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What are cloches and what are they used for?

Plant protection is a key part of successful growing, be it for an ornamental garden to relax in or raising food for you to enjoy on your table. When plants are vulnerable to colder temperatures a cold frame is the solution to keeping those plants safe and free from frosts. Once a plant is outside in the garden, vegetable bed or allotment, than a cloche can take over.

Cold frames can be built or bought in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs, etc. with their own merits and suitability to your individual requirements. The simplest form of cold frame is a box with a clear lid that can be opened and closed. They can also be multi-tiered, with sliding doors, temperature controlled lids, in fact, not far short of a small greenhouse, it really does depend on the space you have and your intended use.

small cold frame

The initial purpose of a cold frame is for the protection of tender young plants before they are planted outside in the garden in their permanent positions. Plants can also be hardened off using a cold frame, this would mean that the lid or doors are opened up during the day time in late spring, allowing the slightly cooler air to flow around the plants, however, at night, when the temperature drops significantly; the frame can be closed up again. During the winter months, the frame can also be used to offer protection to any potted plants that may not survive if they are left outside and exposed to sub-zero temperatures. In the summer, many gardeners use their cold frames as mini-greenhouses, growing chillies, salad crops and even tomatoes inside. This way the cold frame becomes an incredibly useful piece of garden equipment and will get use all year around.

A cloche also offers plant protection, these are however much more portable and are also useful for not only keeping the weather away from plants, but also pests such as slugs and snails.

cold frame
bell cloche

Traditionally made from glass, but now available in plastic, Bell Cloches are used to protect individual plants or pots and fit neatly over the top with very little fuss or effort, they can simply be lifted off when no longer needed and they also have a certain “quaint” feel to them, so they wouldn’t look out of place in a flower border if you are particularly concerned about a favourite plant.

Tunnel cloches were once made by leaning two panes of glass against each other in a triangle shape, usually with clips to hold them in place, additional panes could be added to lengthen the row and a single pane across the ends would keep the plants inside safe and warm. Preformed plastic tunnel cloches are now readily available to the gardener and being lightweight, are much easier to lift and replace if you need to get to your crops.

tunnel cloche

There are many ways to protect your crops from the harsher weather, home-made or bought, Cold frames being a semi-permanent structure in your garden and cloches a flexible and mobile solution. Either way, your plants will be well looked after and can be kept safe.

View our full range of cloches and cold frames.


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Written by: Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting Graham Ward
seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.