Cold Frame Winter Gardening

Cold Frame – Problems with the OG Newsletter Version and the Easy Solution.

In the recent Organic Garden Connect Newsletter was an article on making your own Cold Frame as an easy way to extend your growing season.

They pointed out the simplest frame used straw bales arranged into a square shape with glass or framed plastic laid on top to make the cover.

I would NOT recommend this shape of cold frame to anyone who lives in my area (zone 7) or any where there’s lots of humidity.

I thought of and used this box design ONCE — many years ago.  AND although I wasn’t a “newbie” gardener — I was new enough at it that I didn’t foresee the difficulties.

Our area is humid and when its cold — it’s a damp cold.  The box-like cold frame held more dampness than is healthful and did not allow the air circulation plants need to be healthy.  As a result, all kinds of problems occurred.

In 33 years of growing lettuce, that is the only time mine ever had aphids.  They multiplied so quickly I could hardly keep up with them.

Although the tops were off the cold frame at every opportunity it just didn’t help.  The inside didn’t get the circulation necessary for healthy crops. The lettuce showed it.  It was not the robust lettuce I was use to.

Also, had more slugs than ever.

With an easy adjustment the design will work much better. The small bales of straw will come apart in squares so it takes little effort to adjust the design.

Use full sized bales for the North side of the cold frame. (That will be the highest side.) For the two sides extending from the North side,  start with a full bale and take apart bales as necessary to arrange the sides to slant at an angle as shown in the drawing  below.  The South side will not be very high – only a few inches.  Arrange your windows or frames with plastic on top as shown.

If temps drop extremely low, you can put more straw around the edges of the windows or frames to add more temporary insulation.

This design allows for better air circulation and far less problems than the box design in the OG Newsletter. (drawing – copyrighted by Theresa Martz)

This design of cold frame is easy to put together and easy to deal with. It allows for good air circulation.  Just leave the tops off as much as the weather will allow. I used it for at least 10 years and can tell you it works very well.


To see the cold frames I currently use check out these posts:

Lettuce – Plant in the Fall/Harvest for 3 Seasons.

Hardening off Your Seedlings


Thanks to Bill for doing this sketch so I could get this post up quickly and give you a visual example.


Organic gardening is easy, efficient and effective AND — a lot healthier.


All content including photos and drawings are copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved


  • Thanks for the warning. I had debated about using straw bales since the approach seemed so easy. Instead, we put out the low tunnels with a covering of winter-weight remay. I like it because it ‘breathes.’

  • This is off subject but wanted to tell you that I fooled the crickets. I planted my lettuce seed (yet again) then placed a piece of window screen over the seeds on the ground. I weighted it down with bricks, boards (you could even use dirt) so nothing could get to the seeds. In 3 days every seed germinated. I lifted the screen a little so they wouldn’t grow through it. I will remove the screen altogether in a couple more days when they are big enough to defend themselves. Now maybe I will have some lettuce!!

  • Excellent job, Beppy! Keep me posted on what happens.
    I’m still working on it. I planted spinach again yesterday. Maybe I’ll try to find a piece of screen. Thanks for letting me know!

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