Building a cold frame can be very simple or quite complicated. Last fall I decided to use straw bales to make a temporary cold frame to protect my arugula for the winter. When I took the cover off this spring the arugula was green and healthy, looking mostly like it did last fall. It wasn’t covered the whole winter–only the really freezing days and nights. Towards the last part of the winter it ended up being covered almost the whole time.
It looked so wonderful to see all that green and healthy arugula at the end of the winter. Plus we ate fresh arugula during the winter!
My straw bale cold frame was very successful. We had an extremely cold winter with many nights in the teens and low twenties. Many nights, not just a few, which is unusual for us. But the arugula thrived and survived.
I had created another straw bale cold frame for beets and chard but I left gaps in the walls. The gaps just let in too much cold air. This was not good and the beets and chard appeared to have died. But now they are growing again so we will be able to eat some soon. Hurray!
The one drawback was the lack of a strong cover. Someone mentioned this in the comments. The row cover really doesn’t work if it snows. I wanted to use corrugated clear plastic but I couldn’t find any. I will continue to look for next year. Maybe at Lowe’s or another Home Depot. I looked at plexiglass but it was very expensive!
I improvised with a storm door screen which nicely covered the arugula patch. I used the screen under the row cover with a 2×4 over the middle of the patch for additional support. We had one significant snow–almost a foot. And it was very heavy, wet snow. The screen held up fine and it all actually turned out to be very successful. A further bonus to this system is now that it is spring I can use the straw bales for mulch. They are soaked and already rotting so they are a perfect addition to my garden!