Cold Frame – Yes, No, Maybe

Many of you wrote and emailed me about the use of cold frames to extend my short season here in Montana.  I have worked with this idea on and off in my time in Montana.  It is a perfect solution in so many ways, but I have struggled with how to beat the winds that blow here.

My cold frame worked something like this.

We have tried the simple traditional cold frame of a raised bed with a window on the top.   The picture here is  an online picture and not mine, but it was very similar.   It works well early in the season before you need to prop open the window.   Once I needed to prop open the window all bets were off.

I sit up slope on a hillside in a wide valley that funnels wind.   Though you would imagine that the winds always come from a single direction they can come from any direction and change in a nanosecond.   We can be victim to sudden down drafts as well. The wind here is  constant like the surf of an ocean, some times strong and violent like crashing waves  and other times no more than a gentle breeze like the sounds of water lapping at the shoreline.

It is hard to imagine living with this kind of wind constantly until you experience it.  In all the places I live this is one of a kind.   The winds here have created hail and blown shingles off, such that we went through almost a package before we gave up and went metal roof.   The wind has blown tables and even gas grills off of our deck.   Metal lawn chairs have tumbled and blown across the yard until they were stopped by the pasture fencing.   What all this means is the idea of propping open a window on a cold frame doesn’t work.   It is either gone or if tied down when propped open a mangled twisted mess once the wind fights with it.

I am still working with the cold frame idea and my raised beds are still intact, but I need to do some serious out of the box thinking to see if I can come up with something that will work to provide heat in early and late seasons.   I am watching Craig’s list, Free Cycle, the classifieds and even thinking of visiting the Habitat for Humanity recycle store for a couple of windows to try this again.   But I am in high thrifty mode as the windows ended up a broken mess and until I can solve the wind problem I am not too anxious to spend too much.    This time I will take some pictures and share with you some of the options I try.


3 comments on “Cold Frame – Yes, No, Maybe

  1. I am looking forward to learning from your experience. We have similar wind to yours here in the CO Rockies, though I don’t think as persistent. We are still in the researching and planning phase of cold frames and a greenhouse.

  2. How about building the box taller and then drilling some holes in the sides and adding covers that you move when you want ventilation. And so you can cross ventilate but only with limited access, perhaps also have screening across the holes to break up the airflow as the air passes through. This would allow window or remain in place but some ventilation to occur. I am thinking something like a canning lid screwed in with a screw on the outside over a 1″ hole and then you rotate it to the side to open hole for venting. Screen on inside. Also you might think about the angle of the hole, having it angle down towards dirt so it would limit ability if airflow to lift window off he frame. Don’t know if this would work, but when I read your post it came to mind. Hope you are able to find a solution.

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