Cold Frames For Gardening
Canadian gardeners are often frustrated by the length of the growing season. With just a few short months in which to squeeze out staple veggies like carrots and potatoes, a more sustainable home-grown meal is hard to get without taking special measures to protect your plants from the cold. Many people use greenhouses for this purpose, but if you don't have the money or the space for a greenhouse, you can still grow veggies all through the winter by using a cold frame. This article will introduce you to the basics of cold frames and how they work.
A cold frame is simply a bottomless box with a window on top that you place over your soil beds. The box should be tall enough to accommodate the plants you want to grow inside and the window should be hinged so that you can open up the box to tend to the vegetables. Cold frames aren't like greenhouses - they won't turn your subzero yard into a paradise of tropical flowers, but they will allow you to grow relatively cold resistant veggies that thrive in areas a zone and a half further south, allowing you to have garden fresh vegetables in December without trucking them up from California. Veggies that grow well in Canadian cold frames include carrots, leeks, spinach, and salad greens. The further south you are, the more different types of plants you can grow in your cold frame.
Cold frames aren't a magic box - you will still have to keep a close eye on the temperature inside via a thermometer. On days when the sun is hot, it may actually get hot enough inside to hurt your veggies unless you prop the window open. Snow can act to insulate the cold frame on bitterly cold days, but too much show can break your frame if you don't clear it off with a broom. The bonus you get from all this work is that pests and weeds are rarely problem during the winter. To have a winter cold frame harvest, you'll want to plant in the summertime, usually in July.