Our new cold frame

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For my birthday last week, I got one of the nicest presents a gardener can receive: a cold frame! After the fence went up, we had just enough left in our budget to get some lumber to put one together. Admittedly, we first talked about just buying one, since there is already SO much on our plate. We searched around but hot diggity they are expensive! We made ours for substantially less by doing it ourselves and I think it’s a lot sturdier than some of the kits out there. After I shared a few photos of the progress on my IG story, a few people asked for more details so here they are, but, keep in mind, we had no idea what we were doing and were totally winging it as we went. Take these instructions with a grain of salt. 🙂

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People use cold frames for various reasons: to grow winter greens, to get a jump on spring seed-starting, to store potted bulbs for forcing, etc. etc. For me, though, I mainly wanted a cold frame to help insulate many of the young roses and other plants I potted up last summer and autumn, like this one seen above. (At our new house, we do not have a garage or really anything we can use to overwinter our container plants.) If I can make a little room in our cold frame come early spring, I’ll also use it to start some of my usual annuals like sweet peasstocks, carnations and snapdragons. Here’s what we used:

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FOR THE BASE:

• (5) 2x10x8 pressure treated boards

• (2) 2x10x10 pressure treated boards

• (2) 2x4x8 pressure treated boards

• (1) box 3″ outdoor, construction grade screws

We went with pressure treated but you could use cedar boards, instead. We didn’t cut the 2x10x8 boards at all. They were used for the front and back. The 2x10x10 boards were cut into 3′ lengths (you will only need 5 of these.)  One of those 3′ boards was cut diagonally corner to corner. This was the top piece of each side board. The 2×4 boards were cut to fit the height of the box and used to brace the corners and the middle. Total length and height: 8′ wide with the back part about 2′ 4″ sloping down to front part about 1′ 5″.

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That gave us just enough height in the back to place some of my taller container plants without them getting squished.

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FOR THE LID

• (4) 1x4x8 cedar boards

• Thick plastic (we used a double layer of 4mil)

• Staples/staple gun

• Brad nails/1.25″ screws

• Hinges/Latches

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Using up some leftover paint from the house I painted the outside Farrow & Ball ‘Railings’ and the inside F&B ‘All White’. The dark color on the outside will absorb heat and the bright white on the inside will bounce light around. Or so I hope. We left the interior with a gravel base since I don’t intend to plant directly in the ground in this cold frame.

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Keeping it warm: we have a heating pad in there that I’ve placed my baby roses on. They’re still in 4″ pots with very undeveloped root systems so I figured the extra warmth would be good for them.

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The heat pad we use comes with a thermometer to tell us the current soil temp. This was where it was at early this morning after a night of temps in the 20’s. Should it decide to get really, really cold this winter I may put a strand of twinkle lights inside to add a little extra heat and cover the top with fleece. We’ll see.

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A note about the top: I really wanted something more substantial such as framed out plexi or even old windows, but time and money nixed that idea. For now, we have a simple cedar frame stretched with a double layer of 4mil plastic. Maybe next year we’ll switch that out with something else but for now it’s doing the trick.

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I’ll make sure to report back in the spring as to how our plants in the cold frame held up over winter!

25 thoughts on “Our new cold frame

  1. Looks great, Laurie! What a perfect place for your babies. We’ve been wanting to build one, too, (and collected discarded windows to use for the top) but don’t really have a good spot for it here. Perhaps in our next garden.

    1. Thanks Anne! How smart of you to have already collected your windows…we should have done that. 😉 Hope you are doing well!

  2. Looks great! and love the tip about the painting colors! I would not have thought of that. Question what are your go to pruning shears? I hear all about Felco’s being the best but I thought well maybe that is just brand recognition and there are others out there just as good if not better. Care to weigh in?

    1. Thank you! And yes, happy to share my fav pruners…I actually really do love my Felcos. Specifically, because I have tiny hands and they have a version that fit me perfectly. (The Felco F-6) Also, changing out the blades is very easy–something I do as part of my winter tasks–so they stay sharp from year to year. BUT! I don’t use my Felcos nearly as much as I use my Japanese bonsai shears. They are razor sharp (Jesse calls them my “Katana” haha!) and are in use daily; I never walk into the garden without them!

