The difference between a cold frame and a greenhouse

13:01 - 14 December 2009

One of the most common misconceptions of people that are looking to purchase a greenhouse is they believe that since the structure is called a greenhouse it will without a doubt sprout only green plants. However, greenhouses can come in many different sizes; you could even have your own little greenhouse in a paper bag if you wanted to.

In fact, most greenhouses that are sold on the market are simply large cold frames. Understanding the differences between a cold frame and a greenhouse is crucial to achieving the best results through your gardening.

A greenhouse is described as being a heated shelter for plants. A greenhouse that has been designed properly will allow the operator the ability to adjust the temperature to one that is right for the plants to be able to flourish.

A greenhouse can either be a cool house, where the temperature stays at a moderate setting, or it can be a hot house where the temperature stays relatively warm for the plants within it to grow. Hot houses maintain a temperature of 55 degrees or more, while cool houses can easily be at a minimum of 45 degrees.

Cold frames are described as any structure that is used to extend the growing season for plants by a few extra weeks. Cold frames are not designed to provide any heat, so unlike the greenhouses the operator has no control over the temperature within one of these plant coverings.

There is no external heat that is added to a cold frame either; cold frames strictly rely on the the sun to heat the plants to the right temperature and consist of a single wall glaze. If you’re using a cold frame, be aware that they are not a good choice for winter growing, since they do not have a heating mechanism that will take over.

Cold frames are most suitable for the weeks before and after frost begins to show on the ground. Cold frames allow you to get a head start on your planting, as well as wait a little while after growing season has ceased to harvest your crops.

Cold frames come in many different shapes and sizes, just like a greenhouse. The only difference is a cold frame does not have a heating component, whereas a greenhouse does.


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