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Cold Frame Snow Protection

04.15.11

We get snow at this time of year. It’s a sad fact. I remember big dumps of wet snow in May when leaves were out, seriously bending, breaking, and otherwise damaging trees. My garden notes from last year read:

May 30th: Well, it snowed a lot. Again. I’d say the rain barrels were refilled 3-4 times over, so maybe equivalent to 20mm+ of rain. Lots. And snow, well, it doesn’t so much like eggplant, tomatoes, and grapes. F@#&er. It’s been a rough spring on plants, not from a frost perspective, but from a snow perspective, and stretches of cold.”

I recall reading [Coleman, I think] that cold-hardy plants don’t tend to be destroyed by low temperature, but instead by ice, snow, wind, etc. I also know from experience that cold hardy seedlings like spinach and lettuces can handle some snow just fine. But I’m pretty sure the half-foot+ of heavy wet stuff we just got would squash a seedling.

So into the cold frames I went to see how they’ve changed my fate. I didn’t want to remove the snow, as -9C is in the forecast, and I’ll take the free temporary insulation. The lights [lids] had frozen on a bit, and needed a kick to break the ice. They were very heavy with wet snow. But inside…well, it looked like it did the day before the snow, not surprisingly. The transplants [seen below] were fine. The direct seeded seedlings [bottom] were hanging out as if nothing had happened. Brilliant.

Ever a fan of simple passive life-improving devices – ie, non energy consumptive such as my wine and root cellars – these cold frames have thoroughly impressed so far. I’ll likely be building more. Soon.

8 Responses

  1. Josh Eulert says:

    Kevin, where did you get the clear panels from? I’ve been looking to build a cold frame for my raised boxes, but haven’t been able to find anything big and cheap enough.

  2. Josh – I scored a plexi panel kit for a greenhouse on kijiji for $25 in the fall. I’ve also bought windows via kijiji for other uses, so would suggest that or one of the used/recycled construction materials places. Only downside is if your boxes are built, you have the challenge of finding the right size – I simply built the boxes to fit the plexi.

  3. brilliant Kevin! We are looking forward to the day when we can see the ground let alone start digging in it!

  4. CourtJ says:

    Seeing real seedlings coming up like this makes me happy :-) I am hoping to do some garden work this weekend, but will be a good bit behind where you are, although I do have chives. When I saw them peeking up through this weekend’s melting snow I almost cried. Maybe it was the return of snow that almost made me cry – haha.

  5. Josh Eulert says:

    Hey Kevin, if you’re interested in building more or bigger cold frames, you might look into corrugated polycarbonate sheets. They may be from a commercial big box store, but they’re cheaper than you’d think.

  6. John – I’m curious to hear how many days you figure we’re ‘behind’ in the growing season this year. It has to be significant.
    Court – Happy to make you happy! I know. One of the advantages to living northerly – poignant seasonal change.
    Josh – what would their usual use be?

  7. Josh says:

    Clear roof panels and greenhouses ironically enough. (The Green house panels you have, if plastic, are probably made of it.)

    However a word of caution, they contain BPA and I’m not sure if that’s a concern for you or not. (It’d have to leach out, not be eaten by soil bacteria, be taken up by the plants and not be metabolized by them, but I haven’t done enough reading to have an opinion on if the concern is overblown or not.)

  8. Addie says:

    The cold frame sounds like a great idea, especially since it isn’t energy consuming .. what other winter leafy vegetables have you tried in spring? (kale?)

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