      1. Wonderful!!! Thank you so much for the tips. My Christmas list just got 2 items longer. haha Really one item longer and a smidge more detailed. 🙂
        Speaking of Christmas lists I have several OGR’s on my list, as I am brand new to OGR’s, I was wondering if you would advise against any of these?
        Charles de Mills-Felicite Parmentier-Comte Chambord-Mme. Isaac Pereire-Madame Hardy-Comtesse de Rocquigney-Pierre de Ronsard-Duchesse de Brabant-Souvenir de la Malmaison-Centifolia Muscosa-Maire de Blois-Soupert et Notting-Capitaine John Ingram.
        Whew that’s quite a list! lol I do know some are non-repeating and that’s ok, I like fragrance/vigorousness/lots of petals. I have read&reread your posts on several of the above listed roses, and researched them in my go to rose books “Old fashioned and DA Roses” by B. Taylor and “Best Rose Guide…” by Phillips &Rix. Wondering are any you would avoid, or that are not listed but maybe fall under the category “life is not complete without”. I’d love to know!

        1. Mmmmm that’s a fine list! Makes me count the days until spring! OK here’s what I know about the roses you’ve selected based on my own experiences:

          Charles de Mills:
          Very fine rose–makes a LARGE, suckering shrub.
          Felicite Parmentier: Beautiful, winter hardy. Blooms ball in wet weather. Also prone to a bit of powdery mildew in spring.
          Comte de Chambord: Fantastic fragrance and bloom form. Prone to blackspot. (I shovel pruned this one.)
          Mme. Isaac Pereire: Don’t have this one but I have it’s sport, Mme Calvat, which is one of my absolute favs. Watch for blackspot.
          Madame Hardy: In my humble opinion, the best rose on your list. Never had a problem with this rose and bloom period is LONG.
          Comtesse de Rocquigny: Slow to start, dislikes pruning initially (like many Bourbons.) Not very winter hardy. Beautiful flowers.
          Pierre de Ronsard: Shovel pruned this rose in PA garden due to excessive blackspot. It was so pretty, tho, I’m trying again here in NC. (Not actually an OGR. You’ll get repeat from this one, too. 🙂 )
          Duchesse de Brabant: I keep thinking I’ll get this (it’s an Earthkind, right?) but HMF said it’s prone to PM which runs rampant here in our new garden so I’m avoiding. Let me know what you think.
          Souvenir de la Malmaison: I have a story about this rose–too long to share now, but I will say it’s a rugged beast! (Heard the shrub is better than the climber.) Blooms may ball. Slow to get going (resist pruning.)
          Centifolia Muscosa: Flowers are gorgeous and fragrant as are the “mossy” buds. Mine got powdery mildew so give good air circulation and lots of room to grow.
          Maire de Blois Never grew this one…
          Soupert et Notting Also new to me…
          Capitaine John Ingram This one, too, I’ve never grown. Please do share your experiences if you get it! 🙂

          1. Perfect! I will be sure to let you know how they do for me. Although as I buy them small to save money it may be awhile for a true idea. 🙂
            Also I forgot Marchessa Boccella-Louise Odier, and I will be adding Mme. Ernest Calvat as well!

  3. That cold frame is wonderful! I have added it to my wish list as we build out our garden – maybe next year. And I added those shears to my shopping list too. I love these things you build and the details on how you do it. Inspiring and helpful!

    1. Thanks Mom! It’s been a bit of an adventure….as you know sometimes quite challenging, but we’re learning a lot!

  4. Your cold frame looks great. I wish I could get one like that myself. I wonder if which zone are you located? Do you think it will be warm enough in there for your roses and other plants to survive throught the cold winter? I am in zone 5 b, so I am afraid my roses will not survive in such cold frame and they need to be planted in the ground and well protected from cold by mulching etc.

    1. Hi Renata, we’re in zone 7 now. (We were in zone 6 up until about a year ago and we kept our container roses in our unheated garage back then.) It’s an experiment, for sure! 😉

  5. Suddenly, a cold frame sounds indispensable. I think my husband and I could do this. I learn so much here!

    I want to underscore what you said about Chas de Mills being large. And suckering. I’m trying to remove one. I took my problem to GardenWeb and they laughed. One said she read my question to her husband, and he laughed. Some said it will take years and lots of chemicals. Now the ground is frozen, and I am left with a big hole, hundreds of suckers and a tangled mass of enormous roots that go to China waiting for me come spring. It is beautiful. I wish I had known to plant it where it can get as large as it wants and where the suckers won’t come up in other roses. I can hardly tell the blooms apart from my well behaved Erinnerung an Brod that I grow as a large shrub. Just sayin’.

    Laurie, please share your story about Souvenir de la Malmaison!

