All About Cloches (cont)
By: Lee Reich
In my garden, I use cloches in many ways. Obviously, they provide great protection for any newly planted seedlings, but they also protect mature plants in fall. My bell-shaped glass cloche offers winter protection to my one sea kale (Crambe maritima), a perennial that is both ornamental and edible but borderline hardy in my garden. Where the climate is too cool to ripen peppers or eggplants, they can bask all season long in a large lantern cloche.
When selecting a cloche, one point to consider is how airtight it is. The less permeable a cloche is, the warmer the trapped air remains on cold nights. On the other hand, airtight cloches demand more attention to prevent overheating and possible death to your plants. I generally opt to forgo a few degrees of cold protection for the freedom of leaving my cloches almost unattended. This means leaving a block that vents an individual cloche in place overnight or leaving the top open.
If you live in snow country and are planning to protect vegetables well into winter, also consider how well your cloches will stand up under the weight of snow. Waxed-paper Hot Kaps will be crushed in a snowstorm, whereas glass or rigid plastic cloches such as the Aqua Dome can withstand an early winter snow.
Consider also the material from which the cloche is made and its durability. Some cloches, such as Hot Kaps, last only one season. Lightweight plastics used to make Wall O' Waters, solar umbrellas, and tomato plant covers may last up to five years with proper care. Rigid polycarbonate plastics used to make the Aqua Dome and lantern cloches should last for many years, especially if the plastic has been treated with ultraviolet light inhibitors and the cloche is stored indoors out of the sun when not in use. Glass is forever -- if it doesn't crack first.
Finally, consider what you'll do with the cloches when they're not in use. If your garage is like mine, it's already overflowing with shovels, flats, rakes, and other garden-related items. You might not want to figure out what to do with a gardenful of glass bell jars. Hot Kaps, on the other hand, get tossed out after only one season. Rigid plastic cloches such as solar bells and Aqua Domes can be stacked. Wall O' Waters collapse when drained, solar umbrellas fold up like an umbrella and tomato plant covers unfold and store flat.
Visit the web site of garden consultant and writer Lee Reich at www.woodstocktimes.com/garden.htm.