Build A Real Simple Hot Frame In Only A Couple Hours

By building a hot frame you can give yourself a two-month head start on your seedlings and maybe try something exotic that requires that extra time. Give yourself the pleasure of starting your own vegetable and annual flower seedlings. Start varieties you can't buy at your local garden center.

A hot frame is an easy build-it-yourself project that can be made from either materials on hand or inexpensive easy to get materials. Let's start with the simplest and usually lest expensive type. All you will need will be used or you can use new cement or cinder blocks, some discarded window sashes, or some cheap construction plastic.

You need to gather between twenty and twenty-five cement blocks and two to three window sashes or an old storm door. If you don't have sashes or an old storm door you can substitute with a frame made from two by fours or firing strips covered with clear plastic.

Follow these steps for an easy block hot frame

  • Clear an area three feet by seven feet with the front of the hot frame facing south

  • Dig an area two feet by five and a half feet six to eight inches deep in the center of the cleared aera and fill it with fresh horse manure

  • Lay five blocks across the front end to end

  • Put two blocks against each side butted to the back surface of the front blocks

  • Lay five blocks along the back forming a box around your bed of manure

  • Now you need to lay a block on each side with half of the block on top of the back corners and half on the back of each side

  • You will have space between these blocks to lay four blocks across the back with the sides and the back being interlocked

  • Either add a couple of inches of compost or garden soil and use flats to start seedlings or add six or seven inches and direct sow into the frame

  • Cover your box with sashes, an old storm door, or framed plastic

  • Seal the sides with the dirt you dug from the bed or cut scrap plywood to fit

  • When temperatures reach sixty degrees or more during the day uncover the top recovering at night or if temperatures drop

Bales of straw can easily be substituted for the cement blocks.

An easy method if you don't happen to have any old cement blocks is to dig a pit or trench about two feet deep a couple feet wide and maybe six or eight feet long. Add six or eight inches of a fresh hot manure like horse manure, usually the easiest to get and with the least objectionable odor, to the bottom of the trench and then add six to eight inches of either a garden soil compost mix or a good commercial potting mix. You can now sow your seeds right into the mix.

Hot frame trench Hot frame trench with manure being added A hot frame made of straw bales

You can substitute chicken or pig manure for the horse manure but it is harder to handle and usually more difficult to get. If you look at the giveaways in you newspaper you often see horse manure that you have for the taking. If you have a pickup truck a load will give you plenty for the average hot bed or frame and any that is left can be added to your compost pile or dug into your garden. If you don't have a pickup then you can line your trunk or back of your SUV or van with plastic and haul the manure in tubs or five gallon buckets with lids. I have used empty cat litter pails with lids also they are shorter and easily fit into a car trunk.

If you want to use trays to sow your seedlings instead of direct sowing to give yourself more variety of vegetables or annuals you can lay your trays on the manure layer with only an inch or so of garden soil. You can cover your frame or trench with either old window sashes or plastic stretched over an easily assembled frame.

A Cold Frame Can Be Your Hot Frame With The Addition Of Hot Manure

If you already have a cold frame you can dig out six to eight inches from the center, add six inches or so of manure then cover the manure with the soil you have removed and now it's a hotframe. When you remove your plants to put in your garden add the manure and soil from the converted frame and to your compost pile, refill your frame to origanal levels and you have your cold frame back.


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