How to Manage a Cold Frame


Our winter-gardening theme continues: Today I discovered a great article about how to build and manage cold frames. The article’s author is Eliot Coleman, a gardener who is considered an authority on four-season growing. Though I’ve not read them yet, I’m hoping to soon be a proud owner of his books Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long and The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses.

In the article (see the image at bottom of this page) he comments:

“Occasionally people tell me that by fall they want a break from gardening. But that’s the best part: You can have your break and eat it too. After early fall, very little gardening takes place. Just some watering until November and then no more until spring. Venting can be handled automatically. I’ve found no weeds or pests in my cold frames. Harvesting is the main task, which is the aim of all this activity anyway.”

In this article Mr. Coleman also shares valuable tips on how to build a cold frame, what to plant in it (and why) and how to manage the cold frame (including watering and ventilation). His knowledge on cold frame growing was developed during his work as a farm manager for a private school in Vermont. In his own words:

“The program was supposed to supply the school with food while engaging students in a hands-on way. The problem was, there wasn’t much overlap of the gardening year and the school year. To involve students in fresh vegetable production, it would have to happen in winter. And if winter horticulture were to catch on with teenagers, it would need more charisma than a Brussels sprout. A large, heated greenhouse was out of the picture, and so I turned to cold frames.”

The portion of the article I found most useful was the “Cold Frame Timetable” where Mr. Coleman discusses when to sow each crop for maximum effectiveness. In general, he begins sowing winter greens and “slow-growing or heat-tolerant crops like scallions, chard, parsley,” etc. in mid-July. The entire winter carrot crop is sown on August 1. When mid-August rolls around, the mustard and turnip greens are sown. And in September he sows “all the salad greens that germinate in cooler soil—mâche, spinach, claytonia, arugula, and mizuna, as well as radishes.”

If you’re as interested in growing winter vegetables as I am, I highly recommend this article. Click here to read the article Cold Frame Gardening or click on the image below to add this article to your gardening Pinterest board. (Better yet, pop over to our Pinterest board and grab this and many more great tips:


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