Preparing for winter on Steve’s Allotment by insulating the cold-frames

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Most of my cold-frames are only protected by a single layer of polythene. This is great for protecting from, wind, snow, hail and heavy rain (light rain is welcome) but it’s not a great insulator.

Last year I insulated one of the frames with an inner layer of fleece and this seemed to work well, it didn’t cut down the light levels by much, because I have the frames open on sunny days, but it did protect from the frost. This year I’m extending this inner fleece layer to all of the frames and tracking the temeprature impact carefully. I’m also using the fleece to improve the seal around the edges of the frame to further improve insulation. I’m hoping to add about 3 degrees of protection, but time will tell.

I’m also experimenting with frames that have a double layer of polythene, this has the advantage that it stops rain accumulating in the frames when they are left fully open, but the disadvantage that it allows for condensation to form. Polythene is also MUCH more expensive than fleece.

The final point is that the fleece seems to last fairly well when used in this way, I fold it into a tripple layer before stapling it so that it doesn’t tear and I stretch it fairly tight so that it doesn’t flap around too much in the wind. Finally it’s well protected from the elements by the polythene on top.

If you have any other tips for successful season extension please add them in the comments, this is only my second winter, so I have a lot to learn!

You an find more of my videos on season extension here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFhKoRR-NiCKdJQiK2HzmZEAoDlpbsgsH

If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and one of our daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. Jennie’s plot for example focuses on potatoes, squash, alliums and brassicas. This video provides an overview https://youtu.be/q1k-2vIoSQ8. I do a monthly tour of each allotment, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFhKoRR-NiCJn5Y6rZf0RCCqycu3xvofX.

Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in summer, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible.

My wife and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.

I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease. I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat the most organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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