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Cold frame and seedlings

Is it possible to put seedlings (foxgloves, ammi majus, aquilegia) in a cold frame at this time of year and expect them to survive? It's forecasted cold weather, -6C at night but hovering around 0C during the day. I've never had a cold frame so unsure how it works.

I was going to take a large plastic container and line it with either bubble wrap or cardboard on the sides but leave the lid clear. Would that work? Does it need any holes for ventilation or just leave it as it is?


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,960
    Foxgloves are hardy, so need no protection. Aquilegias are pretty robust too.
    Cold frames are useful for overwintering small plants, or starting seeds off, but it's more about the timing than anything else. If you start seeds too soon, you have to have somewhere to grow them on until they can cope outside.
    As you've already sown seed, and they're now seedlings, I'm assuming you've had them indoors in a warm environment, so you'll need to acclimatise them. Putting them outside through the day for a few hours and bringing them in at night for a while, before leaving them in the cold frame completely. It's important that they have ventilation, so make sure you can open the lid during the day, gradually leaving it open at night when they become accustomed to the temps. Once you get to that stage, you can remove them and plant out in summer if they're big enough, or grow on outside until they're much bigger plants.

    You may lose some regardless, as they won't really have the right conditions to grow on, but as they're all sturdy plants, most should survive. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • kasjkkasjk Posts: 137
    Hi Fairygirl, thanks for the reply, that makes total sense. The seedlings have been grown in a fairly cold room of the house, no heating, so they're already used to somewhat cold weather. But nothing like the outside of course. I will wait a little bit longer before putting them in my makeshift cold frame, just in case :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,960
    It's just one of those things where you have to apply a bit of common sense and patience. Not always easy though ;)

    We often get asked this sort of thing on the forum, because the timings on seed packets are a huge generalisation, and don't take into account the different conditions and climates that people have in the UK. People then start them too soon, leading to disappointment etc.
    Most of us have been there, and not realised the reason for failures or problems, so that's where the forum is such a big help. At least if you know the reasons for something not working, you can look at different ways to address it and get a better result.
    With your foxgloves and aquilegias, think about how they 'work' in nature, and try to replicate that. The ammis might be slightly different - I haven't yet grown those :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • kasjkkasjk Posts: 137
    Yeah you're right, I actually started my seeds far too early because I just couldn't wait any longer 😊 Wish I'd waited at least two months, as I now have lots of seedling growing in pots and nowhere to put them! Also, they might have got a tiny bit leggy because I sowed them so early but nothing that can't be fixed.

    Next year I'm definitely waiting until March to sow any kind of seeds indoors. I winter sowed quite a few seeds some years ago and they came up brilliantly so I think that's the way forward if I must sow early.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,960
    We've all done it - keen for spring to arrive  :)
    There's lots of things that can be autumn sown, and that can give a head start in spring, but again, your own conditions dictate whether that's any help or not.

    There's another thread just now about sweet peas, which I've posted on, which is in a similar vein. For me, it's not really worth sowing them in autumn because you still have to wait to get them acclimatised in spring. The spring, direct sown ones catch up because the autumn usually just sit there sulking after having a bit of protection. For some reason [probably boredom  ;) ] I did some in autumn, and they've grown well because it's been very benign here, but I'll have to wait ages to plant them out, because winter has now arrived. Such is life.  :D
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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