    1. Jeepers I am really glad you added your experience with Charles! I didn’t add him to my garden for that very reason (having seen how huge and wild it was beginning to look in such a short time over at the PSU Arboretum.) My Tuscany Superb is suckering like crazy in this new garden and it’s been a bit alarming to my husband while I’m trying to tell him, no, don’t worry, it’ll be great. I might have to keep a better eye on that one!
      PS: My SDLM story isn’t that exciting, haha! But I’ll share the gist in my comment to Kimberly. 😉

    2. Oh PPS! Has anyone ever suggested solarizing the area where CdM is growing to kill the suckering roots? Might be just the thing (and avoids use of herbicides.)

  6. Andrea – I wish we lived near each other! I would have taken the beastie from you! 😉

    And yes, we need to hear the story, Laurie!

    1. Haha well it’s not that exciting, but here it is: I planted an own-root SDLM climber, years and years ago. I put it in the garden too soon, though, and the following winter was very severe and killed it, or so I thought. A few years go by and suddenly I see these tiny rose leaves poking out of the ground where it once was. It had been so long I had to try to remember what was once there! Sure enough, my tiny SDLM was trying to grow back. However, at that point, rose midge had taken a firm hold on my garden and none of the roses that had new growth could withstand the onslaught so it kept dying back. The Polar Vortex followed and I figured that was the final nail in the coffin. Fast forward another year or so and we’re packing up house to move to NC. I’m taking a final pass at the garden and what do I see but a tiny sprig of leaves again! Mind blown, I grab my shovel thinking I’ll move it, roots and all, to the new house. But, when I go to dig it up, it isn’t a plant with a nice rootball, it’s a rotting piece of old cane with a stem sprouting from the top and the tiniest, hair-like roots emerging from the bottom. I brought that piece with me, but sadly it didn’t survive the move…and yes I waited until just last spring to finally compost what was left! SDLM just wanted to GROW and was darn determined to under some of the worst circumstances which really impressed me. Needless to say, I’ve purchased another one and it’s happily installed in our new garden. 🙂

  7. That’s the sweetest story. SDLM really wanted to be in your garden! Her tough constitution betrays her fragile appearance. Mine is new and I was afraid you were going to say we ought never to plant that rose.

    I don’t mean to give Charles a bad rap – was just in the wrong place. I’m moving the largest sucker to where he can produce off spring to his heart’s content. Some say they plant him in grass so they can regularly mow around him to keep the suckers in check. I don’t know what solarizing is – explain?

    I wish we lived near each other, too, BrocantesueRose, so I could enjoy Charlie in YOUR garden. If there’s anything left of him next spring, and if you still want one, I can send you a sucker or cutting. Laurie has my email address and permission to email it to you.

    1. That’s so kind of you to offer pieces from your CdM! Kimberly, you can reach me at hedgerowrose@gmail.com if you’d like Andrea’s info. 🙂

      Yes, isn’t it funny I technically had a SDLM growing in our garden for years and years and never once saw a flower from it? I can’t wait for the new one we have planted in our garden to bloom. Let me know how yours does for you, too!

      Solarizing: essentially using plastic and the heat of the sun in summer months to kill persistent weeds, pathogens and such like. This is a really good article describing the practice. Hope it helps! 🙂

      1. Read and saved the article. I will do exactly that. It may not get the deep roots, but will give me a head start in getting the job done. Thank you!!

  8. Aww I’m so glad you shared the story of your SDLM! So sweet, she wasn’t going to give up!

    That’s funny that Tuscany Superb is making your honey a little nervous! That’s on my list of must haves for 2018. Goes to show my mother is right (don’t tell her) 🙂 she always says if there is a plant that will grown into a monster, I will grow it!

    Is it me or is CDM starting to sound like the tomcat of the rose garden? haha

    Thank you Andrea I will be sure to email Laurie for your email. You can always enjoy him via pictures of my garden. 😉

    1. I think that even if our TS takes over that whole side of the garden I’ll be happy b/c it’s one of my favorite roses! It will be interesting to see if the suckers flower this spring of if they’ll need more time.

      “Tomcat of the rose garden” haha! I love it!

      Emailing you with Andrea’s info! 🙂

  9. I’m sure your cold frame will work perfectly! I made a little tunnel out of bent wire mesh, sticks, duct tape, a trash bag, and plastic dropcloth, and all my plants survived and thrived. It stayed about 70 degrees inside. The only problem I had was the humidity inside causing a mold problem. I probably should’ve opened it up more often to let in fresh air. And fire-ants moved into the pots, but that would happen anywhere, around here. I might copy yours one of these days!

    1. Ugh those fire ants! I was just reading how they’ve been working their way further and further north due to the warmer winters. What do you do to rid yourself of them once they’re in your pots?

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