Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Post: Get a Jump-start on Spring with a Cold Frame!

Last fall, I happened across author Niki Jabbour's blog the Year Round Veggie Gardener, and I was so impressed with the work that she was doing with cold frames, that I asked her to do a guest post. Since that time, Niki's book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, has been published with great success and has recently been given the 2012 Book Award by The American Horticultural Society. 

This month, I have invited Niki back to do a second guest post. This time around, I asked her to give us a quick overview on the ways in which a cold frame can be used in the spring to get a jump-start on the summer growing season. Be sure to check out Niki's appearance dates at the end of the post and enter the book giveaway. I am now going to hand the reins of this post over to Niki:

I love my cold frames. In fact, if I could only choose one type of season extender, my top pick would be a simple cold frame.

Not only are they relatively inexpensive to make, often crafted out of recycled materials, but they can be used in fall, winter and even spring to shelter cool and cold season vegetables, letting me enjoy a bumper crop of homegrown veggies 365 days a year.

In fact, once our day length stretches past 10 hours in early February, I begin sowing fresh seed in any empty patches of the cold frames - arugula, Swiss chard, endive, tatsoi, spinach, lettuce, scallions, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes, pak choi and so much more!

Enjoying a gourmet baby mesclun salad months before most gardeners have even broken ground on their gardens gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.

Plus, growing food in a cold frame is incredibly easy! I amend the soil with compost, aged manure or worm poop between crops, water when the soil is dry and ventilate the frame by propping open the top whenever the temperature climbs above 4 C.

Our cold frames are crafted from 2-inch thick local untreated hemlock. It is extremely rot-resistant wood, but it’s also much more economical than cedar. The thickness of the wood lends extra insulation against the winter weather and our frames are buried several inches in the ground for further protection.

A cold frame is also a great spot to start seedlings that will eventually be transferred to the garden.

From veggies and herbs to flowers like pansies, calendula and borage. Even indoor started crops can be moved to a cold frame to finish hardening off before being transplanted to the garden. Remember to give them a few days of shade/sun before moving them to the cold frame so they can acclimatize to the bright light. Then, open the frame during mild days and close it at night to provide protection from the chilly nights.

A cold frame may simply be a bottomless box with a translucent top, but it’s one of the top tools in my garden!

It has turned my 6 month garden into a year round food factory!

Jennifer: Many thanks to Niki for doing this guest post.

All the photos in this post are excerpted from the Year Round Vegetable Gardener © Joseph DeSciose, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

More Information and Links:

About Niki Jabbour:

Niki is a garden writer and radio host from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (Storey Publishing) will be available in December 2011. Niki's radio show, the Weekend Gardener airs March through October across the Maritime provinces in Canada on Niki's work can also be found in Gardens East, Garden Making and Canadian Gardening magazines. Follow Niki's adventures on facebook or at

Canadians can pre-order a copy of Niki's book, The Year Round Veggie Gardener by clicking here.

Pre-order on by clicking here.

Book Giveaway: Niki has given me a copy of her book to give away to one lucky reader. 

If you would like to be included in the draw for the copy of Niki's book, please leave a comment below. If you are too shy to leave a comment, but would still like to be included in the draw, please feel free to drop me a line by email and I will be glad to throw your name in the hat. Draw to take place on Saturday, March 17th at 10am my time.

Upcoming Appearance Dates For Niki Jabbour, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener:

Place: Boston Flower Show
Date: Wednesday, March 14th
Time: 3:30 pm (Niki will be speaking at 3:30 pm, followed by a book signing)

Place: Canada Blooms
Date: Friday, March 16th
Time: 1pm (Niki will be speaking at 1pm, followed by a book signing)

Place: Sheridan Nurseries Booth at Canada Blooms
Date: Saturday, March 17th
Time: Details to Follow

 On separate note, if you will be visiting Canada Blooms, be sure to squeeze in a little time for what is bound to be an interesting lecture by fellow blogger Patty King. Patty will be speaking on the History of Gardening in Canada as part of Canada Bloom's Master Gardener Speakers Series. Date: Monday, March 19th at 2 pm, Rm 105, Hall A.


