What is a cloche?
A cloche acts like a tiny greenhouse, creating a sheltered microclimate within that is warm and protects plants from cold, wind, rain and pests. Cloches can be used all year round, so planning how you will use your cloche will mean you can move it from crop to crop as and when needed.
Here are just some of the reasons why you might want to use a cloche in the garden:
Warm the soil for sowing Put the cloche into position ten days or a fortnight before sowing seeds or planting out seedlings, to warm the soil. Keep the area covered and the cloche should ensure quicker germination.
Protect seedlings and plants from harsh weather A cloche can be used to protect all kinds of salad, veg and fruit from harsh weather, such as dwarf peas, carrots, radishes, sweetcorn and capsicums as well as fruit like strawberries and melons and flower seedlings such as sweet peas.
Hardening off A cloche can be used to harden off seedlings in spring, in a similar way to a cold frame – just place the cloche over the seedlings at night, removing it during the day, for around 10 days.
Protect plants from pests and diseases Cloches can help prevent birds eating vulnerable crops such as strawberries and may also help protect against mildew and blight, as they stop the leaves being wetted by rain – just be sure to provide adequate ventilation (see below).
Grow winter salad and herbs A cloche can help to yield bountiful supplies of salad leaves and herbs in the cooler months.
Protect individual plants You can also place a cloche over an individual plant, such as a dahlia that you have overwintered in the garden and want to encourage into growth in spring.
Ripen crops In poor weather, especially at the end of the season, you can use a cloche to ripen crops.
Six cloches to buy
Haxnicks Original Victorian Bell Garden Cloche
Haxnicks Victorian Bell Garden Cloches are perfect for protecting seedlings in spring, especially veg plants that need a long growing season, such as courgettes or melons. They can also be used to protect tender plants over the cooler months. They allow the maximum amount of sunlight to be captured at any angle. Made from high grade UV stabilised plastic, they have an adjustable air vent on top for easy ventilation and humidity control.
Available in packs of two or three in three sizes (Baby, Original and Kingsize), they are stackable for easy storage when not in use.
Garden Grow Pop Up Cloche
This pop-up garden cloche needs no assembly – it simply pops into position. You can then place it over your crops or plants. Its roll up door helps to circulate air around your plants and allows bees in, to pollinate crops such as courgettes, cucumbers and strawberries. This cloche is a good option for covering several plants, such as a strawberries in summer, or an area of young seedlings. It could also be used to protect a single large plant over winter. It is supplied with metal pegs to secure it to the ground. When your plants are ready to face the elements without protection, simply lift up the cloche, fold it down and store away, or move to a different crop. It comes with a 12-month guarantee. Dimensions: L99cm x W99cm x H99cm.
Kitchen Garden Cloche
This sturdy, long-lasting, and stylish growing cover can be used warm a large area of soil for sowing, protect sweet pea seedlings over winter, shelter rows of young veg seedlings or to ripen strawberry plants, protecting them from birds. This cloche is made from galvanised and black powder-coated steel with high quality UV-resistant clear plastic (APET), and has ventilation vents to control air flow and humidity and a carry handle. Steel ground pegs to secure the cloche in position are also included. Dimensions: L100cm x W45cm x H35cm.
Classic bell cloche
These classically shaped, hand-blown Victorian-inspired glass cloches offer robust protection – as they are heavy, they do not need to be secured down and can withstand strong winds. They add a lovely decorative touch to the border or vegetable patch and should last for years. The dimensions of each cloche may vary slightly, as they are hand blown.
Dimensions: Regular - 22cm x 27cm; large - 25cm x 33cm.
- Buy a Classic Bell Cloche from Waitrose Garden (from £27.99)
Access Glass Cloche
A modern interpretation of a traditional garden cloche, the Access Glass Cloche has a sturdy aluminium frame and is glazed with 4mm toughened glass – up to 10 times stronger than standard horticultural glass. It has been designed so that you can use just one cloche on its own, or buy several and use them to create one long run. The glass glazing also adds considerable weight to the cloche, so it will stay firmly in place even in high winds. Each pane can be removed individually for cleaning.
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In warmer weather you can remove the two end panels to provide maximum ventilation. The two top glass panels can be lifted out for watering or picking. Gentle ventilation is provided by the slight gap between the two side panels and the roof panels. but in colder weather the gap beneath the panels can be filled in with earth.
The cloche is supplied as standard with a plain aluminium frame, you can upgrade to a frame powder coated Antique Ivory (pictured) for a more traditional finish. Dimensions: Length 79cm; width 53cm; height 41cm.
Cast iron cloche
Inspired by the cast iron garden cloches found in Victorian kitchen gardens, this beautiful cloche will look beautiful in a border or a vegetable patch. Manufactured from cast iron, and glazed with horticultural glass, this sturdy structure will withstand rain, snow and gales. When the weather warms, the top can be rotated by 45 degrees, ensuring good ventilation, or removed completely. Available in two sizes: 33cm or 44cm square, both with a height of 41cm. They are supplied assembled.
- Buy a cast iron cloche from Thompson & Morgan (from £209)
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Veronica Peerless is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.
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