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Cold frame with plants and flowers inside and open lids

The Best Cold Frames for Extending Seasons & Year-Round Gardening

Table of Contents

Get a fresh head start on your growing season. Cold frames can help you produce more crops and provide a protected place in your garden. Its natural way of trapping in the heat also prevents soil from freezing. To get the utmost benefit of your cold frame, make sure to pick the best spot, measurement, and materials. Let’s discuss excellent ideas about the best cold frames.

A cold frame literally lives up to its name for it is a functional box that is used for gardening during cold or cool weather. The usual design of cold frames uses four-sided frames that are made from wood, brick or straw bales with either a glass or plastic top cover.

The bottom part of the cold frame is the bed of the garden. The frames and top section are the factors that help trap the heat from the sun as well as protect the plants from the cold weather.

Cold frame with double lid both widely open with plants inside

The frames will work great if the roof is angled slightly toward the winter sunlight. The covers should be heavy enough to withstand extreme winds. You may use thick covers, quilts or blankets to bring winter-sown support through winter storms or to block the daylight when you are not around to vent the structure. Believe it or not but snow makes a good insulating covering, as well.

The cold frame is used as a way to harden off and protect tiny plants and seedlings without using unnatural heating. The usual idea of using the cold frame is to put it on the ground with a design that helps to let in sunlight while protecting the plants during cold weather.

A cold frame mimics a greenhouse which is why it is also called the “poor man’s greenhouse”. The structure of the cold frame may be simple, but it is capable of providing a sort of microclimate in the garden. It is because of the effective and efficient way of cold frames to utilize the energy from the sun while giving great insulation for the plants from other harmful elements.

A cold frame is a piece of essential equipment for your garden

If the gardening goal is to extend the growing seasons in spring and autumn, cold frames are the finest accessories to invest in. For winter planting, the cold frame is the best equipment to have when you want to provide established plants warmth, a strong shelter, and light. The dormancy that happens to plants during the winter is avoided when they are enclosed in cold frames. Check out more reasons why and when to use cold frames!

How to have a successful cold frame winter garden?

A small or medium-sized garden can use cold frames to achieve winter gardening success. Here are ways to make it possible:

Good quality materials

There are numerous material options for making the box of cold frames. They include bricks, Polycarbonate, straw bales, wood, and more. The success of wintering plants rests on the choice of materials used for the cold frames.

The Polycarbonate tops and sides are sold by various gardening online stores like this site. They have shown amazing results in insulating and sheltering different types of plants throughout the winter months.

Clear the tops regularly

If your garden is surrounded by tall trees chances are that the heads of the cold frames will become covered with leaves by mid-autumn. Regularly clearing away the leaves and other forms of debris is vital if you want the plants to enjoy natural light and heat. Removing snow from the tops should also be a regular chore during the winter months. Ice buildup can do more harm than good to the plants.

Varieties of plants and flowers inside open cold frames with the text: Best Cold Frames for Extending Seasons.

Pick the right spot

Choosing the perfect place for the cold frame is crucial if you want to enjoy its benefits. An ideal spot is one that provides shelter from strong winds while offering full sunshine. Just remember to position the frame facing the south to offer maximum benefits for the plants. Cold frames can be free-standing in the garden or installed against the greenhouse, deck, garage, house, and more.

Savvy ways to retain heat and enhance light

There are several savvy ways for cold frames to increase light and maintain temperature. Lining the sides with aluminum foil is one great way of enhancing brightness. Painting the inside structure of the cold frame with white paint is another light-boosting method.

Heat retention can be helped by a DIY project such as painting black color to a couple of one-gallon water jugs. Filling them up with water and putting them inside the cold frames enables them to absorb heat during the daytime. When the weather turns cold in the night, the retained heat will be slowly released to the inside structure of the cold frame.

Proper ventilation

Properly ventilating the cold frame is always important especially when temperatures tend to rise or drop during spring or autumn. An automatic vent opener can help to alleviate the ventilation issue of cold frames. The vents automatically open the top when temperatures reach danger points. Propping the top open can also be done manually if you have the time for it. A digital thermometer is a handy tool to have when ventilating the cold frames is done manually.

The best cold frames you should take a look at

It is common knowledge among avid gardeners that growing plants in all seasons can be considerably helped by cold frames. Issues such as budget constraints or too little garden space can prevent some gardeners from investing in a greenhouse.

