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Cloches: An Easy Guide on How To Use Them in Your Garden

How to Use Cloches in Garden

Cloches are the garden version of superhero shields. They protect plants against harsh weather conditions, pests and diseases and encourage healthy growth. 

In this article, we’ll let you into the world of cloches and share how to effectively use them in your garden. Keep reading and become a cloche pro in no time!

What is a cloche?

What is a cloche
Image: Haxnicks

A cloche is a transparent cover that protects plants from frost, harsh wind, pests and diseases. They also trap heat and moisture to create a more favorable environment for seeds, seedlings and plants.

Cloches can be made of glass, plastic or even metal. They can cover a single plant or a whole garden row as needed. 

They can moisten the air and soil and help the plant survive droughts. They can also protect plants from extreme cold and extend their growing season. 

What does a cloche look like?

What does a cloche look like
Image: Harrod Horticultural

A cloche is typically shaped like a bell with a wide bottom and a dome-shaped top. They also have small holes allowing air to vent out during hot days and maintain the right temperature and humidity under the cover.

They can be made of glass, plastic or metal and come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate individuals or groups of plants. They also have small handles for easy lifting and let some air out occasionally.

What are the benefits of using cloches?

Cloches work to warm up plants, protect them from bad weather conditions and pests and diseases, and overwinter and speed up the ripening of crops. They also speed up seed germination and help harden off seedlings.

Let’s discuss how cloches provide these benefits to plants in the garden. 

1. Cloches warm up plants.

Cloches warm up plants.
Image: Green Fingers

Cloches create a mini-greenhouse effect on plants. They trap heat and moisture so the plants underneath can grow under more favorable conditions and prepare them for every growing season. 

Sunlight warms up the air inside the cloche, which heats the soil. They also retain moisture in the air and soil and prevent water from evaporating due to wind and sun.

To prevent hot air from burning plants, especially on hot days, prop open the bottom with a stick or stone and let some cool air get in. 

2. Cloches protect plants against bad weather conditions.

Cloches protect plants against bad weather conditions.
Image: Gardening Naturally

Cloches protect plants against harsh winds, heavy rains and cold naps. By covering the plants, cloches create a microclimate that helps improve plant growth. 

This garden tool is highly advisable in places where weather becomes particularly severe. It will help the plant thrive despite the bad weather conditions. 

4. Cloches protect plants from pests and diseases. 

Cloches protect plants from pests and diseases. 
Image: Harrod Horticultural

Cloches are one of the most critical barriers between plants and pests and diseases. They effectively keep whiteflies, aphids, cutworms, slugs and other pests from reaching plants. 

On the other hand, cloches create a microclimate that makes it difficult for pests, fungi, bacteria or viruses to thrive. Because of this cover, they also prevent the plant from contracting diseases from other plants in the garden.

5. Cloches help overwinter and ripen crops.

Cloches help overwinter and ripen crops.
Image: Gardeners’ World

Cloches protect plants from frost, rain and other cold weather conditions. This is an essential condition for overwintering crops like lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, turnips and kale. 

Since they trap heat and moisture, these plants stay warm and protected during winter. They buffer temperature for late-ripening crops and reduce the sharpness of early frosts. 

They also extend the growing season of crops because they create a microclimate where plants can grow earlier in the spring and later in the fall. This is usually applied in ripening crops like eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. 

6. Cloches help seeds germinate.

Cloches help seeds germinate.
Image: Gardeners’ World

Cloches keep the soil warm and moist, which helps speed up germination. They also protect the seeds from being damaged by frost, wind and rain, increasing the chances of successful germination. 

Cloches also help reduce competition between weeds and seeds by blocking sunlight. As a result, seeds will have a better chance of establishing themselves after sprouting. 

7. Cloches help harden off seedlings.

Cloches help harden off seedlings.
Image: Garden Products

Seedlings, especially after being transplanted, are at their most vulnerable. Cloches help them adjust to outdoor conditions during the hardening-off process. 

Cloches maintain the warm and humid microclimate that the seedlings were used to, improving their chances of survival outdoors. 

Will a cloche protect plants from frost?

Will a cloche protect plants from frost
Image: Lee Valley

Cloches can protect plants from frost since they trap heat and moisture and create a microclimate for optimum plant growth. However, its effectiveness depends on the type of cloche, plant size and the frost temperature. 

