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Cold frame alternatives?

MontysGalMontysGal South WalesPosts: 51
I hope this isn’t going to sound really silly, but here goes....

We've got a small garden, and it’s my first year of what I call “proper” gardening! I’ve taken some cuttings, and would love a cold frame to over winter them in, but we just don’t have the space.

I was wondering if these boxes would make a practical alternative? I thought the way the split lids can open was good, and could be propped open at an angle with a small cane for ventilation, much like a cold frame lid? Holes drilled into the bottom so any rain that might get in could drain out? They could also be moved easily if needed.

Then, when it’s time next year to plant out (and we will be using the garden again so all, the furniture etc comes out), the boxes can be stacked and neatly stored away in the shed, giving us much needed space back.

Would it work do you think, or am I being daft? Any other alternative suggestions? Our garden is quite well-sheltered from frost unless we get snow, but it does get very wet during the winter months.

Thanks! Xx



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  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,042
    I don't quite understand your space problem: if you have room for the plastic containers why don't you have room for a cold frame? Is it the summer storage rather than space while the plants are inside? I believe that many cold frames come as flat-packs and could clearly be stored back in their boxes.
    The plastic containers you show don't look very convenient to me in terms of seed trays and pots because many look tall and narrow, while you really need floor space.
  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 1,618
    I think it would work as a means of keeping seedlings or cuttings slightly cosseted but I have reservations. Firstly you could only fit two seed trays or eighteen small pots in each box. Have you worked out what you would be overwintering? Secondly I do not like the opaque nature of the lids because the greatest challenge of getting seedlings through winter is not frost or rain but lack of light. I fear your plants could become etiolated and get off to a very poor start, possibly not recovering.

    I fully agree with Posy. Consider a flat pack cold frame and come late spring dismantle it, put it back in its box and store it away.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 33,155
    I think they'd be fine as a means of keeping the worst weather off seedlings/cuttings, although they will have minimal protection in terms of warmth, but I'd agree with @Posy. If you have room for a couple of those, you could have a sturdier cold frame  :)

    It also depends what kinds of plants you're overwintering. The majority are going to be dormant, or seedlings which you wouldn't want loads of warmth for through winter, as that's counter productive. Anything less hardy needs proper protection and possibly warmth. 

    They're no different in opacity to many cold frames which use polycarbonate - probably better in terms of light. My growhouse is the polycarbonate, and is fine for any overwintering young plants/seeds if needed  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • MontysGalMontysGal South WalesPosts: 51
    Thank you all for your advice. 

    @Posy Yes, the space issue is more storage come the summer when we use the garden again, rather than during the winter when it would be in use. I actually didn’t realise that you can get flatpack coldframes that can be dismantled each year, I will look into that, thank you.

    Its just cuttings this year, I don’t envisage starting any seedlings.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 33,155
    How good are your DIY skills @MontysGal? A basic timber frame, hinged at the corners, and a piece of poly carbonate for a lid would be quite simple to make, and could be folded away when you need the room. You could fasten the lid on with cabin hooks rather than hinges to make it easier to dismantle. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • sarinkasarinka Posts: 142
    do you have a really cold room in your house that never gets heated? I am blessed with several. :wink: i am going to try to over winter my sweetpeas  on the windowsill in the spare room. indirect light, no  frost, but really flipping cold!
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 6,953
    edited 15 September
    Last year I used two green recycling boxes, with holes in the bottom, covered in fleece around the sides and over the top. I put pelargoniums in there to overwinter (just to keep the frost away) as I have little window sill space in the house. I had a about six pots there. My boxes are not very tall, but I thought the plants might suffer from lack of light, esp in a north facing garden in winter. But no. It worked very well and I will be doing it again.

    I think a clear wheelie box like the one above will work fine. I would recommend having one where you can remove the lid entirely to allow for good ventilation and ease of access. And a box as low and flat as you can find, so that you can fit more in. If you are just doing a few seedlings I think it would be fine. Good for sweet peas in early spring. I would fleece the box with horticultural fleece. It's see through and lets light in.


  • MontysGalMontysGal South WalesPosts: 51
    Fairygirl said:
    How good are your DIY skills @MontysGal? A basic timber frame, hinged at the corners, and a piece of poly carbonate for a lid would be quite simple to make, and could be folded away when you need the room. You could fasten the lid on with cabin hooks rather than hinges to make it easier to dismantle. 
    It is something I have been thinking about...there’s a load of that corrugated plastic roof stuff in the shed that I was wondering about making use of..... It’s just the skills I’m lacking 😂 
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 2,831
    edited 15 September
    Not silly at all, I have used clear storage boxes in the same way. Only problem is they go brittle after a year exposed to the elements. They look a bit scrappy in use too.

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 2,831
    edited 15 September
    I would probably use something like a scaffold board frame with a sheet of twinwall poly on top next time.

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