchrist in Storey’s  Country Wisdom Bulletin series ( and Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch, and Kathy Bray.

I can hardly wait to taste that first salad! Begonia

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Seeds and Row markers


I like to organize my seeds and make up my row markers ahead of time to make planting go smoothly.

Making rows in the divided cold frame


I use an old yardstick to quickly level the soil and create rows in the divided cold frame.

Planted cold frame


After planting the seed, I mark each row. Last year I thought I would remember--this year I know better!

Ice and Snow


There is still a couple feet of snow covering the "back 40" of My Little Farm in Town!

Watering in the seeds


Watering in the seed is important to get them all in contact with the soil.

Planted and covered coldframe


Planted, watered, covered, and ready to go. Now all we need is some sunshine. (Note the thermometer. When the temp gets over 70 F, I'll use a couple of bricks to prop open the frame so the plants don't get too much of a good thing!)


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