The cold protection a cloche can give depends on how much heat was trapped during the day, if the vents were opened or closed, and the temperature overnight. 

For instance, a cloche offers 3 degrees Fahrenheit of cold protection while the temperature outside is 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Together, the cloche can heat the plant to 34 degrees Fahrenheit, which would not cause frost damage to your plants.

We recommend placing a cloche over the plant in the evening before the temperature drops below freezing. Then, remove the cloche in the morning so the plant can receive adequate sunlight and air circulation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Cloche

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Cloche
Image: Chessington Garden
Creates microclimate for plantsCreates too much heat and humidity around plants
Helps extend the growing seasonMay encourage weed growth
Protects against pests and diseasesPrevents pollination
Helps increase humidity for seedlings
Protects against harsh winds

Cloches are like mini-greenhouses as they create a microclimate around plants by trapping heat and moisture, which helps plants grow. They can also help extend plants’ growing season by protecting them against late freezes and early frosts. 

Cloches are also an effective barrier against pests like slugs, aphids, cutworms and even birds. They also make the environment underneath the cover uninhabitable to pathogens that cause plant diseases.

Another benefit of cloches is that they increase humidity around plants, which seedlings and cuttings need for faster growth. They protect these delicate plants against harsh winds and other bad weather conditions. 

On the other hand, when heat and humidity are not controlled under the cloche, the amount of water vapor can lead to fungal diseases. So, you should still vent the cloche occasionally to retain heat and humidity. 

Unfortunately, cloches can also create a favorable environment for weed growth, which can outcompete the plant for nutrients and water from the soil. Additionally, weeds like henbit and chickweed can reduce the sunlight that reaches the ground. 

Finally, pollination and fruiting are more difficult when plants are covered with cloches. They prevent pollinators from transferring pollen and reaching the flowers inside the cloche, and without pollination, fruiting cannot begin.

How do gardeners use cloches?

How do gardeners use cloches
Image: Waitrose Garden

Gardeners typically use a cloche to cover plants to prevent diseases, protect low-growing crops, ripen crops, raise soil temperature and protect plants against heavy rain and frost. 

For instance, cucumbers and peppers are covered with a cloche in summer to prevent diseases caused by rain. On the other hand, low-growing plants like cabbages and strawberries are covered in rows for optimum growth. 

Crops like tomatoes and peppers are covered in late summer to speed up the ripening process. After harvest, the soil temperature is raised with the help of a cloche to prepare it for another planting season. 

Types of Garden Cloches

The main types of cloches are bell, tunnel, pop-up, cold frame and greenhouse cloche. 

Read on to know their unique benefits and on which plants to use them.

1. Bell Cloche

Bell Cloche
Image: The Abercorn Garden Factory

A bell cloche is shaped like a dome with a hole in the center for air and light. They’re usually made of glass, aluminum, copper and plastic. 

Large bell cloches cover bigger areas in the garden or raised beds, while small bell cloches can cover one plant at a time. 

2. Tunnel Cloche

Tunnel Cloche
Image: Harrod Horticultural

Tunnel cloches have long stems attached to a stand, allowing gardeners to move around without bending too much. This type of cloche doesn’t allow light to pass through. 

Tunnel cloches are primarily used to protect fruit and vegetable crops from cold temperatures and help prevent water from evaporating during winter. 

3. Pop-up Cloche

Pop-up Cloche
Image: The Home Furniture Store

A pop-up cloche is like a tent that you can use to cover your plants or seedlings. They effectively protect garden plants against pests, diseases and cold weather. 

It’s a clear plastic cover over your garden plant but with air vents to prevent suffocation. You can also use them for tall plants like squash and tomatoes to provide shade during hot days. 

4. Cold Frame Cloche

Cold Frame Cloche
Image: Harrod Horticultural

A cold frame cloche covers rows of plants or larger areas in the garden. They’re commonly made of wood with a glass or plastic cover. 

Its primary purpose is to protect plants from the cold and pest infestation. They trap heat and moisture, which plants need, especially during winter and when extending the growing season of fruits and vegetables.

