What is a Cloche?
Cloches (also called bell jars or row covers) are portable protectors. Like small cold frames, they protect plants and are often used in winter and fall gardens (or to protect tender seedlings in early spring). While the most expensive (and pretty!) cloches are glass, they also come in plastic, or they can be created out of all sorts of reusable objects (like milk containers and plastic soda bottles).
Bell jars protect plants (including both garden plants and indoor plants) from pests and the environment. Placed on top of individual plants or (depending on the design of the cloche) a whole row, cloches not only protect plants from rain and snow, they capture an insulating layer of air that naturally raises the temperature of the air surrounding plants, allowing savvy gardeners to extend their growing season.
Why Use Them?
Using cloches is a wonderfully eco-friendly and sustainable way to maximize your garden’s productivity. Because they raise the air temperature inside of them by 8° to 10° and the soil temperature by a few degrees to, you can use bell jars a few weeks before spring officially starts to warm and protect your seedlings. You can also extend your fall gardening by using them to shield your winter vegetables from the cold and snow.
All in all, you can add two to three extra months on your growing season—all without using any energy at all. How’s that for energy-efficient gardening? And, because they don’t take up much space (much less than a big greenhouse for instance!), you can even use them for patio and porch gardens.
How to Use Cloches
Bell jars are incredibly easy to use. Basically, you get one that’s appropriate for the size of the area that you want to protect, place it over the area and tip the lid daily to let in fresh air. That’s it. While you may want to occasionally check to make sure the air and soil aren’t too hot, unless you’re in particular hot climate (in which case you probably don’t need to use a cloche anyway), there’s really not much else to do.
Decorating With Bell Jars
The quintessential English garden decoration, glass bell jars look lovely in the garden or even indoors, where they can be used to shield plants from dust, hungry pets and pesky pets. Use one to display a particularly striking plant, or arrange cloches in a group to create decorative effects. They can even be used to create lovely holiday displays.