The best cold frame provides the perfect solution for a winter garden that does not have to burn a hole in the pocket or eat too much space in the garden. While cold frames can be a DIY project, nothing beats getting it right the first time and all the time.

Purchasing a pre-fab cold frame is a smart investment especially when the product is of top quality while remaining within budget ranges. Here is our top pick:

Winner – Best cold frame: Juwel Year-Round Cold Frame 4ft x 2ft

A slightly opened cold frame with plants inside

Not enough room for a greenhouse? But you need a place to grow year-round? Then the Juwel Year-Round Cold Frame is the best choice! It highlights a thick 4mm Polycarbonate and a sturdy aluminum frame for those cold and windy days.

The insect netting cover will keep your plants from pests while providing the perfect ventilation. You can adjust the opening by sliding the Polycarbonate lid to the side, or just take it out completely for the maximum of airflow. You don’t even need to open the lid for watering your plants. Just pour the water through the net. 

Juwel is a well-known brand for high-quality cold frames and garden accessories. They deliver solid constructions that will make you happy for years to come.

  • Watering the plants during hot weather becomes easier when you can do it right through the net cover
  • Easy instructions for setting up the cold frame
  • Cold weather is prevented from penetrating the twin 4mm Polycarbonate walls
  • Includes two covers: insect netting and poly
  • Strong winds, small animals, and even hail are prevented from entering the cold frame with the aid of the insect screen protection
  • Sliding the large poly cover reveals the insect netting cover underneath
  • Total weight is 13.5 lbs
  • The dimensions of the box include a height of 12-16”, a depth of 23”, and a width of 50″
  • Two years warranty period

Best large cold frame: Juwel BioStar 1500 Premium Cold Frame 5ft x 3ft

A cold frame with veggies inside and three vents opened differently.

As with most products, it rarely happens that there is a single thing that will be a good fit for everyone. While some people will want to make their cold frame a DIY project, others will want a professionally produced structure that is already tested and made from high-quality materials.

Further down the line, there are those who really want a premium product and don’t have an issue covering the cost. For people who want the best, there is the Juwel Biostar Premium that is one of the best products not only in Austria where it is created but worldwide.

It is larger and heavier than its smaller cousin and has an extremely thick twin-wall Polycarbonate with a UV warranty of 10 years.

  • Easy to assemble
  • Three windows with height adjusters and an automatic opener
  • A one of a kind “no-drip” design
  • Extremely strong twin-wall Polycarbonate with a 10-year UV guarantee
  • Safe design with rounded edges
  • Size: 59 inches wide, 32 inches deep, and 16-20 inches tall
  • Weight when assembled 20lbs
  • Made in Austria
  • 3-year warranty

Best expandable system: Delta Park Gable Roof Cold Frame 3ft x 2ft

Delta Park Gable Roof Cold Frame with plants and seedlings inside

Not enough space? Not a problem. Introducing Delta Park Gable Roof Cold Frame. This is greatly recommended especially for beginners. It is so easy to assemble. No need to have a master’s degree in carpentry.

The 4mm Polycarbonate panels allow maximum sun exposure. It takes in the light and at the same time stops the warmth from escaping. Garden with ease even in winter. This cold frame has a detachable and flexible roof panel that let you easily reach your plants and provides better airflow.

  • Clear 4mm Polycarbonate panels 
  • Perfect for small spaces
  • Stable framework
  • Absorbs sunlight and prevents the heat from escaping
  • Adjustable and detachable

Most affordable season extender: Riverstone Eden Mini 2ft x 3ft and 3ft x 4ft

This petite product is a perfect match for those that just need a cover to protect a small group of their precious plants outside during winter months. It is best suited for decorative plants and is elevated from the ground as not to lose heat downwards.

The Riverstone Eden requires no tools to assemble and the base can be painted to fit any garden design. Finally, as it is made from eco-friendly materials it can be easily recyclable once its time. Made from rot-resistant cedar wood, it is a perfect choice for someone just entering the cold frame market.

  • Very fast assembly with no tools
  • Rot-resistant wood
  • Raised bed for easier access without bending over
  • Enclosure protects from UV radiation
  • Very portable
  • Made in the US

What plants are you planning to grow? Tell us here by leaving your questions below. We’ll be glad to discuss it!
Picture of Jesse James
Jesse James

Jesse James, an Army Veteran, now shares his passion for gardening through engaging articles on Greenhouse Emporium. Leveraging his experience and love for nature, Jesse provides practical advice and inspires others on their gardening journey.

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