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Day #10 – Cranberry Cloches

Our main garden bed is a circle that we divide up into 8 “wedge” shaped beds with another smaller circle in the middle. Jan bought tomato seedling this week at the farmer’s market so now it’s time to start considering the “tomato wedge.”

Yes of course it’s too early. There are weeks left until the official “last frost day” and tomatoes seedlings in particular are very tender and more, they will just sit and glare at you, refusing to grow at all until the soil warms up. But I still want them in the ground ready to go.

A trick we use to extend our growing season is to use “cloches” or personal sized greenhouses over our tender seedlings. The original idea of cloches, I think, dates to a style of gardening called “French intensive” gardening which is also similar to “Biodynamic” gardening. One resource for more information about these intriguing styles is: How to Grow More Vegetables in Less Space than you Though Imaginable by John Jeavons (Ten Speed Press). The first cloches were bell shaped domes of blown glass. I’ve actually seen such things for sale, but they struck me as expensive, fragile and bulky. I didn’t see what I’d do with them come fall, or honestly, how they’d survive intact ’til spring.


Instead, we have made our own very durable cloches from the 64 oz clear plastic containers that cranberry juice is often sold in simply by simply cutting off the bottom. We also have several of the 32 oz size for smaller seedlings like peppers and basil. To store them, we thread a length of rope through the necks, one by one like a string of beads. Then we tie off the ends and stow it out of the way until next year.

I have also seen a neighbor who used fishbowls! A yard full of inverted fishbowls was quite surreal.

One style of cloche that deeply intrigues me comes from the book Solar Gardening: growing Vegetables year-Round the American Intensive Way by Leandre and Gretchen Vogel Poisson. These cloches can easily be used at both ends of the harvest where mine, obviously would be too small to protect full grown plants. The “Solar Cone” as the Poisson’s call their design is also durable and furthermore, they appear to be stackable. Plus, they are elegant to look at where my recycled plastic ware most certainly is not. Some day when I have a chance I want to track down the materials to make a few.


It didn’t take me 20 minutes to get the “snake” of cloches down from the shed but I bet it’ll take a bit longer to get the tomatoes in the ground tomorrow so I’ll bank the extra minutes.

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