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How To Use Cold Frames To Grow Fresh Salads All Winter Long

Cold frames are a great way to grow healthy, fresh salad crops like lettuce, kale and spinach all winter long! 

cold frames
Fresh salads in the middle of winter? You bet with cold frames!

Salad crops are the perfect choice when it comes to growing in cold frames. They are quick to germinate, have short harvest times and grow best in cooler temperatures. And as a gardener, nothing is more rewarding than cutting your own fresh salads in mid-December!

What Are Cold Frames, And How Do They Work?

Cold frames are four walled structures with a clear roof. They absorb the sun’s heat through the clear roof, and warm up the growing soil during the daytime. At night, the soil releases the heat back, keeping plants safe from the freezing temps. 

Cold frames are usually placed down in the soil to take advantage of the extra heat the earth walls can provide

Creating A Cold Frame

Cold frames can be made from nearly anything. Wood, brick, stone and even hay and straw bales are all excellent choices. For the top – something as simple as thick clear plastic, glass or plexiglass will work.  (See : How To Build Your Own Cold Frame)

Where To Locate Cold Frames

Cold frames should be placed in a southern-facing location. They perform best when buried down 6 to 12″ inches into the soil. This helps to take full advantage of thermal ground heat. For a great growing medium, fill with 3 to 5 inches of garden soil and compost, or a good organic potting soil. 

cold frames
A few pieces of 2 x 10 lumber and a couple of old windows is all you need for a diy home-made cold frame

Planting Salad Crops

Once your cold frame in place – you can plant your salad crop seeds exactly as you would in a normal garden setting. 

Once planted, controlling the temperature inside of your cold frame is the key to success.  

Prop open or remove the covering on extremely warm sunny winter days. Keep it closed on cold days and frigid nights to keep heat in.

cold frames
Rich, fertile soil is a key to growing great successfully in cold frames.

When the temperatures does take a big nose dive, you can provide extra protection for your plants by covering the top and sides with a heavy blanket.

Leaf lettuce varieties, spinach, kale and even radishes are excellent choices for your winter salad crop. We have been able to grow all of the above through some of the coldest of January temps. So don’t let the cold of winter stop you from gardening! 

Happy Winter Gardening, Jim and Mary! To receive our Recipes, DIY and Gardening articles each week, sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. You can also check out our new book released this year, Growing Simple, now available on