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How to Build a Simple & Inexpensive Cold Frame to Extend the Growing Season

If you’re new to season extension, the cheapest and easiest way to get started is with a cold frame. Today I’ll show you how to build a simple cold frame using an old storm window and some leftover wood. Before getting started, let’s take a look at a few of the cold frames I’ve built over the years and the materials I used. This first one, right here, is probably one of the first ones I ever built, and right now it has broken glass top, but I’ll fix that with some greenhouse tape. This was made entirely from re-purposed materials. And this one, also made from re-purposed materials, has a storm windows as the top.And this one has the shelf from an old refrigerator as the top. And we actually have some more of these refrigerator shelves to make more cold frames this size. Now let’s take a look at the materials I’ll be using to build today’s cold frame. Okay, today I’m using lumber left over from a raised bed build. I’ve got a 2 by 8 for the front panel, and a 2 by 12 for the back panel.This will give the top of the cold frame a slope toward the sun. I also have some lumber here for the side panels. And I’m using an old storm window we got from the neighbor when they put in new windows. The storm window is 24 and a half by 26 and a half inches. The longer dimension will correspond to the back panel. Now, it just so happens this piece of wood for the back panel is 27 and a quarter inches, which is a little bit bigger than the window, but that’s just about right. Because I don’t want the window to go all the way to the edge of the frame. So, the first thing I want to do is now cut the 2 by 8 to the same length as the back panel. To do that, I’ll simply lay the back panel on top of the front panel, and mark with a pencil where I’ll need to cut, so they’ll both be the same length. And now cut.I’m very limited on space here, so I set some 2 by 4 spacers underneath the board, and I’ve set the depth of the blade so that won’t cut into the table. Okay, now we have front and back panels cut to the same length. Next I’ll cut the side panels, which will taper down from the height of the 2 by 12 back panel to the 2 by 8 front panel. Ordinarily, I’d use a 2 by 12 for this purpose, but I didn’t have any scrap 2 by 12 left over. So, Instead, I joined together two pieces of wood for the side panels, and I’ll cut those to size. The window dimension that I need to match with our side panels is 24 and a half inches. But because I don’t want the window to reach all the way to the edge of the frame, I’m going to add another an inch to that, so the dimension comes to 25 and a half inches. And here’s where it gets a little tricky. The side panel will sit between the front and back panels, so I have to account for the fact that I have three inches of wood there – one and half inch in the back 1 1/2 inches in the back and 1 1/2 inches in front, and I need to subtract that out to get my final cut for the side panels.So, 25 and a half minus three is twenty two and a half inches for the side panels. If that seems confusing to you right now, don’t worry. I’ll show you once the cold frame is built how a 22 and a half inch cut here will give us a side panel of twenty-five and a half inches. And I’ll cut the second side panel to the same length. Okay, the side panels are cut to length now. Now we need to cut them so that they taper down from the height of the two by twelve to the height of the two by eight. To do that, I’ll simply place the two by twelve on and mark the height of the two by twelve on the side panel. I’ll put the two by eight on the other side and mark that height. Then I’ll draw a line connecting the two and that will be where I make my tapered cut. Okay, I drew the same cut line on the second side panel, and now I’m ready to cut both panels.With the side panels cut, you can start to see how this is coming together. I’ve got the 2 by 12 back panel, side panels that taper down from the 2 by 12 to the 2 by 8 front panel, And I’ve got the cut side of the side panel down. My next step is to drill pilot holes in the back panel and front panel. I’ll be using a countersink bit to make sure I don’t split the wood.Okay now let’s start connecting the panels, which may be a little tricky on this small table. I’ve got the board upside down, because this will allow me to push down and make sure that I have a flush connection at the top of the coal frame, which is actually down here. By the way, these are three inch deck screws that I’m using. Make sure it’s flush. Looks good. All right. Now I’ll attach the second side panel using the same method, and I’ll be back to you when I’m finished.All right, the panels are all connected. There’s just one last thing to finish this cold frame. To make sure that the glass doesn’t slide off, I’m gonna put two little roofing nails right here in the front just to make sure it stays in place. Now let’s see how the storm window fits Perfect! Just as planned. Now let’s move this to a garden bed to finish today’s video.Once again, the cut side of the cold frame is the bottom, and the uncut side is the top. Okay, now less re-visit the issue I talked about earlier regarding the side panel length. Hey, Oscar! You may recall the window is 24 and a half inches. I cut this to 22 and a half inches, which is shorter, of course. But as you can see, the extra 3 inches added by the front and back panels give us plenty of space.In fact, we have an extra inch, or a half inch on both sides. I hope that clarifies that Now let’s talk about how I’m going to use this. I use cold frames to extend the growing season for cool weather crops into the fall and winter, and to get an early start in the spring for both cool weather crops and frost sensitive crops. In the fall, a cold frame this size is perfect for lettuce, spinach, carrots, and compact kale varieties. I’ll start these same crops early in the spring in cold frames, but I’ll also start tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash in cold frames early. This fall I won’t cover the cold frames at all until temperatures start dipping below freezing. At that point, I’ll be very careful to vent the cold frames to avoid overheating. I’ll remove the lids or vent them on all days that are above freezing. And I’ll vent on sunny days, even when it’s below freezing.The biggest threat to cool weather crops in cold frames in the fall and early winter is overheating. So, I’ll err on the side of being too cold rather than too hot. I’ll release a video on my approach to venting soon and when it’s available put a link here. If you found this video helpful, please give it a thumbs up. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe more videos on how to grow a lot of food on a little land without spending much or working harder than you have to Let’s go inside, Bud.That was fun. You all right? Another attack. Another attack coming. Oh! Good boy! Oh, my goodness! Oh yeah, somebody’s gonna come take care of business..