The use of plastic cloches in your garden (and in your home) will enable you to get a jump start on the upcoming growing season by as much as four to six weeks and also allow you to extend your season by just as many weeks. Resourceful gardeners are always on the lookout for items to recycle to be used to make a variety of plastic cloches. If you have a look around your home I guarantee you will find one or two items that can be used to create a perfectly functional garden cloche.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the purpose of a cloche, they can be used to provide protection and warmth to tender plants during the early spring, when frost and cold weather are still likely. They are also used late in the growing season, as the cold temperatures of fall and winter begin, to allow plants time to fully mature.
Some of the more obvious items found in the home to use to make plastic cloches are milk jugs, 2-liter soda bottles, large juice containers, old water cooler bottles, etc. These are easily converted into plastic cloches by cutting off the base of the plastic container and if there is a handle, cutting a slit along it as well. You can place the cloche on top of the vulnerable plant, leaving the cap off to allow for air flow and venting. A good idea is to place a stick in the slit in the handle or through the top to secure it to the ground. You can leave the cap off during the day to prevent overheating and replace it at night to maintain the solar heat throughout the cold night.
Another option is to make a plastic cloche in the shape of a tunnel, sometimes called a hoop tunnel, to cover an entire row of plants. You can use hula hoops, water piping, or PVC piping to create the hoops.
Place metal rods (rebar) or sturdy sticks four feet apart in the ground to secure each side of the hoop.
Drape plastic sheeting over the hoops to create a tunnel. Plastic sheeting, with special UV filters, can be purchased at a nursery or home store but any plastic will do at least for the short term. You can even use the sheeting from the dry cleaners in a pinch. Secure the sides along the edges with stones or bricks or old tent stakes. You’ll want to be able to provide air circulation during the day so make sure you are able to open each end of the tunnel but in the evening draw the ends together and close off with a piece of string or clamp. There are a few tricks that make the hoop tunnel plastic cloches even more effective. Lining a row of old style Christmas lights along the inside of the tunnel will add even more warmth overnight. Using only solar power for extra warmth, place black plastic water bottles or bicycle tire inner tubes in the tunnel after they have spent the day in the sun. They will continue to give off heat throughout the night.
If it is an extremely cold evening, cover the entire tunnel with a warm blanket! Everything inside will be cozy until the sun comes up.
Recently a friend suggested using Zip Lock bags as makeshift indoor plastic cloches. She started her Forget Me Not seedlings in the sandwich bags and it worked perfectly.
With just a bit of planning you can save money by using everyday items to help out in the garden!