The best cold frames to protect your plants and help them flourish, no matter the season

See growing success with a dedicated space to cultivate and care for your plants.

Best cold frames

by Amy-Mae Turner |
Updated on

If you're looking to up your growing game, whatever the weather, consider investing a small amount in one of the best cold frames. A cold frame can be a low-cost and space-saving alternative to a standard greenhouse, or can increase your growing space if you already have one. Cold frames are useful for so many reasons; they trap sunlight and create a warm environment for your plants to flourish, and they protect from adverse weather, such as heavy rain and wind. The other huge benefit a cold frame offers is protection. Protection from common garden pests such as birds, slugs, and snails - and even pets and wayward footsteps that might trample vulnerable plants.

Cold frames can be used to grow a bunch of different plants. Raised cold frames, especially those with a built-in bed, are often used as year-round herb gardens. Frames placed on the ground can help you nurture seedlings, cuttings, and other young plants. You can speed up the growing and ripening process of summer crops like salad tomatoes, peppers, chillies, and aubergines, and salad plants and greens will benefit from the protection a cold frame offers. Bedding and pot plants can even be brought into a cold frame before you plant them outdoors and in the winter months, they can help protect alpines and other annuals from the cold.

Best cold frames at a glance:

Best overall cold frame

Spear & Jackson Coldframe1

Best budget cold frame

Woodside Outdoor Wooden Cold Frame

Best raised bed cold frame

TecTake Raised Garden Bed with Cold Frame

Best cold frame with wooden sides

Outsunny Wooden Cold Frame

Traditional cold frames have a rectangular wooden or aluminium frame with transparent glass or acrylic sides and a sloping roof, but there are some variations out there that may be more suitable for your needs. We're taking a look at classic cold frames, as well as one with an apex roof to give you more growing height, and raised cold frames that offer more ergonomic access and include built-in storage. Whether you're looking to buy your first cold frame, or looking to replace an existing one, have a browse of our selection below.

Best cold frame for your garden

Best overall cold frame

Spear & Jackson cold frame Spear & Jackson/Amazon
Price: $75.71

Spear & Jackson is a well-trusted brand when it comes to tools, but it also offers gardening equipment, like this capable cold frame. This has a wooden frame and textured plastic panes for safety and durability. There are strong and durable metal hinges to open the roof and keep it propped up.

The wood used in the construction of this frame has been given a 'Tanalised' finish. Tanalised timber has been pressure-treated with special chemicals. This does several things; it preserves the wood by preventing decay, it shields the wood from adverse weather conditions, whether that's rain or strong sun, and it can help repel insects and other pests.

This measures in at 90cm long, 45cm wide, and stands at 46cm at its tallest point. It's a lightweight choice, weighing in at 3.3 kilograms, making it a strong contender for anyone who wants to be able to move it around their outside space.

Pros

  • The wood frame has been given a 'Tanalised' finish for longevity
  • All fasteners and comprehensive assembly instructions included

Cons

  • Some reviewers consider it too lightweight

Best budget cold frame

Woodside cold frame Woodside/Amazon

This affordable cold frame from Woodside is a great choice for anyone who wants a simple and budget-friendly cold frame for seasonal use - whether you're trying to protect seedlings, or to be used as a halfway house between the greenhouse and planting out into the great outdoors.

Offering a simple way to extend your garden's greenhouse square footage, this has a hard pine wood frame and a hinged lid. The lid can be propped open at an angle that suits your needs by tightening and loosening the metal wing nuts in the hinges. The transparent panels are made of a PC plastic.

This offers a relatively generous footprint measuring in at 100cm long, 65cm wide, and stands around 40cm tall. It should give you enough room for several seed trays, or between six to eight average-size plant pots.

Pros

  • The frame's lid can be propped open for vital ventilation
  • At a metre long and 65cm wide this offers plenty of space

Cons

  • Wooden frame has not been pressure-treated

Best raised bed cold frame

TecTake cold frame TecTake/Amazon

This option combines two gardening greats - a raised bed and a cold frame. While you can use this for seedlings and seasonal plants, many reviewers love using this TecTake product as a permanent outdoor herb garden, something it's perfectly suited for. Its ergonomic height also makes it a strong option for anyone who would struggle to tend to a cold frame on the ground.

This gives you a fully lined, 24cm deep bed to fill with compost. The removeable cold frame top then protects your plants and keeps them warm. The wood this is made from is a high-quality timber that has been treated to be weather- and UV-resistant. The panels are made from durable clear plastic.

As well as space for planting, this extends your outdoor storage space. This is thanks to the handy slatted storage space under the bed that gives you somewhere to keep tools, pots, trays, and other gardening essentials.

Pros

  • Waterproof inner lining to protect the wood from damage
  • Handy storage shelf under the bed for essential equipment

Cons

  • Heavyweight at 17 kilograms, so not a portable option

Best cold frame with wooden sides

Outsunny cold frame Outsunny/Amazon

While cold frames with transparent sides are by far the most popular design for areas that are particularly exposed, or if you want to use your cold frame throughout the winter months, a wooden-sided option is something to consider. Wooden sides offer more protection against the cold.

This frame is made from solid wood that's been treated for weather resistance. The panels are made from clear polycarbonate which offers essential high levels of light transmittance. For reference, it measures in at 100cm long by 50cm wide and 36cm tall, making it slightly shorter than some other options on our list.

