The 7 Best Cold Frames, According to a Master Gardener

You’ll be eating fresh greens throughout the year when you set up your very own cold frame

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The Rundown
"This is one of the most durable, reliable, and easy cold frames on the market today."
"Want an affordable way to take a cold frame for a test drive? This one is perfect."
"You’ll be able to grow just about anywhere you have sunshine with this easy-to-install frame."
"If you have a small space or want to add a growing area on your deck or patio, then this cold frame greenhouse is ideal."
"Support an Etsy craftsperson with this cold frame handmade from cedar."
"Since it easily pops up, you can pretty much create a mini garden instantly. "
"Spare your back from too much bending or kneeling with this elevated design."

It’s not just a far-fetched dream to be growing and eating your own food during colder months. Cold frames make it completely possible. Similar to the benefits you can get from greenhouses, cold frames allow you to extend your garden by months, even harvesting fruits, veggies, and herbs in winter (depending on where you live). Plus, it’s a really affordable and easy way to dabble in off-season gardening or seed starting in early spring. 

Unlike greenhouses or grow lights, which might take a little more investment or time to get started, cold frames offer a pretty quick and easy set-up. If you're handy, you could even build your own, using scrap or upcycled wood. Some people have even figured out how to turn old windows into inexpensive cold frames. One of the best perks of having a cold frame is that it’s an investment that will pay off for years. Once you have a designated growing space, it shouldn’t require much maintenance, and you’ll be able to use it in every season. Cold frames are truly one of the easiest ways to extend your season, whether you want to keep growing in fall, eat greens in winter, or get an early start in spring.

Here are the best cold frames to consider:

Best Overall: Exaco Trading Biostar 1500 Cold Frame

Biostar 1500 Cold Frame

This is one of the most durable, reliable, and easy cold frames on the market today. Made to withstand up to 6 feet of snow with extra strength and insulation, it’s truly an option for any climate. When it’s all put together, the unit sits at 50 inches long x 23 inches wide x about 1 foot tall.

Gardeners especially love it because they can break it down and store it flat during the height of the season, allowing them to maximize their growing space. There are three separate roof windows—one even has an automated opener, which comes in handy when you want to quickly open it up for ventilation. Since it comes with a 10-year warranty, you can feel good knowing this unit can help you extend your season for years to come.

Best Budget: Giantex Wood Cold Frame

Giantex Wood Cold Frame

Want an affordable way to take a cold frame for a test drive? This one is perfect, made from fir wood and easy to assemble. At 40 inches long x 26 inches wide x 16 inches tall, it’s the perfect size to get started.

Be sure to pick a sunny location for your set-up. Then the transparent polycarbonate glazing boards will do the rest, allowing your plants to soak up as much sunlight as possible to help with the photosynthesis process. If you’re thinking of starting your own seeds, this cold frame is perfect. You’ll have plenty of space and good ventilation from the hinged lid to ensure you are successful.

Best Portable: Frame It All Extendable Cold Frame Greenhouse 4'x4'

Frame It All Extendable Cold Frame Greenhouse

You’ll be able to grow just about anywhere you have sunshine with this easy-to-install frame. It starts as a 4-foot x 4-foot design, and then it’s expandable, meaning you can connect two or three together to create a bigger growing space.

The steel frames won’t rust, and the PVC cover is heavy duty and able to stand up to just about any weather. It’s such a simple, yet affordable design that will truly give you the power to extend your growing season or start seeds weeks earlier than usual. Move it around anywhere you need it, or keep it in one spot throughout the year.

Best for a Small Space: MCombo Wooden Cold Frame Greenhouse 0760

MCombo Wooden Cold Frame Greenhouse

If you have a small space or want to add a growing area on your deck or patio, then this cold frame greenhouse will be perfect. It sits 43 inches high x nearly 30 inches long x 18 inches wide. It also comes with double doors and a shelf, giving you easy access to all your plants and the flexibility to grow vertically.

You should be able to assemble the entire unit in under 30 minutes, and you can feel good knowing it carries a one-year warranty. While it is made with fir wood and will withstand the elements of nature, it’s light and easy enough to move it inside or out as needed. Use it for starting seeds in spring, growing flowers in summer, and herbs pretty much anytime of the year.

Best Handmade: Home Garden LLC Cedar Cold Frame

Home Garden LLC Cedar Cold Frame

Support a craftsperson with this cold frame handmade from cedar. Once assembled (easy instructions are included), it sits 48 inches long x 24 inches wide x 14 inches tall. It also includes a double-wall polycarbonate top that allows the cold frame to absorb sunlight to help keep plants warm in cold weather. It's a quality design, and the seller is quick to respond if you have questions.

If this cold frame inspires you to want to build an entire piece on your own, then check out the plans from this artisan on Etsy. It comes with detailed instructions and all the info you need to build one from start to finish.

Best Pop-Up: Zenport SH3212A Garden Cold Frame Greenhouse Cloche

Zenport SH3212A Garden Cold Frame Greenhouse Cloche

Here’s another affordable option for creating your own cold frame. Since it easily pops up (full size is 47 inches long x 23 inches wide x 23 inches tall), you can pretty much create a mini garden instantly. It’ll work great in your existing garden, on a deck, a patio, or any other sunny location where you have the space.

The waterproof, transparent cover is easy to zip up, offering easy access to plants and good ventilation. When you’re done with the frame, just fold it flat for storage. This would be a simple solution for starting your own seeds in spring. Just put your seed-starting trays down, and cover with this portable frame.

Best Elevated: Outdoor Living Today 6 ft x 3 ft Cold-Frame Greenhouse

Outdoor Living Today 6 ft x 3 ft Cold-Frame Greenhouse

Cold frames are traditionally low to the ground, but with this one, you don’t have to do a lot of bending or kneeling because it’s elevated (your back will thank you). It’s 72 inches long x 36 inches wide x nearly 35 inches tall. It’s part cold frame and part mini greenhouse with its polycarbonate panels to really soak up the sun.

The unit is made from western red cedar, which is ideal for the outdoors since it’s naturally resistant to insects, decay, and water damage. It’s a little higher in price than most cold frames, but it's durable and will definitely be a system that you can count on for years.

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with the Biostar Premium Cold Frame (view at Amazon), which you can find at many major retails. It gets top reviews time and time again. For those looking to get started at a lower price point, try the wooden Giantex Wood Cold Frame (view at Amazon).

Why Trust Treehugger

Treehugger wants to help you grow year-round, allowing you to be more sustainable and self-sufficient. The author, Stacy Tornio, is a master gardener who lives in Wisconsin, so she knows how important it is to extend the growing season as much as possible. She’s been gardening since she was a kid and writing about plants for over 15 years.