Garden Tools

The 5 Best Cold Frames According to Food Gardeners

The gardeners have spoken, and this list of the best cold frames includes traditional cold frames, pop-ups, self-watering, and even a DIY kit.

I have always been a bit of a lazy gardener. I love to plant things, and I love to take care of them and watch them grow. But sometimes by the time fall swings around, I decide to let everything else go to the chipmunks and the birds. This year, I’ve decided that I’m going to change that. I’m going to start extending the life of my garden. One of the ways I’m going to do that is by buying and/or building some cold frames to go on top of my garden beds, but I don’t know much about the best cold frames out there, other than fun window-pane projects I see on Pinterest.

I love a good DIY project, but to kick off this new endeavor, I’m going to let the professionals show me how it’s done and buy them outright. Once I figure out what works best for my particular beds, I’ll figure out a more permanent solution. For now, I want to get the basics down, and I need something simple that I can fold up and won’t take up a lot of space in the shed.

Once my cold frames are built, I’m going to start planting my fall garden. I’m going to grow some lettuce, spinach, and kale. I’m also going to plant some fall flowers, just for fun. I can’t wait to get started! But I didn’t want to start by just skimming reviews online, as I know those reviews are often skewed. So instead, I asked my gardening groups which products and methods they like best. Here’s the feedback I received.

1. Traditional Cold Frame

By far the most popular traditional cold frame recommended by other gardeners, is this Wooden Garden Portable Cold Frame. It features dual-walled poly panels that are most effective against cold in the spring and winter. The roof is adjustable, so you can create ideal venting and air circulation as needed. The dimensions are 39.4 x 23.3 x 15.7 inches, and it only weighs 7 pounds, which makes it an awesome choice for a pre-built cold frame for shorter plants like lettuces, or for tender seedlings in the spring. They also make a double-sided one so you can open it from either side of the garden.

I think this solution will suit most folks looking for a simple cold frame. However, it’s worth mentioning a few other options you can use as a cold frame that are more portable and fit into storage better than a wooden cold frame. It doesn’t mean they’re the best cold frames, but they do come with perks, and folks in my gardening groups love them.

2. Portable Greenhouse Tent

For ease of use and storage in the off-season, a lot of gardeners like this Porayhut Portable Greenhouse Tent for in-ground gardens. It lays flat against the earth, weighs only 11 pounds, and the dimensions are 71 x 35.4 x 35.4 inches fully assembled. Broken down, it is 36.2 x 5.51 x 11.42 inches. It’s easy to assemble, though it’s by no means a pop-up tent, and is a little higher than waist height for most people.

3. Pop-Up Greenhouse Tent

Pop-up greenhouse tents don’t get the best reviews because they are light and are prone to blowing away, but so are tents. With some good stakes, you can make it happen. Ethereal Lomoer makes a decent pop-up greenhouse tent that you can use as a cold frame. Since it literally pops open, it’s easy to “assemble” and store in its handy pouch. It weighs less than 3 pounds and stands at 36 x 36 x 40 inches when open. It’s small enough to sit on an average-sized raised garden bed, but can also sit flat on the ground. This pop-up greenhouse is also good if you need to quarantine small plants after an infestation.

4. Raised Bed Cold Frame

In my research travels, I happened upon the Vegepod, a self-watering raised bed with a built-in cold frame. Nobody directly recommended this to me, but it has great reviews, and I couldn’t leave it out, because it’s just too cool. I love the sound of a raised bed that’s self-watering, enclosed from bugs, and can be used in the cooler months. If I was limited on ground space, I’d snatch this up in a second.

5. DIY Hoop Cold Frame

When I kicked off the season, I decided that at least one of the cold frames I build will be made from cut rainbow hula hoops. I ordered this pack of twelve 36-inch rainbow hula hoops. They’re super sturdy, so they’ll do the job. I actually got the idea to use them for cold frames by reading the reviews and seeing that others were using them for that purpose and it made their garden look super fun.

A simple permanent cold frame with hoops can be made by using four 2×4’s cut to the size of your garden, then screwed together into a box. Then screw the hoops into the interior of the box, add a handle, add hinges, and attach the box to the raised bed. Drape with greenhouse plastic or netting, which you can secure to the hoops with clamps or staple to the frame for a more permanent solution. They also have kits you can buy.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what you use for cold frames. Do you build yours, or do you buy them? Which products have worked for you?


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By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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