Extend Your Growing Season with Simple Backyard Coldframes or Hoop Gardens

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This one’s for the gardeners. The days are getting longer and we have a renewed hope for spring, that annual rebirth, the guarantee for a brand new growing season. Yesterday I already heard the first of the season’s Red Winged Blackbirds singing along South Boulder Creek. The Sandhill Cranes will be appearing in Nebraska shortly to fatten up on their way to Siberia, and the gardening catalogues are rolling in, too.

Serious gardeners itch for ways to extend the season both in the early spring and in the late fall. Here’s hoping that some of the photos below will serve to inspire you to take on a project to extend the season in your own space.

Here where I live in plant hardiness Zone 5 in Colorado, we raise greens for all but three months of the year in our backyard, and our seasonal extension comes from adding a four by six foot hoop garden bed. Our hoop garden is located under an evergreen tree which takes advantage of the sun’s angle in the off season for growing, and is shaded in the summertime. By locating it in such a spot we are not only extending the growing season, we have extended the available precious growing space available in the yard.

Don’t forget to know your seeds. By planting greens with the best cold tolerance, you can extend your season even more. Some seeds worth considering are spinach, mache, arugula, chard, claytonia, radish, winter lettuce mixes, italian dandelion, and mizuna.

Below, is a collection of photos of other gardener’s projects meant to inspire you to come up with a design that works well in your space…….

In this first photo, a hoop garden greenhouse was built to fit over an existing raised garden bed.

Next, here is a tidy cold frame made from corrugated plastic and a wooden frame benefiting from the thermal solar collection of the brick wall behind it. Thermal heat can be improved by adding plastic gallon milk jugs filled with water against the back wall of the coldframe, too.

This classic cold frame is located on the protected and sunny south side of a house using wood and plastic as materials.

Here someone has utilized an urban front yard space to grow a garden containing a simple A-frame plastic greenhouse. The small photo to the right shows an inner detail of that same greenhouse space showing us that the frame is constructed with strong bamboo posts.

This simple project was done by a boy with just plastic and left over bricks. The family will be able to reclaim the space easily for their summer garden.

This gardener used jars as mini-greenhouses to start seeds. The setup extended the season just slightly for lettuces grown on a protected bench behind a house.

The photo below shows us what appears to be the gardening space of a very serious Chicago gardener. Multiple growing beds are covered with spun polyester garden fabric and black plastic mulch is covering spaces between the beds.

For those desiring something bigger, here’s a simple, small backyard greenhouse that was a d.i.y. project using plastic and a wood frame with a corrugated plastic roof. (It looks like it needs a spot protected from the wind.)

Finally, this busy grower utilized indoor windows to the maximum, to start tomatoes early in recycled plastic food containers.

5 thoughts on “Extend Your Growing Season with Simple Backyard Coldframes or Hoop Gardens

  1. DB

    Very interesting. I have found that you can make a functional coldframe from just about anything. Practically any piece of clear or translucent plastic over any kind of frame will do the trick. I have even used those clear plastic boxes that bakery goods come in or the big round plastic lids that cover pizzas or deli trays. Use your imagination!

    1. K. McDonald Post author

      The simpler the better and you might as well recycle something in the process. It is rather concerning how much plastic is used for gardening and farming these days, though, isn’t it?

  2. Anonymous

    As a new gardener wanting to try some of these ideas, I don’t read about watering. Do you water before, during or just plant and cover?

    1. K. McDonald Post author

      Yes, you would need to water your seeds in, and then check your moisture level thereafter. You don’t want to overwater, but you don’t want it to dry out, either. You monitor the moisture just as you would a regular garden or pot but it’s a little trickier since it is covered. Good question!


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