... said Wing Nut to Curmudgeon one morning over coffee. "Now that the veggie patch is cleared, the soil is turned and amended, wouldn't it be great to be able to pick salad greens before any of our neighbors even start to think about planting?" Wing Nut had a point. Coffee cups were refilled, scones were grabbed and off to the computer we went. This is how EVERY project at our house begins. Research! Research! Research!
And research led us to Geoff Hamilton, the British gardening guru and former presenter of BBC Gardener's World. Online we found a 2 minute video of Hamilton building a cloche.
After the research phase came
--a trip to Home Depot--can customer service get any less customer oriented???
--3 trips to 2 local hardware stores--should have just bought it at the first one!
--a new power drill--any excuse for a new power tool! Woo-Hoo!! (Wing Nut likes tools!)
--a few hours of labor--with minimal cursing and swearing (define "minimal"...)
Et voilà--a cloche in the potager!
Okay! okay! For those who prefer the step-by-step approach, we'll back up to the beginning.
We decided to build our cloche to cover a 4'x8' area. For the frame we went with 1x3s instead of the 2x2s Hamilton had suggested--at Home Depot the 2x2 studs seemed very heavy, especially in an 8' length. For the corners we used galvanized steel corner brackets. Wing Nut used the new power drill to drill holes for the 1/2 inch dowel rods, which were cut into 6" lengths. We drilled 10 holes--one every 2' along the 8' sides of the frame. We glued the rods into the holes for greater stability. (Wing Nut was a little shaky with the very powerful new drill and the holes may have been just a wee bit off...)
For the supports we used 1/2" plastic tubing which came in a 100 ft roll. We cut 5 lengths of 6' and slid the ends over the dowel rods.
We used 3.5 ml plastic sheeting for the skin. How to hold it down was a bit of a conundrum. Hamilton suggested using lath along the bottom and nailing the plastic all the way around. We decided to skip this step and instead used thumb tacks all the way around. To prop open the cloche, we use a piece of state-of-the-art technology -- a stick with a notch cut out at the top. Hey look! Something is already growing under the cloche! It looks suspiciously like Wing Nut - that crazy woman!
Now Hamilton didn't mention anything about holding down the cloche during wind storms. However, given that we're in the PNW and a Pineapple Express could still show up, we figured we'd better address this potential problem from the start. We left about a foot extra of plastic sheeting along one length of the frame and we weighted it down with large rocks. Last night we got to test whether the cloche would hold or fly away during a wind storm. It's still sitting in the potager!
A few days after completing our cloche project Yolanda of Bliss did a post about her gardening hero--none other than Geoff Hamilton! Yolanda's post was a wonderful tribute and gave many who had never heard of him a chance to become acquainted.