Cold Cloches, Cold Frames, and Greenhouses
The obvious benefits of covering your plants with either plastic, light fabric, or glass, is that they will not be so easily damaged by the weather. Rains, frosts, high winds or dry temperatures can be detrimental to your crops and very discouraging for you as well.
Advantages of “Undercover Gardening”
1.) Rain Protection- Heavy rains can wash away your soil, disrupt root systems, or cause the plants to rot from the bottom up. If you are planting from seed directly outside, one good rainstorm can dislodge all your seeds and lose them downstream.
2.) Frost Protection- If you aren’t careful to make absolutely certain that the frost period has ended (come spring) or won’t start yet (come fall), it can cause havoc for your plants. Frosts occur suddenly especially after a promising sunny warm day. What happens is the warm air rises at the end of the day and mixes with the cold night air causing the next morning a light glaze to be found all over everything. A light covering protects your plants from this cold bite. You can use something as simple as an old bed sheet or some thin blankets to cover your plants with.
3.) Wind Protection- Strong winds can flatten or knock over your plants. A windbreaker of some kind would protect your susceptible plants from this.
4.) Flexibility on Planting/Harvesting Times- If you have some covering you can plant earlier or harvest later so you don’t fear the cold weather for your crops. You can grow certain foods, flowers, and herbs out of season that you would normally not be able to. This would make for a nice side business to offer certain things that aren’t common at that time of year for sale.
5.) Plant With More Variety- With a greenhouse or protective covering, you can plant all kinds of different species that under normal conditions of your particular climate, you wouldn’t be able to grow.
6.) Everything Grows Faster- The warmth and moisture protection make plants flourish and grow much faster than they would of if they were planted straight outdoors. This safe environment will also help you plants to have better odds of resisting diseases and also make them taste better.
7.) Less Insect Problems- All those garden pests who chomp away at your plants will have less to eat. If you plant early in the spring, or late in the fall, you can help your plants avoid peak pest seasons.
Types of Protective CoveringsCold Cloche (pronounced “klosh”)- This is just a lightweight covering for plants that can be put on and removed with ease. It must be able to transmit light to the plant so you can make your cloche out of fiberglass, plastic, waxed paper, or glass.
How You Can Make Your Own Cloche
You can make your own by using some wire hoops, from either old hangers or wire of the same thickness from your local hardware store. Make the hoops into half circles and push each end into the soil. You should make a snake like covering over your garden bed. Then taking some clear plastic tarp you arch this over the tops of the hoops. The tunnel works best if you use 4-Mil polyethylene plastic sheeting. You can reinforce your structures strength by in addition to the hoops, make wire rows down the length of the tube too to distribute the weight of the plastic better and prevent it from sagging inward. At either end of this cloche tunnel, you should lift up the plastic at the ends and pin back to allow air circulation during warm days. To make even smaller cold cloches, you can take either a gallon plastic milk or juice jug, cut off the bottom, and place over individual baby plants. The top opening where the cap is, can be used to water your seedlings from.