That being said, we like this cold frame for its double-sided roof design. As it is split in half you can open each side independently, either to tailor the amount of airflow you want or to keep one side sheltered while you tend to the other.

Pros

  • Spilt roof design for independent opening
  • Wooden sides to offer more protection against cold weather

Cons

  • Not all tall as some other options we're featuring

Best raised cold frame

Costway cold frame Costway/Amazon

Similar to our TecTake pick, but with an open space instead of a bedding area, this is another raised option that's a great choice for anyone with mobility issues, as well as to keep your plants off the floor to protect them from frosts.

This attractive cold frame solution is made from pine that's been given a weather-resistant treatment while the panels are transparent polycarbonate. This measures 90cm long and stands 105cm high at its tallest point.

The cold frame's closures are comprised of metal grasps that can be secured with a small padlock to protect from a gust of wind or perhaps keep little fingers away from your precious growth. This unit gives you a useful slatted storage shelf beneath the frame for tools and other bits and bobs.

Pros

  • Lockable hasps to secure the cold frame's roof
  • Useful storage shelf under the frame for accessories

Cons

  • Maximum capacity per level of 30 kilograms

Best apex roof cold frame

B&Q cold frame B&Q
Price: £39.99

www.diy.com

The traditional shape for a cold frame is a rectangle with a gently sloping roof to allow rain to run off. B&Q's wooden cold frame gets an apex roof - two sides that form an A-shape. This design will also allow for run-off of rain but gives you more height to grow taller plants.

This cold frame is comprised of a strong wooden frame made from treated fir with double walled polycarbonate glazed panels for that essential insulation. The metal hinges offer easy to turn locking nuts so you can fix the roof into your desired position.

This measures in at 90cm by 52cm by 49.5cm at the top of the apex and weighs in at 5.8 kilograms. It isn't notably lightweight, but is manageable enough to move around your outside space should you need to do so.

Pros

  • Drainage channels in the roof section to help divert water
  • Apex-style roof to give you more room for larger plants

Cons

  • Only one side of the apex roof opens

Best sleeper cold frame

Crocus cold frame Crocus

This high-end cold frame from Crocus is constructed from classic timber sleepers, an attractive and traditional choice for many garden construction projects. The wood is pressure-treated for longevity and is FSC-certified for your peace of mind.

This large cold frame will cover you for lots of plants and growing projects thanks to its large 170cm by 60cm dimensions. This stands 32cm tall at the front of the frame and 43cm at the rear.

It has two, two-pane acrylic roof panels to let the sunlight flood in. Each of the panels can be opened separately, and propped open with a sturdy wooden stay. This requires two-person assembly and you'll also need a drill to hand to get it properly erected.

Pros

  • Very large footprint for lots of growing room
  • Sleeper construction for classic, traditional looks

Cons

  • Roof panels do not offer adjustable height opening options

How we chose the best cold frames

All of these cold frames have been hand-selected by our team of Modern Gardens shopping experts. We carefully considered the design, functionality, and capacity in our selection of the best. Our team has spent hours investigating and researching cold frame to make it easier for you to find the very best, and we'd never recommend a product we don't believe in.

Where possible, we also test and share the latest and best products you should know about. And with help from Modern Gardens Magazine, Garden News and Garden Answers, we share expert gardening knowledge to help you get the most from your product.

Do I need a cold frame or a greenhouse?

The obvious difference between greenhouses and cold frames is size. While you can get space-saving mini greenhouses, a cold frame offers an even more compact choice with a smaller footprint and a low profile that won't make your outside space feel cramped.

If you simply want to nurture a few trays of seedlings in the spring and protect a few pots through the winter months, a simple and affordable cold frame should suffice.

Anyone who is aspiring to be a keen gardener and has the space and the budget to spare, go for a greenhouse. Otherwise, there's a lot you can use a cold frame for throughout the gardening year, from herbs to veg via flowering plants.

Where should I position my cold frame?

You have different options as to where you can position your cold frame to suit your needs. If you're using it for trays and pots, your cold frame can be put on any kind of hardstanding or gravel. A cold frame can sit over plants in established flower beds and vegetable patches and can be placed on top of raised beds. If you want to use a cold frame for new planting, it can be placed over freshly prepared soil.

To make the most of any sunshine we might be lucky enough to see, cold frames should be placed in a south-facing position for maximum exposure to light and warmth. If you can, consider placing your cold frame with its back against a wall or fence, this will minimise exposure. Do consider access when deciding where your cold frame is going to go as obviously you'll need to tend to the contents often.

What maintenance will my cold frame require?

Maintaining a cold frame is relatively simple. Opening the roof to offer regular ventilation and prevent a damp, stagnant atmosphere is advised, but then closing it at night to protect from cold is also wise, especially in chillier months.

We recommend cleaning the transparent panels regularly - you'd be surprised how grubby they will get. Cleaning with a damp cloth ensures you're getting the most light available direct to your plants. Wooden-framed cold frames will need an annual varnish or other kind of wood treatment to keep them protected and weather-proofed.

Daily, as you're tending to your plants, keep a lookout for slugs and snails that have managed to sneak in. You can pick them off as and when you see them, or take a more proactive approach with solutions to deter slugs in the first place.

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Amy-Mae Turner is a Commerce Content Writer for Modern Gardens, Yours, Take A Break Pets, and A Modern Kitchen. When she's not pottering in the garden or mucking around in the kitchen, she can be found having doggy cuddles with her two beloved cockapoochis.

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