The Q&A Archives: Cold Frame

Question: I am thinking of building a cold frame to allow my seedlings to grow better. I have an awful time keeping them alive after they get 2-3 inches tall due to poor lighting in my home. I live in northeast Ohio and it takes a while for us to get warm weather. I would like some ideas of how and where I should build one...and if it will help keep my seedlings alive. I am very frustrated that my plants die and I usually have to buy some from the local nursery which is costly.

Answer: Ohio State Univ. has a wonderful Cooperative Extension Program. Your Cooperative Extension office should have a wealth of information available free to the public that you need only ask for. Cold frame construction instructions are a very popular request--rather than try to go into details here, I suggest you give your County Extension Agent a'll be hammering away in no time flat. Also, the Nov. 1987 issue of National Gardening Magazine has plans for building a cold frame; you can order back issues by sending $3.50 for each copy (includes shipping) to National Gardening, 180 Flynn Ave., Burlington, VT 05401. <br><br>Cold frames are good for hardening plants off--but you might want to invest in a better seed-starting set-up inside. You can't put tender plants like tomatoes and peppers outdoors in a cold frame too early--they will be stunted from the cold. (That's the voice of experience!) Cool weather plants like broccoli and kale fare better. It's probably better to startyour seeds a little later, so they reach transplanting size at the right time, and provide them with plenty of light while they are growing.<br><br>Here's the set-up I use indoors: I took some inexpensive metal shelving and rigged up two fluorescent fixtures (shop lights, also relatively inexpensive). Using a two shelf unit, I hang one fixture from the top shelf (so it shines on the bottom shelf) using chains and s-hooks so I can adjust the height. I hang one fixture from the bottom shelf (so it shines on the floor). The whole set-up shouldn't cost more than $40 or so. If you don't want to crawl on the floor to water your plants, set the whole unit on a table.

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