5. Greenhouse Cloche

Greenhouse Cloche
Image: West Coast Seeds

A greenhouse cloche is made from plastic or glass to protect groups of plants. They’re usually four to 24 inches wide and come in different shapes.

Greenhouse cloches extend the growing season and overwinter plants, including herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables.

How To Use a Garden Cloche

How To Use a Garden Cloche
Image: Earth Easy
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration15 to 30 minutes
Things You NeedCloche
Watering can
Ventilation material

How To Do
1. Choose a cloche for your plants.
2. Water the plants. 
3. Place the cloche over the plant. 
4. Secure the cloche in the ground using a stake.
5. Punch holes or install a ready-made vent in the cloche. 
6. Open the vents during hot days to prevent overheating.
7. Before cold nights, close the vents to protect the plant from extreme cold.

How do I put water in my garden cloche?

How do I put water in my garden cloche
Image: Maze Products

When watering plants inside a cloche, remove the cover and gently water directly into the soil. Make sure not to overwater the plants or wet the leaves to prevent root rot or fungal diseases.

If you’re using a hose, attach a watering plant to the end of the hose and water the plants inside the cloche until the soil is moist. It’s important to water plants, especially in hot water, to prevent them from overheating.

How To Make Your Own Garden Cloche

You can make your own garden cloche using everyday materials such as plastic bottles, wire mesh, metal frames, or a tent.

Keep reading, and we’ll teach you steps to make each of them.

1. Using a Plastic Bottle

Using a Plastic Bottle
Image: New Scientist
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration15 to 30 minutes
Things You NeedPlastic bottle
Knife or scissors
Glue gun and glue sticks

How To Do
1. Remove the cap and label from the plastic bottle.
2. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut off the bottom of the bottle, just above the base.
3. Use a hot glue gun to apply a bead of glue around the cut edge of the bottle to reinforce the border and prevent it from fraying.
4. Place the cloche over the plant or seedling you want to protect.

2. Using a Wire Mesh

Using a Wire Mesh
Image: Gardenista
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration30 to 45 minutes
Things You NeedWire mesh (chicken or rabbit wire or hardware cloth)
Wire cutters
Stakes or anchors 

How To Do
1. Cut a piece of wire mesh to the desired size of your cloche.
2. Bend the wire mesh into a cylindrical shape.
3. Use wire cutters to trim any excess wire.
4. Use pliers to secure the overlapping ends of the wire mesh together.
5. Use stakes or anchors to secure the cloche to the ground.

2. Using a Metal Frame

Using a Metal Frame
Image: Home Depot
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration30 to 45 minutes
Things You NeedMetal frame (wire hoop frame or a metal plant cage)
Transparent plastic sheeting 
Zip ties
Stakes or anchors

How To Do
1. Cut the transparent plastic sheeting to size, leaving enough extra material to overlap the edges of the metal frame.
2. Place the plastic sheeting over the metal frame and secure it with zip ties.
3. Use stakes or anchors to secure the cloche to the ground.

3. Using a Tent

Using a Tent
Image: Otago Daily Times
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration30 to 45 minutes
Things You NeedTent
Stakes or anchors 
Ventilation materials (fan or vents)

How To Do
1. Set up the tent in the garden.
2. Stake or anchor the tent to the ground to secure it.
3. Install ventilation materials to prevent the tent from becoming too hot or humid if desired.
4. Place the plants you want to protect inside the tent.
5. Close the tent and secure the entrance.

FAQs on Cloches

What plants do well in a glass cloche?

Since they are sensitive to frost and cold temperatures, plants that grow well under glass cloches are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and beans. 

What is the difference between a cloche and a bell jar?

A cloche refers to dome-shaped covers to protect plants, and they can be made of different materials such as wire mesh, plastic, glass or even fabric. On the other hand, a bell jar is a type of cloche made of glass. 

Can plants breathe under a cloche?

Plants can breathe under a cloche because they are designed to trap heat and moisture while allowing for air circulation. As long as these conditions are met, plants can photosynthesize under a cloche. 

Do cloches protect from slugs?

Cloches can protect plants from slugs because it is a physical barrier preventing slugs from reaching the plant. 

Can you grow carrots under cloches?

You can grow carrots under cloches because it can help speed up the germination process and help the carrot seedlings harden off and adjust to outdoor conditions.

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