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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Homemade Coldframe

After harvesting potatoes from my new bin, I started to think that setup — made from a three-bay compost bin — looked a lot like a coldframe. And the soil inside is better than any of the soil in my regular garden. So once the potatoes had been harvested, I seeded the area with a bunch of different cold-weather crops.

Coldframe with Spinach, romaine lettuce, cilantro, kale and radicchio

Front to back:
Bed 1. Spinach, romaine lettuce, cilantro, kale and radicchio
Bed 2. An Italian green called Spigariello Liscia (which I’ll write about soon) and more spinach
Bed 3. All spinach

I put some of the seedlings from the coldframe into the bed inside my greenhouse. In early December, this bed will get covered with Garden Quilt, too.

Last spring I wrote about repurposing a three-bay compost bin into a potato bin. A couple months ago I wrote about the 83 lb. potato harvest.

Once those potatoes came out, I started to think that bin looked a lot like a coldframe. And the soil inside is better than any of the soil in my regular garden. So once the potatoes had been harvested, I seeded the area with a bunch of different cold-weather crops. The seeds went in in August while it was still quite warm, so I was diligent about watering every day and also kept the entire area covered with shade netting (which we will be selling in spring — yeah!).

The lift-up cold frame covers have been framed in, but the panels themselves are still “on the drawing board”. There’s some poly in front of the frame, which was an initial attempt to arrive at a “fast and cheap” solution. We have decided that snow load and wind is going to make that problematic. I think we will wind up with some sort of semi-rigid hinged panels.

For now, and through most of November, I’ll simply have a single length of Garden Quilt right on top of the foliage. (That photo with the Garden Quilt is of a much younger me!) If you garden where it gets cold and you haven’t used Garden Quilt, you’re missing out on at least two more months of growing season.

At the end of November, we’ll add the panels, leaving the Garden Quilt in place. I’ve learned from Eliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook, that with two layers of insulation, one very close to the foliage and one overhead, plants grow as if they’re in a climate that’s two zones warmer.

Looking at the photo of this compost bin/potato bin/cold frame, you may be wondering…

1. How does she get to the back of it? Well that is a bit of a problem. If you’re making a cold frame from scratch, don’t make it this deep. You can see a couple bare areas where I’ve stepped. Now I have some flat rocks in there to stand on, and with one foot outside and one foot inside I can reach everything just fine.

2. Why did she plant everything so close together? It’s always hard to know whether you’ll get good germination or not — especially in the summer. This year, every one of these seeds germinated. So I have dug out lots and moved them into my greenhouse beds. My neighbor has also taken lots for transplanting into her own greenhouse and garden. So right now it’s not as crowded as it is in the photo.

3. Doesn’t she realize the north wind will come whistling right in between those wooden slats? Well, yes. So this year we’ll wrap the back and sides with some of that poly. I want to be able to remove it in the spring and preserve the air circulation for potatoes next summer (and in case this ever goes back to a compost bin at some point).

If all this looks intriguing, but a little more involved than you’re up for, we do offer a ready-made cold frame that’s very popular and we have some other pretty interesting cold frame ideas in the works for 2010.

Do you use a cold frame? We’d love to hear how you’re using it. And if you wouldn’t mind taking a photo of it, we’d love to see it, too!

-Kathy LaLiberte
Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply

1 Comment

  1. October 20, 2010    

    Lovely wee post about your homemade coldframe. Wonderfull images of your beautiful garden

    Aanee xxx
    Aanee Flowers Dublin

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We are an employee-owned company of avid gardeners, located in Burlington, VT.