There is definitely a cool edge to the air in my garden these days, and it’s going to get colder. Even though we don’t have a lot of very cold days in our part of the world, it does freeze in the winter time. The first frost seems to be approaching rapidly, and the plants have stopped growing almost entirely.
However, there are still some tender growing plants like Rouge D’Hiver winter lettuce outside. Harvesting all of it at one time would mean that it would just wilt in the fridge, so keeping it in the garden is best. But if the lettuce freezes, that will be the end of it. What’s a gardener to do?
A Cloche for the Fall and Winter Garden
A simple cloche is an excellent fall and spring garden tool. What is a cloche? It’s a device that you place over top of tender vegetables to help them stay out of the frost and the snow. By providing a little extra protection to the plants and increasing the temperature of the surrounding air by a few degrees, you can prevent them from freezing for a few weeks longer. This allows you to harvest your fall crops into November.
A Cloche Acts Like a Mini Greenhouse for Your Plants
Traditional French cloches are beautiful. They are bell-shaped glass jars that fit over single plants. If you happen to have an old glass terrarium, you can turn these upside down as well and create a cloche that is similar to the traditional cloche. You can also be more frugal and repurpose a milk container for the purpose. Cut out the top and place the container upside down over a plant. Using greenhouse sheeting or old window glass, you can also rig up rectangle-shaped cloches over top of groups of tender plants.
Care of Plants Under the Cloche or Mini Greenhouse
A cloche is like a miniature greenhouse, so water from the soil will evaporate and sit at the top of the cloche, keeping your plants moist. However, if it is very dry and cold in the fall, you may need to water the plants under the cloche just a little. If you live in a very wet climate, you also want to make sure that the soil underneath the cloche does not become overly damp. In the middle of the day, lift the cloche if possible to provide some ventilation and to prevent the soil from getting moldy.
If you’ve tried a cloche in your garden, did it extend your harvest season? Did you have any issues with moisture or dry soil? Did you buy a cloche or make one yourself?