Most gardeners and backyard farmers are busy pouring through the piles of seed catalogs that seem to keep coming in the mail, dreaming about what varieties to plant in this year's garden and anticipating warmer weather to start their seeds.
An easy way to get a jump start on your spring planting is with the use of cold frames or mini-greenhouses. These cold frames are easy to build and can be used for early spring planting, extending your growing season in the fall, and for winter growing. They are also great to use for seed starting if you don't have the space for a larger greenhouse.
The cold frames (mini-greenhouses) are 4' x 8' and are constructed using 2 x 3's and exterior grade screws. Each unit has four hinged roof panels that can be opened for planting and propped open for ventilation. They are very easy to build and can easily be constructed in an afternoon.
Once assembled, I used 6 MIL greenhouse film, which I purchased from Growers Supply, to cover the units, stapling the plastic to the frames and folding it around all edges. For added protection I use row covers and row cover hoops inside the mini-greenhouses to cover the seedlings.
Early last spring I moved one of my mini-greenhouse over the garden bed and planted my tomato seedlings directly in the garden. The protection of the plastic created a nice heated environment for the plants and they thrived, giving us early tomatoes!
Once your mini-greenhouses are built you can also use them in the fall to extend your growing season. In late fall right after the first light frost I move the mini-greenhouses over the kale, broccoli, cabbage, scallions and other cold hardy crops.
The hinged roof panels can be propped open so the mini-greenhouses don't get too hot during the sunny days, and closed at night to keep the frost or snow off the plants.
I start more crops of lettuce in the fall and make sure the plants are well established before the frost. The plants will keep growing with the protection of the mini-greenhouses, providing us with fresh greens all winter long.
The plants may wilt when the temperatures drop well below freezing, but they will spring back to life as soon as the sun rises and the mini-greenhouses start to heat up. It is so satisfying to be able to go out into the snow and pick fresh greens in the middle of winter! I have had good luck growing kale, leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, sage, carrots, garlic, scallions and leeks throughout the winter.
and use to build yourself either a 4x4 or 4x8 cold frame (mini-greenhouse).
We have had quite a few warm days this winter so why not take advantage of some of them to build yourself a cold frame (mini-greenhouse) and get a jump start on your growing season! They are easy to build and are versatile for extending your growing season!