The Q&A Archives: Greenhouse or Cold Frame?

Question: I am planning a new flower garden and need space to start several hundred plants from seed. I need to decide on a cold frame or greenhouse. The only time it will be used is to start seeds for spring planting. Would a cold frame work and would added heat be required? I don't want to invest anymore than I have to because this may be a one time process.

Answer: It sounds like your needs could be adequately met with a small covered structure like a cold frame. You can put hundreds of plants in a very small area! Take a look at a 72 cell tray at a local nursery and imagine how much room you might need. Just build it larger that you know you'll find plenty to fill it up!

Building a quality, "permanent" cold frame can cost quite a bit, depending on the size and choice of materials. Many southern gardeners improvise their own. Our warm winters and lack of snow loads make it easy to get by with a lightweight temporary structure.

One example is to build a frame out of 1" PVC plumbing pipe (it is very simple and inexpensive, and goes together like "tinker toys"!) and cover the frame with a 6 to 10 mil clear plastic. Both materials are available at your local hardware store.

A cold frame can be heated on a cold nite with a heater coil or even a light bulb or two. Make sure extension cords and connections are not damaged and all connections are weatherproof to avoid problems. Expecially cold nites may require a cover (like a blanket) to hold heat. Design it to allow a hinged or removeable top. Warm sunny days will cook your plants, even in February.

Have fun and good luck with your gardens!

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