Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Growing in a Cold Frame ....my little experiment

Due to the fact that I was unable to get most of the fall and winter crops in the ground at the correct time, I decided to try a little experiment in cold frame growing that I thought might work. Some people may think that this is a bit crazy. But, what gardener wants to go months without growing or eating some fresh veggies from the garden?

First, I started some seeds in the basement on the new germinating table in the beginning of November. By some I mean; carrots, lettuce, radish, spinach, chard & pak choi to name a few. I thought that these veggies had a chance to get going and maybe make it through the cold winter here in the Northeast.

Next, I put rope lights that "The Italian" had on the ground in the cold frame to add a little extra heat & light. The cold frames are an unusual site at night glowing in the dark! After monitoring the temperatures for a while, I observed that the air temperature inside the cold frame was about 10- 20 degrees warmer then the outside air at the coldest time of the morning. The soil temperature was running about 10 degrees warmer in the cold frames.
Our glowing cold frames

At that point, a couple of the veggies had grown big enough to start hardening off in the cold frame. (Note: As the seedlings grew and developed their true leaves, I moved them to a cooler area on the germinating table to acclimate them to cooler temperatures) The night time temperatures have been fluctuating quite a bit here. Some nights it goes down in to the low 20's and other nights it stays in the 40's. I put the seedlings out in the cold frame when the weather is predicted to stay warmer for a few days. After a couple of days and nights in the cold frame, I plant them in the ground.

It was very cold, windy and snowing a bit, making it very difficult to get a good picture.

Yesterday soil temperature inside the cold frame was about 46 degrees and the soil temperature outside the frame was about 31.

So far, everything that I have planted has survived and seems to be growing! Time will tell how well they do and if we will be able to eat any of the veggies during the cold winter months. If not, we will have some early spring veggies next year!!


  1. Looks good. I wonder if you doubled the top plastic with an air space in between, if it would make a substantial difference in the soil and air temps? Kind of like a double glass window situation. Or, just lay a piece of plastic over the whole thing and weigh it down at the edges to prevent heat loss. I bet that would increase the temp inside to promote more growth. Just a thought. That's all.

    Monitoring the temps provides important information that will help you ensure growth of your veggies.

    It's fun to keep them going, isn't it?

  2. Great idea. I'm anxious to see how it works. It sure looks pretty.

  3. I like that glowing in the dark affect. I might try that in the spring. If nothing else I could make up a real exciting story about aliens from outter space growing food in my garden for the kids of the neighborhood. What do you think?

    Have a great gardening day.

  4. How interesting! I like the rope lights and have seen them before -- nifty idea!

    I'm chuckling that you think people might believe you are crazy for doing this when that bagged apple pie seems crazier to me. LOL

    (I'll make that apple pie since it's so weird and you raved over it. You got me!)

  5. The seedlings look very happy in the cold frames. And I think that your choice of winter veggies is perfect.
    I remember last year my chard stopped growing around this time and continued in March. It was the best chard I ever tested.
    Good luck with the cold frame and I hope seedlings survive winter. Maybe it would be also a good thing to have them covered with a blanket over night to keep them warm.

  6. I had the same thought as Veggie PAK, and extra layer with air in between can make a difference. I think with your heat source you have a wonderful thing going! I hope you are harvesting greens for the New Year.

  7. Very cool Robin! A lot people have suggested lights as a means to keep the soil warm. Maybe I'll try it one of these days.

    Aside from the lights, I think you will be amazed by how well your plants hold up. In my experience, a little protection from the winter wind is enough to keep a lot of things alive.

  8. Now that is a really keen gardener! So smart with the rope of lights:)
    Good luck with the winter gardening,

  9. VP, I may put some added protection later in the winter..if I want to go out in the cold weather

    The Mom, Thanks, It will be interesting to see how much better they do.

    David, I think you could come up with a great story...it looks really kind of wierd at night.

    Lynn, You're definitely a true gardener if you think the pie
    in the bag is weirder then the glowing beds!!

    MojVrt & Kelly, It depends how hungry I get for fresh greens and how cold it gets later in the winter....if I will venture out there and add some additional protection. It's been quite cold the past two days (19-34 cloudy & windy) and the temps are staying between 35-51 inside the cold frames.

    Thomas, Last year I overwintered some romaine lettuce by mistake. It survived under 4 feet of snow that I piled on top of it. It was the sweetest romaine I have ever grown.

    Stevie & Charlotta, Thanks, we will see how it works out.

  10. What a great experiment you are trying! I thinking the glowing cold frame looks pretty awesome! I'm looking forward to reading if it worked. What type of lights are you using in the cold frame?

  11. I have never tried to "start" carrots seeds and then move them to the garden. How has that worked for you?

  12. Mimi, Thanks..They are rope lights

    Liisa, So far, so good..we will see

  13. Hey, this looks way cool. Thanks for the info.

  14. This is a really neat post for me to read. One of the things I am thinking of doing in the early spring is stringing one of our row covers with christmas lights and trying to get some of our more cold sensative plants started early. It is very encouraging to see the temperature differences that you are reporting.


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