Browsing Tag


Community Gardens, Vegetable Garden

Fantastic cloche/mini polytunnel idea

May 18, 2013

Hinged cloche / polytunnel in an allotmentI admit, I’m not an allotment expert. All of my work and teaching has been in private gardens, village halls and community gardens so I was really looking forward to helping a group of teachers, parents and school children in the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Gardens.

Hinged cloche / polytunnel in an allotmentOne of the immediate benefits I observed of allotment growing was being able to pick up tips and ideas from fellow allotmenteers. I absolutely love this structure built by Gerry on our neighbouring plot! The mini polytunnel/cloche was made from recycled bits and pieces, is hinged and once opened kept in place by rope.

Inside Gerry has tomatoes, peppers and an aubergine growing, none of which would grow well (if at all) in the Irish climate outside.

Hinged cloche / mini polytunnelWhen we’ve seen them, the other allotment holders have been friendly and more than happy to share bits and pieces. I can now see why people enjoy spending time on their plots so much, working away on their own but able to have a chat over the fence.

Are you an allotment grower? Why do you enjoy it so much?


Vegetable Garden

Growing Vegetables Under a Cloche

February 25, 2013

Photo Credit: Mr H of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden

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.

Fleece ClocheCloches 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.

Bell Cloches (Photo Credit Nutley’s Kitchen Garden)

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).

To make your own mini cloches, cut the bottoms off clear plastic bottles remove the lids and push the top part into the soil over the seedling.

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?

Vegetable Garden

Lettuce… how many should I plant?

May 14, 2011

I’m sure many of us starting out made the mistake of sowing all the lettuce seeds in the pack.

However, after years of growing this humble little salad crop I think I’ve finally sussed it. Six plants. Six little seeds of a loose leafed, cut and come variety is all a lettuce eating family needs… to be truthful we could probably get away with four. Four tiny seeds from a pack of 150 costing €2.50. If my maths are correct that’s just over one and a half cent per lettuce head.

There are many reasons for growing your own food but surely that alone makes it worthwhile?

Frilly little lettuce plants interplanted with colourful flowers look quite pretty in a window box too. Once the seeds have been sown (which takes a couple of minutes) all you have to do is remember to water them. That’s it. Once the plants have started to grow just plant another four (and so on) to keep your crop going.

The lettuce I’ve sown here is a cut and come variety (meaning you just pick the leaves as you need them, or snip the tops of with scissors rather than harvesting the whole plant).

These were planted in the polytunnel at the end of February. They grow well outdoors but you’d have to cover them with a cloche if you wanted to start them that early.

My favourites are the packets of mixed salad leaf varieties as they come in all colours, shapes and sizes.

By the way… slugs love lettuce, so it’s always a good idea to sow a few extra (one for the slug, one for the snail, one to eat and one to fail).  However, I’d planted marigolds (tagetes) next to these and not a single leaf was nibbled (the marigolds were just stalks though!)

So if you’ve never grown any veg before, why not give lettuce a go and then you’ll always have a bit of greenery to add to your sarnie at lunchtime.

Vegetable Garden

Battening down the hatches in the vegetable garden

March 29, 2010

Ian says I’m a pessimist – I say I’m a realist.  I guess we’re both right but I’m not taking any chances this week.  The weather men are forecasting snow tomorrow and having been caught out in the new year (i.e. snowed in for 5 days) this week we’re getting prepared.

It was a beautiful spring day yesterday so hard to believe the warnings.  However, we took the opportunity to tidy up the vegetable garden, do a bit more weeding and make it more weather proof.

First off we covered the potato bed with a double layer of horticultural fleece.  Potatoes are not frost hardy and although their haulms (stems) are not poking through the soil yet, being frozen into the soil wont do them much good either.

Then we covered the onion bed with a cloche.  Although garlic and shallots are pretty hardy, young onions are not so we’re taking no chances.  Sudden changes in temperature now can either destroy the young seedlings or cause them to bolt (flower at the expense of a large bulb).  We had some spare pipe and clear plastic laying around from the house renovation so are making use of it.  I also noticed last week that the birds have lifted a few bulbs so covering them for a while will prevent this.

Finally we’ve surrounded the plot with a light gauge wind fabric to give it more protection.  Unfortunately next door’s horses took a huge liking to the native hedge we’d planted and it’s now very sparse at the north end.  Initially Ian didn’t like the idea of the ‘artificial’ fabric. However, it’s made the garden feel much cosier and strangely more manageable and we’re now delighted we took the time to do it.

The optimistic side of me is now hoping the experts have got it all wrong.

Ian’s gone shopping ‘just in case’.