A garden cloche is essentially a scaled-down greenhouse used to protect young plants against the elements. First designed and used in the 17th century, cloches are still in use today.
Using an outdoor garden cloche throughout the spring is an effective way to protect small plants from unpredictable weather while getting a jump-start on the growing season. Using them again in the fall can extend the life of your garden.
The bell-shaped design of the cloche efficiently reflects and distributes light and allows the heat to surround plants for longer periods of time, thus maximizing ideal growing conditions. The garden cloche also envelops the plant with moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering.
Garden cloches act as incubators for new sprouts and tender seedlings, protecting baby plants from harsh temperatures, frost, strong wind, torrential rain and woodland animals who love to munch on tender new greens.
When using a cloche for gardening, it’s important to prevent the plant from overheating. It is best to use a cloche in the spring and fall only, when temperatures are not too hot. When cloches are used in the heat of the summer, there’s the risk of too much light and heat scorching — or worse killing — the plants enclosed in the dome.
Today, cloches are making a comeback in the gardening community. Simple cloches can be made easily by either placing a large mouth vase over tiny plants or by using recycled clear plastic bottles as a glass cloche substitute (see directions below).
Houseplants best suited for cloche growing are Baby Tears, African Violets and Begonias. Any outdoor vegetable seedlings will benefit from the use of a cloche early on to get then established.
Instructions to make a garden cloche from recycled plastic bottles:
- Save large clear plastic water and soft drink containers with caps.
- Rinse the empty containers thoroughly and allow to air dry.
- Cut the bottom portion of the container off with sharp scissors allowing for adequate height at the top of the bottle.
- Re-cap the bottle top.
- Place the bell shaped top over seedlings.