Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why don't we build a cloche...

... 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!

 our cloche (11) 

Okay! okay! For those who prefer the step-by-step approach, we'll back up to the beginning.

our cloche

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...)

our cloche (1)

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.

our cloche (4)

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!

our cloche (9)

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.


Magic Cochin said...

Aaaah the late lamented GH - I remember seeing him make that on Gardeners World. Now I want one! but not today - it would be flying off to who knows where in this gale!!!!!


Shady Gardener said...

That is So Great! Do you get a lot of sunshine there? I have a spot where a former owner had made one... all I need is the plastic. Right now there's a lot of sunlight there. But we have a bit of possible winter weather left... what do you think??


Greetings Magic! Yes, the windy conditions were something we worried about--especially here in the Pacific Northwest. But it held in place--thanks to some heavy rocks. We were so worried about the cloche that we didn't think about all the empty pots we'd left on the patio--those blew all over the yard!

Hello Shady! I think you should definitely give it a go. It was very inexpensive to make and very easy--this was our first project actually building something in the garden. Yes, most of the cloche gets quite a bit of sun--late morning and all afternoon. One corner gets a bit of shade most of the morning--less and less as we get on into Spring and Summer. So we sowed radishes and spring greens there. Our temps are still on the cool side-40s and low 50s, but hopefully it's a bit warmer under the cloche. It's our first time sowing rather than using starts. When we looked yesterday there were green things growing, but not where we put any seeds--so we suspect they're weeds. How can one tell?

Brenda Kula said...

How talented you must be! I don't know that I'd take on such an undertaking as that. I know what you mean about Home Depot though. I was in there a few days ago; Lowes yesterday. It's like pulling teeth to get help.

Weed Whackin' Adventures said...

Hi Brenda! Thanks for stopping by. Really, the cloche was pretty easy and no more than a couple of hours of work. I'm so glad someone else knows what I mean about Home Depot! I used to love that store. When I had to live in a town that didn't have a store I was quite annoyed. Now I'm so frustrated each time I go there.

Petunia's Gardener said...

Nice job! Ours had a number of visits to different places and curse words too. Ours will disassemble for summer but the flip side is keeping the plastic on through those winds if it isn't perm.attached. I'm glad to find other WA gardeners. We do have our own set of gardening hazards.
Congratulations and happy growing. - Paula

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Wenches I'm certain that dear old Geoff is smiling down on you from garden heaven. He'd be chuffed to bits to know that we girls are still following his excellent advice on all things gardening.:-)

BTW I noticed you have linked with me, I'll return the favour. Have a great weekend!

Libbys Blog said...

I came to you through Petunias Garden, (sounds like I walked) thank you for reminding me of this idea of Geoffs, I was about to go out and buy a plastic type thing. He was brill wasn't he!!!

J said...

What a great idea, and you all are ingenious! I loved the step-by-step.

B and I have been considering getting some floating row covers for our 4X4 beds in the vegetable garden. We can buy a roll of this stuff online for next-to-nothing, and it might work well to help warm up the soil.

But now I am thinking hard about this cloche idea. Hmmmm. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.