Building a Cold Frame Frugally

Frugal Low Cost Cold FrameI know this is a bit off-topic for my blog, but it can be a fun and frugal activity to build a cold frame, if you already grow some of your food yourself so indulge me on this one. According to Wikipedia cold frame is a “is a transparent-roofed enclosure, built low to the ground, used to protect plants from cold weather. The transparent top admits sunlight and prevents heat escape via convection that would otherwise occur, particularly at night. Essentially, a cold frame functions as a miniature greenhouse season extension device.” Can I just say I love the efficiency of Wikipedia definitions. Anyway, after we had some raised beds installed this summer I began thinking it might be nice to extend our growing season a bit in the winter as well as getting an early start in the spring.

There are hundreds of videos out there that show you how to build your own cold frame. This is the one I watched (no longer available) and based my design upon. He seemed like a nice down-to-earth guy, and the design was relatively simple (Note: I did not include the vent or the curved wood at the ends). I literally watched the video one time then I set about making a 4’x8′ cold frame (roughly 32 square feet) for my raised bed garden.

So, since this is a personal finance blog, I should probably address my costs:

$7.00 – 14 miles roundtrip to Lowes at fifty cents a mile
$9.56 – 4 2″x4″x93″s
$8.40 – 5 1/2″x10′ PVC pipes
$2.26 – 1 package of 10 1/2″ 2-hole pipe brackets
$13.98 – 10’x25′ 4mm plastic sheeting
$41.20 – Total cost*

* Excludes costs of circular saw, drill, 1.25″ and 2″ screws, staple gun, and staples which were on hand and my 2 hrs max of labor

I think that’s pretty affordable considering the growing possibilities. Given an estimated 10 year life, if I can squeeze about $4 worth of extra food per year from the added growing season, it’ll pay for itself. I think that’s pretty doable. All-in-all this was a pretty fun project and one where a 4 year-old can actually be pretty useful if he’s not afraid to drill.

Have you ever built a cold frame? What vegetables do you find grow best? Should I have included that ventilation system? Comments welcome!

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