Building A Cold frame For Early Produce

Spring comes late here.  After a long, cold winter, we are found craving fresh produce.  Lettuce, radish & beets will all grow quite well in cooler weather.  To get a bit of a jump start on the spring growing season, we built a small cold frame.  It took the better part of a weekend to assemble the cold frame and prepare a small bed for planting seeds, but it was well worth the effort a couple of weeks later when we were eating fresh lettuce, radish and beet greens.

We started by prepping one of the smaller garden areas we have.  An hour or so with the rototiller and we had worked the soil about 6 inches deep.  To this we added some horse manure and some compost.  The result was a rich, fluffy medium to grow some early season veggies.  At the bottom of the photo you can see the chives which are enjoying the warm & sunny days of early spring.

Next, we hunted around the property for some lumber we could use to build a frame.  Luckily, everything we needed was found on the property.

It didn’t take too much effort before the project started to look like a miniature greenhouse.

Next we needed to construct a cover for the frame.  We had a large sheet of clear plastic on hand that was wrapped around a mattress we had purchased a year or so earlier.  We were very glad we held onto that sheet of plastic as it was the perfect size to cover the frame and allowed us to repurpose something that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

The cold frame opens up on either side by lifting the bottom 2×4.  This allows easy access for planting, thinning and tending to the seedlings. Velcro strips hold the plastic to the frame on each side to keep cold air drafts out of the cold frame when we aren’t tending to the plants.

The only thing left to do was plant the seeds and water them in.  We made quick work of that and 2 weeks later we were thinning out seedlings and eating fresh greens from the garden at the beginning of May!

Radish Seedlings

Lettuce Seedlings

Beet Seedlings

These three plants – radish, beet and lettuce – require thinning to grow well.  The seedlings you thin out make a delicious, tender salad when mixed together and dressed with a balsamic dressing.  Tasty!

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