The Dirt

Cold Frames: Good, Better, Best

See different ways to utilize a cold frame design. From good, to better, to best

Photo/Illustration: Joshua McCullough / Phytophoto

Creating a cold frame does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Even folks without any woodworking skills can build a structure to protect newly seeded plants or tender crops from inclement weather. From simple to sophisticated, there is a cold frame for every gardener. Learn how to build your own cold frame.


The most rudimentary cold frame may be all that you need. Here, seed-free straw bales filled with soil and topped with a repurposed window will do the job just fine so long as the window is secure in the straw.

Image shared under CC BY-SA 2.0 from hardworking hippy on



With a little more time, you can create a cold frame out of recycled hemlock or other untreated wood and top it off with Lexan polycarbonate or other translucent material. On warm days, vent the structure with a felled branch or garden tool, such as a pitchfork or shovel.

Photo by Bernadette on under CCO Creative Commons



Some folks are perfectly happy investing a bit more time and money into a system that will last forever and needs little attention once it is built. This cold frame is constructed out of cedar planks and topped with a sheet of acrylic. The pièce de résistance, however, is a heat-sensitive hydraulic riser that senses the temperature and regulates ventilation, as needed.

Learn how to build it: Easy Cold Frame Plans


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  1. gardeningmum 12/30/2014

    nice. I think I might start with the most basic and work my way up.

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