Letter Re: A Do-It-Yourself Freestanding Shelf Cold Frame

A key to survival will be having a handy way to start seedlings any time of the year, or perhaps to even have a micro-greenhouse for Winter vegetables.  A cold frame is great for this and you can make one for yourself very easily  My wife and I have been starting a lot of seeds recently and I thought I would pass on a simple homemade cold frame idea I had.  This cold frame requires no tools and only about an hour to assemble.  If you buy the materials, you can purchase everything for about $100.
I started with an old set of poly garage shelving that I had stored in the garage.  The set I have is a sturdy set made by Continental (I have no affiliation with this company) which sells for $81 or more, though you can find other brands for less.  The shelves are ventilated and the entire set is made of poly with no metal parts, so outdoor s it won’t deteriorate due to rust, and when not in use, they store disassembled in a very small space.  Amazon doesn’t have it in stock at the moment, but this is the one I use.  I like these because they are very sturdy and can handle the weight.  The second item needed is a 15” roll of mover’s stretch plastic wrap.  This wrap adheres to itself and is used by movers to protect furniture, and may be purchased online or at your local U-Haul (again, no affiliation) for about $17.  You may also want to purchase some clear packing tape to keep your creation from unraveling in the breeze.
Step 1: Assemble Shelf
To assemble your cold frame, first assemble the shelving unit.  The unit consists of four shelves, with a total of 12 round legs to support the shelves.  As an option, you can combine multiple units to add additional shelves, but beware of the tipping hazard and secure your unit when finished.  The shelves assemble by simply slipping the legs into the four corners of each shelf, requiring no fasteners. 

Step 2: Wrap bottom, sides, and top
Use the stretch plastic to wrap the shelf unit on the bottom, sides, and top first, leaving a bit of overlap on the sides in the front and back, making sure you overlap layers for adhesion, and stretch it to fit snugly. 

Step 3: Wrap front and back, leave a gap
Next, wrap the left and right sides of the shelf unit leaving a 12” gap in the center of the front and back, again overlapping with the sides.  Wrap these in the direction of the back, away from you, starting at the top and ending at the top.  It’s best to use a continuous loop all the way around.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3
Repeat these two wrapping steps (steps 2 and 3) to create an overlapping second layer of plastic.

Step 5: Wrap the “Door”
Finally, wrap the 12” inch center section in the opposite direction, but this time, start at the bottom, go up the back, and over the top, ending at the bottom of the shelf unit at your feet.  Leave about two or three feet of extra plastic wrap at this point wrapped around a dowel or old broom handle.  This will allow you access to the cold frame by opening this last section, with a handy place to roll up the plastic.  Wrapping the “door” in the opposite direction will help to prevent unwrapping the rest of the plastic when you open it.  You can open the “door” partially and weight down the roller to allow ventilation, or roll it up and put it on top of the unit as needed.  When closed, tuck the broom handle next to the bottom shelf and hold in place with a log or rocks.   This unit is very light and may be moved indoors if needed due to extreme cold, or moved to different places on your property if the amount of sunlight needed varies.  Place your seedlings and starter trays inside and begin planning your harvest!
Options you can add include baling wire for extra security holding the unit together before the wrapping process (though you may have to deal with rust later), and if you are setting it up in a windy area, you might want to anchor it to the ground or a wall.  If you need to use the top shelf inside the frame, you can extend the wrap higher using a light spacer such as a couple of milk cartons on each end of the top shelf before wrapping it up.  If you do this, add a board between them to suspend the plastic wrap “roof.”
Best Regards, – Ron in Florida