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Whilst it is advantageous to start seedlings of early indoors, it is frustrating if you do not have sufficient means to harden off the plants before planting outdoors. A cold frame is excellent for this purpose, providing protection for your young plants. Cold frames can be expensive to purchase but they are fairly simple to make for anyone with a basic understanding of DIY. Your plants will appreciate your efforts.
Because a cold frame is unheated it acts as a transient stage between seedlings and planting outdoors. Place the cold frame in a sunny position, ideally south facing, if you wish to give young plants an early start in the spring. Ventilation is important within the cold frame, and the opening glass lid allows this to happen successfully.
In order to make your cold frame you will require wood for the sides, and a glass/perspex panel or window for the top. Common sizes for a cold frame are 75 cm wide x 20cm deep x 15 cm high, giving a growing space of two m2. However, the size of your cold frame will depend on what plants you are growing, how much space you have within your garden and what materials you are using so I have not gone into specific measurements here.
The cold frame slopes downwards from back to front, in order to increase amount of sunlight inside and to allow run off of rain water. To determine the size of your cold frame base, measure the size of your glass/perspex sheet after it has been framed in timber, or your windows. The size of your frame should allow this top to sit on the base securely. Build your base from slats of wood, ensuring that the back of the cold frame is 5cm higher than the front. Use screws to secure the slats into the corner pieces. You will need to cut the top slats on the side of the frame at an angle in order to accommodate this gentle lean. Secure the glass panel or windows to the frame, using hinges on one side to allow opening. If required, you can insulate your cold frame with polystyrene tiles.
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