It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed

youget tomatos Now For Today’s YUK factor. You can’t make this stuff up. Beaver Butt Vanilla flavoring
Next time you pick up a vanilla candy, think twice. A chemical compound used in vanilla flavored foods and scents comes from the butt of a beaver. Manufactures have been using this additive in foods and perfumes for at least 80 years.
The worst part is the FDA does not required this chemical to be listed as an ingredient on food items. Manufacturers may list “natural flavoring” instead. Way too natural for me.

new cold frame What is a cold frame you ask? A cold frame in it’s simplest configuration is a glass topped box used to protect cold tolerant crops in harsh winter conditions and winters cold temperatures. Dare I say it could be considered a tiny green house.

A cold frame will warm-up nicely even on the coldest winter day if you remove any snow covering the glass top to allow the sun’s rays to enter and warm your cold frames interior.

Think fast growing greens like leaf lettuce and root crops like radishes, beet roots, turnips and such.

Select a location near a water source on well draining, slightly sloping soil. Avoid sites prone to flooding or strong winds, or sites that are shaded by nearby trees or structures.

Prepare your cold frames growing soil by digging the soil deeply and adding good quality compost to your cold frames growing soil area. A nitrogen rich soil will benefit any leaf crop but is not beneficial to root crops. Being out of site and out of mind, be careful and don’t allow the cold frame soil to become overly wet or bone dry. With the cold frame being totally enclosed you can easily over water.

A cold frame is not the same thing as a hot box(hot bed). Find a location near a water source on well draining, slightly sloping soil. Avoid sites prone to flooding or strong winds, or sites that are shaded by nearby trees or structures.

Constructing a Hot Box Dig a pit 12 to 18 inches deep to hold the fresh manure and topsoil. It needs to be below ground level to help retain the heat in the hot frame and make it lower than the planting level of the seedlings. Make the outside perimeter of the pit one six inches to foot narrower than the glass door or window.

The key ingredient to making the hot frame work is fresh manure. As it decomposes, it gives off heat. A good manure to use is from cows or horses and can be obtained for free or at nominal cost from a local farm or stable. You can also use poultry and rabbit manures. Avoid using dog, cat or human manure, particularly when growing vegetables, as they can transmit disease.

cold frames and hotbeds Fill your pit with a six or to 8 inch layer of manure. Break up any clumps with a hard rake and tamp it down lightly with a shovel. Moisten the manure with water to help build up heat inside the frame. Add a 6 to 8 inch layer of topsoil on top of the manure and rake it smooth. This creates the planting bed for new seedlings. The surface of the topsoil should be at or just above ground level. The plants need a buffer between their roots and the manure. If planted directly in the manure, the seedlings will burn up from the heat and an overdose of nutrients.

Plant tender seedlings of vegetables or ornamental plants in the hot frame and transplant them to the garden after the last frost. In milder climates, grow greens and other winter veggies here for harvesting during the cold months.

Place the recycled door or window The glass panes will allow light inside the hot frame. On very warm or cold days, keep an eye on the temperature inside the hot frame. It may be helpful to add a maximum/minimum thermometer to monitor the high and low temperatures inside. For added ventilation, prop the roof open during warm temperatures. If too much sunlight is baking the seedlings, place shade cloth designed for greenhouses on the roof and secure in place.
HintA hot bed can easily over heat on a warm sunny winter day.

Helpful Resource University of Missouri Building and Using Hotbeds and Coldframes
DIY Cold Frame Plan
How to Build a Cold Frame Plan
Build your own small Greenhouse and a Cold Frame

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9 responses to “It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed

  1. I’ve heard skunk oil for years as a perfume additive but never beaver?? Oh, and my garden did so poorly this year, everyone’s here did because of the strange weather, I’m not up to a cold frame. besides if we have a hard winter as is predicted my garden area may flood. I pray not but by being so discouraged with summer I’ll wait on the box. It does sound like a great idea though that I do want to try.


    • Re jsnapp62 – It was a difficult gardening year for many gardeners. Late spring freeze, lack of rain, hot summer, 2 bad hail storms. I’m a bit surprised that I got anything out of my garden this year.
      Grin … Happy Holiday season and good luck with next springs garden.


  2. Pingback: It’s October, You Still Have Time To Build A Winter Cold Frame Or Hot Bed | Wolf-Beach Farms

  3. Interesting info about vanilla. You can actually make your own–I do it all the time…here’s how


  4. Cold frames have been on my To-Do list for… well, I’m still two years behind on finishing the deck rail. Maybe this winter. 🙂


  5. I love the gardening quote, but it took me four years of “practice” to get tomatoes. I loved learning though.


  6. So we know now that in the event of an apocalypse, we can find all of the mindless junk food junkies licking beaver but to get their fix. Processed food is so sketchy.


  7. I’m so glad you posted this! I’ve been wanting to try a cold frame this year, and with your details I think I might be able to pull it off. Thank you!


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