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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

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:

The Rundown
This is one of the most durable, reliable, and easy cold frames on the market today.
Although it's not made from the most sustainable materials, this cold frame with protect your plants at an affordable price.
You’ll be able to grow just about anywhere you have sunshine with this easy-to-install frame.
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.
With two hinged lids, this compact cold frame gives easy access to your seedlings from all angles.
Spare your back from too much bending or kneeling with this elevated design.

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: Outsunny 5.91' W x 1.75' D Cold Frame

Outsunny Cold Frame

Although it's not made from the most sustainable materials, this lightweight cold frame with protect your plants from chilly weather at an affordable price. Transparent polycarbonate panels are supported by an aluminum framework, with an adjustable roof for ventilation. This cold frame has no floor, so it's good if you want to protect plants that have already been planted directly in the ground. It measures 21 x 71 x 20.25 inches.

The main drawback of this cold frame is assembly. It ships in a flatpack (which is good for shipping efficiency), but that means you need to build the structure yourself at home. Give yourself at least half an hour to put it together, and be sure to keep track of the many screws and small components.

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 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 for Small Spaces: Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame

Gardman 7650 Large Wooden Cold Frame

With two hinged lids, this compact cold frame gives easy access to your seedlings from all angles. Measuring 35 inches long x 31 wide x 35 inches tall, it's big enough to kickstart your garden without hogging up too much space. The frame is made from FSC-certified timber and twin-walled polycarbonate to allow in sunlight and insulate your plants. You can even lock the lids open to allow for ventilation.

Best Elevated: Happy Grill Wooden Cold Frame

Happy Grill Cold Frame

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). Measuring 30 inches wide x 22.5 inches deep x 43 inches tall, it has two shelves for vertical gardening.

You can open the wood unit both from the side and the top, making for easy access and ventilation. Polycarbonate glazing board keeps your plants warm. Plus, all parts are detachable, so you can set it up wherever and move it as the season shifts.

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. If you're on a budget, consider the Outsunny cold frame (available from Wayfair).

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.