  1. I would love to win a copy of Nikki's book. I found your blog when your husband mentioned it on CBC's Ontario Today. You will need to thank him I'm sure he's turned on a whole bunch of new people to your blog!!

  2. I love your blog! Your pictures and gardens are beautiful!! I would also love to win a copy of the "Year-Round Vegetable Gardener".

  3. Hi there, great blog! I also heard your husband on the radio today :o)
    I garden in northern NY, about 25 minutes south of Cornwall. Would love a chance at this book!

  4. Nothing shy about me! I would love to win the book! I've often wondered about cold frames and would love to learn more about their placement and soil. I just love the picture of all the beautiful lettuces and/or leafy crops growing. That would be such fun. Hey, don't feel bad about your Christmas arrangement still being alive:) We are kindred souls!

  5. Jennifer - Thank you so much for the plug on my talk at Canada Blooms. I am surprised too as I have not said anything on my blog yet. I hope you get to see the show and enjoy some good speakers (and maybe bring home a plant or two).

    1. Hi Patty, Anything to help a friend! I saw your name on the Canada Blooms list of speakers and thought that I should give it a mention. Hope all went well and you had a good turnout.

  6. Those cold frames look so wonderful with all those spring greens in there. Wonderful!!!

  7. Had never thought of sinking the cold frame into the soil, what a good idea. We have some old windows and some raised beds so I'm sure we can bring the 2 together and make something to start our seeds, hope they look as happy as yours!

  8. I have been toying with the idea of a cold frame for several seasons. Your pictures make me realize it is such an easy thing that I will have to be sure and set one up. I'm looking forward to enjoying my veggies much later into the season. Niki's book looks like one that I definitely need to read. Thanks.

  9. I'm fortunate to already have a copy of Niki's book but I can vouch that it has become my gardening bible in the last few weeks. So many great ideas on how to extend the season and my favourite, very clear tabs next to each vegetable telling me exactly when to plant them.

  10. I think we may have to try cold frames for greens in spite of our milder climate because the bunnies ate all of ours this year!

  11. Count me in please!

    -Britt T.


  12. This was a great post! I have been considering getting a cold frame to have more veggies in the winter. This post answered some of the questions I had...thanks!

  13. In temperate climes, you have protective structures from frost. We here at the tropics use protective structures from extremely hot sun or extremely heavy rainfall. These days, it has found another purpose, to exlude pests and diseases from attacking the vegies, now that organic produce is the need of the times.

  14. Fantastic, I am sold on the cold frames. I wonder if I can buy a 20kilo bag of worm poop Nikki.

  15. Nikki reminds me of our own wonderful, homegrown vegetable gardening guru and enthusiast, Jane Griffiths! You might enjoy reading up on her a bit, to get the SA perspective
    Both Nikki and Jane possess that wonderful quality of being able to share their passion in an enthusiastic and fun way. I wish I could have the success they have with the apparent ease in which they do so!

  16. I wish I had the space at home for a cold frame, but loads of space at the farm. They really are season extenders and I bet there is a lot to learn from her book.

  17. Would love to win her book. I have always wanted a cold frame.

  18. Awesome! Thanks so much for the chance to win. I'd love this book!

  19. Hello Jennifer! I followed your comment to your blog, and voila!

    I found this post very interesting. I am such a newbie gardener. I have a question: we are in Zone 5 here in PEI. When could I start planting in a cold frame?

    Soon, hopefully, so now I have to ask my husband to build me one!

    p.s. Love your doggies! All dogs must love the thrill of squirrel chasing, eh?

    1. I will try to get Niki to get back to you with some PEI specific advice.

  20. Would love to win a copy - and leave it out for my husband to see! GREAT photos by Joe too.

  21. Great ideas for cold frames in a changeable climate. Just about every aspiring home gardener could use a copy of Niki's book and I'm no exception. Thanks!


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