It takes just one or two heartbreaking losses to galvanise most gardeners into action to protect their plants. By using native materials and traditional methods you can create structures to safeguard your plants while also adding a great deal of character to your garden.
A woven, bell-shaped cloche will protect small plants and seedlings from hens and pigeons, as well as providing some shade and shelter from adverse weather. You’ll need some basic basket-making skills to create a structure like this (find details of courses below and at basketmakersassociation.org.uk), but once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, you’ll be able to create numerous cloches in various sizes. They look particularly striking when used en masse. Make them early in the year to ensure you have them to hand when you plant out small seedlings, such as lettuces.
Willow wreaths for pumpkins
Later in the year, harvested pumpkins and squashes will last far longer if you allow their skins to harden in the sun before storing. Perching your harvest on willow wreaths will reduce the risk of rotting caused by trapped water. The wreaths are made by twisting together several lengths of pliable willow to form a compact circle.
Protection from birds
A twiggy cage is an attractive way to protect crops, such as young brassicas, from marauding pigeons while still allowing free movement of air. It’s made by pushing supple, twiggy branches of hazel or birch directly into the ground, then gently pulling the tops inwards and threading them under and over each other to form a natural-looking canopy.
You can also put your bell-shaped cloches to good use later in the year by stuffing them with straw or leaves. This will offer some protection from freezing conditions and winter wet. Perfect for protecting crowns of plants, such as globe artichokes, or dahlias tubers you’ve left in the ground.
Basket makers and suppliers
Upton Bishop, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9 7QP. Tel 07866 138436, email@example.com, wildwicker.com
Clyde Hoare runs courses in basket making, hurdles and living willow structures.
Judy makes baskets and teaches basket making in Monmouthshire. Judy also made the beautiful woven willow cloches (see above).
Tel 0333 400 1500, harrodhorticultural.com
Supplies a good selection of secateurs and loppers for cutting hazel and willow.
Words Kristy Ramage and Jacky Mills
Photographs Jason Ingram and Kristy Ramage