|4/2/2016 Brighton, MI - Does that look like spring to you? Me neither.|
Because of the variable weather, it is smart to plant your early spring crops under some kind of protection. Your choices include: A hoophouse/greenhouse, a cold frame, a low tunnel, floating row cover or a cloche.
In this post I discuss a good way to make a very sturdy, long lasting, and fairly economical cloche. These stand up to UV rays, are light, easy to move, easy to set up and can last for many, many seasons. They are also inexpensive. One 4ft. x 1ft. (1.4m x 0.3m) cloche costs about $15 (in 2016) in materials, or $45 for a set of 3. They take less than a half hour to make once the materials have been purchased. (All price estimates from the year 2016 in Michigan.)
But first, I must give credit where credit is due: to European gardeners. I have been watching a lot of YouTube lately and have seen cloches like the ones I am blogging about in the background of the British TV show "Gardener's World," on the YouTube channel "Lavender and Leeks", and in the periphery of various allotment gardens on the YouTube "Horticultural Channel." I have NEVER seen these discussed on an American gardening program or blog of any sort. We seem to be attached to low tunnels made from PVC and plastic sheeting for some reason. Now maybe I have missed something... but just in case these wonderful devices have been over-looked in our culture, I want to share how to make them with "all y'all."
|12 x 2.17ft (3.7m x 0.7m) Polycarbonate Panel|
- Pieces of clear polycarbonate roofing panel (these come in 8ft. (2.4m) and 12ft. (3.7m) x 2.17ft (0.7m) lengths)
- Roll of 10 gauge steel wire
- Several 2 to 3 ft. (1m) sticks (tree limbs, bamboo or rebar)
- Either a tin snips, trauma shears (strong scissors), or jigsaw
- Either a strong wire cutter or a bolt cutter
- Seeds or seedlings to plant
2.) Next buy a roll of thick, flexible wire. 10 gauge steel wire works well. A roll of 50ft. (15.24m) of galvanized steel wire costs around $10.
- If you want to cover a garden area of the same length as the piece of polycarbonate that you bought, skip the next 3 steps.
|Measure & cut the polycarbonate panels to size.|
4.) Measure and mark out 1ft. x 1ft. (0.3m x 0.3m) squares on the panel. These will later be used as end pieces for your polycarb cloches.
|Bolt cutters work well to cut 10 gauge wire.|
NOTE: If you don't own a pick-up truck or van, steps 3-5 could be done in the parking lot of the store where you bought the polycarbonate panels. That way you can fit them into your car.
6.) Measure out 3.5 (1m)to 4ft. (1.2m) pieces of 10 gauge wire.
|Be smarter than I was: Wear gloves.|
8.) Carry your wire and polycarbonate pieces out to the garden.
|Pin the pastic in place with wire arches.|
10.) Flex the polycarbonate over the top of the seeds or seedlings. Pin them in place with 2 arches of the 4ft (1.2m) pieces of wire. 1 arch of wire should be placed at each end of the length of the polycarbonate panel. Be sure to sink the wire firmly into the soil on either side of the arched plastic so that it holds in place securely.
|Pin the end piece in place with sticks.|
So far, these cloches have stayed in place despite 60mph (96.5kph) winds, and have protected the soil against 3 inches (7.6cm) of snow in my garden.
We will see how my protected cold weather seeds turn out in a later post.
Until then, happy gardening! :)