If you plan to start a good many seeds prior to transplanting them into your garden, there is nothing more satisfactory and helpful, short of a greenhouse, than a cold frame. You can buy a finished cold frame, one ready to assemble from a kit or as a partial kit with the hardware and specifications for the lumber needed, or you can make your own cold frame from an old storm window and whatever used lumber you might have lying around in your garage or basement. Cold frames have a top-to-bottom slant to invite the southern sun into every corner of the box. Window orientation should be slanted toward the south.
A cold frame allows you to plant your seeds outside the house, eliminate clutter inside, and keep your seed germinating and your seedlings growing even through a frost or two. When the top is closed, the temperature inside is enough higher than outside to keep plants from freezing. It's a good idea to hang a thermometer inside to keep tabs on the temperature. If there is a dramatic drop anticipated (a freeze coming). throw a tarpaulin or old blanket over the entire cold frame to beat the freeze and save the plants. The addition of a little newspaper under the tarpaulin or blanket gives additional heat and protection. At the other extreme, when the sun gets hot it can roast the plants, so keep the top open during the day when the temperature outside the cold frame gets to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Some manufactured cold frames come with automatic thermostats that open the cold frame on hot days and close it on cold days to control the temperature.
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