Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Harvesting from the cold frames


  I planted the cold frames exactly 1 month ago, well– March 24th..I am trying very hard to keep good garden records this year, can you tell?….Anyway- it has been one month of strange weather, snow, rain, and sun and wind…and lo a behold.. mother nature does it again– Produces food for my family!!  Hooray.  Today we harvest our first luscious baby green lettuce.  There is lettuce in the garden too but it is about 2- 3 weeks away from harvest.  Cold frames just give that extra little boost, and things really grow so much faster.  If you want early crops, especially at school, cold frames are so easy to make and really so fantastically effective, let this be my gospel.  Everyone should have them.  There is another post in my blog on how to make them, and a google search will get you great links as well.  Remember that it is not so much how you make them, but creating the effect of— Micro climate, frost protection, wind protection, moisture retention, kid protection…etc..Ours are made of old window frames, old shower doors, and random things thrown together.  I have seen straw bale cold frames, old windows leaning against a wall, store-bought, handmade, etc… What ever your budget and environment requires, your choice of design will be different.

We made a planted two cold frames at Monte Del Sol, and I admit I wasn’t sure how they would do.  I only am there one day a week now and I wasn’t sure if they would get enough consistent moisture to really grow!!  Well, I was proved totally wrong.  Thanks to one of the students I mentor, Ami, and some student aides (kids who get an elective credit to help teacher out during lower grade classes)…these babies have been thriving, all watered with watering cans by hand. They are growing so beautifully and because the students were VERY generous with the seeds, they have come in thick and green and lush.    With this sporadic weather we have been able to cover them from the hail and on cold nights.  Really the biggest threat to them have been bouncing soccer balls at recess.  Kids play in this area and the frames help give a physical and visual boundary so kids know to be conscious of the space, if they are unconscious I just close the lids during play time.  These cold frames are a total success, which is owed completely to the students!!!  You may notice a few weeds– They are sunflowers and morning glories from last year that went to seed.  We will leave them and during the summer take off the cold frame and let them take over the area, as it is a very hot spot along a fence in the garden.  So these cold frames are nursery beds for summer crops while provided early spring food. 
One tricky element of this design is now the plants are getting too tall for the cold frames as they were built about 12 inches high.  One option would be to take off the lids for the rest of the season and put them in storage so that the plants can grow to full height…oh but what about those bouncing balls from recess?   I think next time we should build deeper boxes, like 2 feet, that way the can be more like a raised bed/convertible cold frames.  Another option is to surround your bed with straw bales and put a translucent lid on it, when you wish, you can remove all these pieces and have a very established veggie patch.  You may think you don’t need season extension now that it is almost time to plant outside, but any crop would benefit from a little boast of warmth moisture and wind free environment…..Remember cold frames are an awesome thing for the fall too so never too early to gather materials.  

Here are our cold frames at home. I started lettuce, cilantro, tatsoi, carrots and beets in cold frames.  Now that it is warm enough I can remove the boxes and put them on some other crop to nurse in these early days.   

So let the harvest begin!!


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