Building Cold Frames

Our living room is small. The past two springs I have rearranged all our furniture so that I could start seeds in trays by the south-facing window. For three months every year the main feature of our living room, and spilling over into our kitchen, was haphazard trays of newpaper-potted dirt and seedlings, tented in plastic bags propped up by pencils. A conversation-starter, but not very attractive.


This year is gonna be different. This year I will start my seeds outside in cold frames. The cold frames I saw ran $80 – $160. Instead, I went to the re-use building store and bought some old wood-frame windows for 5-bucks each. With the money I saved, I splurged on cedar 2x2s for the frame.


The frame slopes gently forward; I cut the posts 11″ in front and 16″ in back. For the back panel I used an old piece of plywood, and for the sides I again splurged, on 0.03 HDPE, which is translucent white and I could attach to the frame with a staple gun.


Overall, this project cost me about $35, mostly for the cedar. I could have saved about $10 by buying fir or another ‘cheap’ lumber, bringing the total cost down to about $25.

Window = $5
Lumber = $15 (3 2×2)
HDPE = $10
Hardware = $5

NB: Cedar is very soft. When open, the heavy windows want to rip the hinges out of the frame. I will fix this by further supporting the windows with chains attached to the frame. Not a big deal.


Now, I don’t actually know if this will work. Will temperatures be warm enough (and not cool down too much at night) for my seeds to germinate? I will keep you posted.

UPDATE 2011: Seeds germinated! I will definitely do this again, just starting a bit earlier…

UPDATE end 2011: Sadly, the beautiful starts were mostly fried when I transplanted them out to the garden, covered them with floating row cover, and left for what turned out to be a unseasonably hot weekend. Most had to be replaced with purchased plants.

UPDATE 2012: This year I used cow dung pots and the weather SUCKED. Most starts didn’t make it. Partly, it’s the difficulty of keeping the starts moist in permeable pots. Even wrapping them in dry cleaner bags, it was too difficult. Will have find a better solution.

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One Response to Building Cold Frames

  1. nancy says:

    So, DID the seeds find enough heat to germinate in the newly-built cold-frame?

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