If you want to get ahead of the game and start sowing early vegetable crops, a very effective way of doing this is to plant seeds or seedlings under a cloche.
This is something that growers in colder parts of the world such as Mr H. in North Idaho of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden has had to do by necessity if he wishes to grow his own food for more than a few brief months of the year (he’s self-sufficient for 365 days of the year incidentally).
In Ireland early peas, carrots and lettuce can all be sown outside under cloches in late February and this handy piece of vegetable gardening kit can be quite useful if you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or windowsills to start seedlings off inside. A cloche can also be placed over potato or other frost tender plants if a late frost threatens and will prevent their leaves being burnt.
Cloches come in all shapes, sizes and materials including glass, fleece or plastic or you can make your own and are most often used to give your crops an early start or a late finish. They’re placed over the soil or crops, protecting them from frost, rain and wind.
It’s recommended that cloches have end pieces to prevent them from becoming wind tunnels – in the case of fleece or sheet plastic the ends can be gathered up and pegged down. Remember to ventilate them too as the weather gets warmer – temperatures can get very high, very quickly. By covering your plants you’ve effectively made a mini greenhouse or polytunnel for them. The hoops on the long horizontal cloches can be made from metal, flexitube or wood.
It’s important to remember to water plants when under a cloche and that the leaves don’t touch the structure (just as in cold, in warm weather they may burn too).
These bottles have the added bonus of protecting delicate small plants from slugs, birds and mice are another great way of recycling.
Do you use cloches to enable you to start sowing vegetables earlier or protect the plants from frost or do you wait for the weather to warm up?