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|This antique Victorian cloche is a decorative addition to a vegetable bed
Image: Paul Wishart
A cloche is a small and portable plant cover that acts like a tiny greenhouse. It protects early or tender crops from the cold by trapping the sun’s warmth underneath, and provides a useful barrier against pests like slugs and snails.
French for ‘bell’, a cloche was originally a single glass dome or jar. Today they come in various shapes and sizes, including highly ornamental varieties. Incredibly popular, many gardeners now favour the tunnel style mini-greenhouse cloche made from strong, transparent plastic that covers several plants at once. These are easily extended by clipping together as many units as required.
|Traditional glass cloches are used here to protect young lettuce plants
Image: M G White
Unlike greenhouses and cold-frames, a cloche doesn’t take up permanent space in the garden and you can easily move it to wherever it’s needed.
Some gardeners use cloches in spring to pre-warm the soil before sowing or transplanting crops. This helps with germination and can also bring harvest dates forward by several weeks.
Cloches are a good way to protect young plants from harsh elements and pests. They provide a physical barrier against wind, heavy rain, hail and the odd unexpected frost. They also prevent birds and pests from attacking new shoots as they emerge.
|This mini greenhouse cloche has built-in rain reservoirs and ventilation holes
Image: Mini Greenhouse Cloche from Thompson & Morgan
Quick and easy to set up, a strong, clear plastic cloche is the best way to protect plants throughout the year.
Simply clip the units together until you have the required length, fix the end panels, and stake down with the pegs provided. If your cloche has ventilation holes, you won’t need to worry about humidity levels as much. Removing the end panels throughout the day will help if your plants need hardening off.
Some cloche models have built-in reservoirs for controlled irrigation. If they don’t, or it has been particularly dry, you’ll need to be sure to water your plants well.
Give your seedlings a real boost by covering them with a cloche or using it to pre-warm the soil. Bigger garden or allotment? Check out our full range of grow tunnels – great alternatives to a permanent greenhouse.