Straw Bale Cold Frames: Why You Should Build Them
A lot of gardeners find themselves in a difficult situation come wintertime – they have too many delicate plants and not enough space for storage. Few homeowners can afford to have a greenhouse. Fortunately, there is a solution. Using cold frames can protect your plants during the winter season. And the best part is, this structure is very affordable.
It is possible to build a cold frame using a variety of materials. Most homeowners use cement because it is easily accessible. But did you know that you can build it using bales of straw as well? Straw bales are cheap, natural, and lightweight. Straws are best suited for rotted cuttings and new plants that cannot withstand the harsh winter condition. These can also be used to protect cool-season potted plants. Take note though that the cold frame cannot provide sufficient protection for tropical plants that can’t handle even light frosting.
Making a cold frame made of straw bale should be easy. The first step is to find the best location (ideally on a level, open area). Finding the right place is critical because the straw acts like a sponge. After one or two days of raining, it is difficult to lift them up or rearrange them. Depending on the type of plant you have, you should ideally locate in a sunny or shady area. Leafy plants require more sunlight then plants that become dormant during winter, for example.
The straw bales should be arranged in a rectangular shape to avoid cold pockets at the center. It should be no more than one-bale wide but the length of the frame can be as long as you need. This shape is conducive to creating and retaining warm air. When the cold frame is built too wide, the warmth won’t be able to heat the entire structure. If you need more space, the best thing is to build more cold frames. Secure the structure by inserting metal or wooden stakes in the bale and onto the ground.
The roof you should use depends on the climate in your area. In temperate areas, using loose straw or dry leaves is usually sufficient. The more leaves you use, the more insulated the plant becomes. If you need additional protection, it is important to use glass or plastic sheeting. This will turn the structure into a “mini greenhouse”.
Once the cool temperature gives way to cooler climates, disassemble the structure.