Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Benefits of Cloches in the Organic Garden

Cloches come in many forms and styles and are common in domestic and commercial gardens. They are particularly useful in the organic garden. They are a great way of protecting tender young plants from extremes of weather and to reduce pests and diseases in your garden.

When we talk about cloches we usually refer to plastic, fabric or mesh-covered tunnels. They are also easier to move around and store when compared to a traditional cold frame (which is effectively a miniature greenhouse) and can tend to withstand weather better than plastic cold frames.

Gardens Supervisor stands with here hands outstretched in front of two black tunnels covered in mesh, with small seedlings inside..
Vicky stands proudly in front of the newly installed Dig It! cloches.

They can be used to control exposure to the weather and therefore temperature and humidity - creating a mini-microclimate where needed in your garden. Although winter and summer are often the more extreme seasons, it is spring and autumn that can have the greatest variations of temperature or humidity so a little love in the form of a cloche, can really extend your growing season.

Cloches can be covered in a variety of materials, from mesh to plastic and different thicknesses and weaves of fabrics. At Dig It! you name it, we've probably used it! We have used milk bottles, glass jars and water cooler bottles with the bases cut out.

We love reusing and recycling at Dig It! Here, old bottles protect delicate seedlings.
If it does the job, and it's not pinned down - it's fair game for use in the garden we say!

Here are some of the pros and cons of the different types of covering

Mesh or fabric - this can protect from snails, slugs, butterflies, birds, smaller animals, wind and rain. Finer mesh allows less light transmission and can cause plants to become leggy whereas coarser mesh won't protect from extremes of temperature or weather. Not having your plants disturbed by cats or hedgehogs who would like nothing better than using your freshly planted garden as a toilet, is another benefit many of us will appreciate.

Plastic film - this can protect from snails, slugs, butterflies, birds, smaller mammals, wind and rain but can be damaged easier in wind. Heat extremes are more likely which can damage plants and encourage fungal type diseases and infection. Leaving the ends open can allow better ventilation and prevent extreme heat build up.

Give it a go!

Cloches can be made from materials as simple as a plastic bag stretched over a coat hanger to protect seed trays, milk bottles to protect individual plants to old umbrellas with the fabric removed or old timber or aluminium windows.

Ultimately it is up to you to find what works best depending on the weather, pests and diseases you experience but they are an inexpensive way to gain maximum production out of gardens and reduce the use of pesticides.

By Brendan Murphy

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