The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to make a cold frame

Climbing onto the roof

I've used both quick hoops and cold frames in the past, and usually prefer the latter. However, now that we've finally skirted around the front of the trailer, I couldn't help thinking that the sheltered, warm spot would be perfect for a glass-covered cold frame to house flats of cabbage, broccoli, and onion seedlings while they wait for safe outdoor-planting time. The area is close enough to the front door that I won't mind opening and closing the lid daily during sunny spells, and it'll also be pretty simple to carry the flats inside if we hit a really cold spell. So when Mark found two large, double-glazed windows in the barn, I figured the cold frame was fated to be!

The first step of building our new cold frame was checking to make sure we'd still be able to get up on the roof to clean out our chimney. Now that I have a grapevine on the right side of the wood-stove alcove and a cold frame on the left, Mark will have to go up the front. Luckily, he says the ascent is long as I hold the ladder.

Support board

This area is a relatively easy spot for cold-frame construction since two sides of the cold frame can simply butt up against the existing building. Mark attached a two-by-four along the trailer to support the windows...

Adding a window to a cold frame

...Then hinged the first window into place. (Thanks for the hinges, Rose Nell!)

Cold frame cover

After adding the second window, we realized that the two windows bumped against each other when closed all the way. Although we could have tweaked the hinge arrangement slightly to prevent this issue, Mark instead used metal brackets to attach the two windows together into one solid piece. In addition to fixing our slight mismeasurement, that arrangement also made it easy to hold both windows open with a single screen-door hook on the side of the trailer.

Inside the cold frame

Next, we used a two-by-six to form the front wall of the cold frame. Slanting the glass from an 18-inch-high back to a 5.5-inch-high front should help the cold frame collect more winter sun. But the angle did make it tough to determine the location of the two-by-four support on the right side. "Oh, that's easy," Mark said. He lifted up the window glass and motioned me inside to mark and hold the support board.

Closing in the cold frame

The left side of the cold frame involved building a triangle out of wood, which we opted to do the easy way. We used the end of the two-by-six that had formed the front of the cold frame to butt up against the window on the top, then cut segments of an old door (thanks, Sheila!) to fill in the gap left behind.

Cold frame attached to a house

We've still got a little work to do filling in gaps and painting the untreated wood, but the cold frame is nearly ready to go after just a couple of hours' work. I've got a max-min thermometer in there now to test the waters and can hardly wait until we reclaim a bit of our kitchen table from the cold-hardy seedlings. Right now, there's barely enough room to fit two plates into the section the plants left behind....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Mark, i always love seeing how you cleverly use the materials at hand for whatever project is needed.
Comment by deb Tue Mar 17 08:05:16 2015
Looks good. I would have done a face up picture!
Comment by jim Tue Mar 17 09:22:41 2015

Wonderful idea!

I'm thinking I'll take your idea one step further & add an open-able flap or two on the back wall to let heat under my tiny house. Love that dual-purpose!

Comment by Terry Tue Mar 17 10:19:51 2015
I love how quickly the cold frame came together - and just at the right time! It's right handy to have a husband who is willing and able to create useful things almost out of thin air. Yay Mark!
Comment by Rhonda from Baddeck Tue Mar 17 10:36:40 2015
Maybe you should build a second one to warm yourself up on cold mornings. :-)
Comment by Jake Tue Mar 17 23:21:40 2015

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