Cold Frame Snow Protection

KevinCold Frames, From the Garden, Shoulder Season Gardening, Spring Veg, Vegetables8 Comments

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 Comments on “Cold Frame Snow Protection”

  1. Josh Eulert

    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. Kevin Kossowan

    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. CourtJ

    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.

  4. Josh Eulert

    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.

  5. Kevin Kossowan

    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?

  6. Josh

    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.)

  7. Addie

    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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