The term cloche is a French word which simply means “ bell ”. The first cloches used in gardening were bell shaped glass jars with a top handle which were inverted over the plant to be protected creating individual, mini greenhouses. Other types were made of straw, which were used to protect newly planted specimens against sun scorch and wind damage.
Cloche have been used effectively during propagation, providing an inexpensive way of plant protection from the outdoor elements. Basically the cloche creates a small micro climate where small, young, fragile plants can survive and thrive. As well as looking quite decorative, the cloche keeps cold rain off the new plants which helps to prevent rot, and also traps heat bringing spring ahead and lengthening the growing season. They are also great protection from frost damage and protection against birds and insects.
You can still purchase glass cloches and for me they are still the most attractive and elegant. There are now more modern versions made of light plastic which are easier to handle however they run the risk of blowing away if not tied down. Even the lowly plastic bag or cut plastic soda bottles with caps and labels removed can be used with good results.
Plastic tunnel cloches work well for starting early vegetable crops. Place them in the garden a few weeks before sowing to heat up the soil. Ensure your plastic is held firmly with tie downs to prevent wind damage to the cloche.
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