The Cottage Smallholder

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How to make a cheap and elegant cloche


Photo: Homade cloches

Photo: Homade cloches

I spent a lot of the weekend searching for cloches on the internet. I’ve sown peas and carrots for an early crop in the spring and even though we have a lot of cloches I need the smaller ones to protect salad and stir fry leaves. I did find some ‘cheap’ fleece cloches for under fifteen quid but I would need five of these – out of the question at the moment.

On one of my searches for “cheap cloches” I was drawn onto a gardening forum where several members had made cloches using blue water pipe as a frame. And then covering this with fleece or plastic in the winter and insect netting in the summer. The one problem seemed to be anchoring the hoops so the cloches didn’t blow away. Quite a few people mentioned the Geoff Hamilton cloche . This has a wooden frame that supports the pipe which is fine for a small raised bed but not for a twelve foot cloche, apart from in Mr Universe’s garden.

Thank goodness I’m a hoarder. I was given loads of 20mm blue water pipe about 8 years ago and it’s been kicking around under the willow tree since then. I dragged it down to the kitchen garden and cut it into lengths with my long handled pruners. The lengths were the width of my fleece plus an extra 15-20 cm so that each hoop could be firmly anchored in the ground. I also cut the ends of each hoop at a 45 degree angle so it would be easier to press them into the earth.

I discovered quite quickly that it’s very difficult to force the piping into the earth so found a length of metal pipe (the same width) that could be hammered into the ground. I marked the correct depth with a piece of insulating tape on the pipe.

I left a gap of 65cm between each hoop so as to be able to support the fleece in heavy snow.

Once I’d worked out the logistics – the cloches were a doddle to make. The fleeces need pegs to keep them in position so I used the hooks that hold the waterbutt drip watering system in place during the summer. Update when it got windy the hooks failed to anchor the sides of the fleece. I was delighted to find a pack of plastic netting pegs that are perfect. You can buy them online here.

I actually prefer the look of my cloches to the commercially produced ones. They will be far more versatile throughout the year as we won’t be confined to a certain length or covering. You can see that the are much more capacious than the standard cloche in the photo.

In fact the water pipe is so sturdy we are thinking of making two enormous hoops and setting them at right angles to make a fruit cage or summer house.

Most people seemed to recommend getting the water pipe from Screwfix.  I did a bit of research last night and they are far cheaper than Wickes or B&Q. You can buy fleece by the meter from Harrod Horticultural and a bit more expensive at Dobies. I discovered that fleece is available in two grades 17g and 30g for really arctic conditions. I bought mine locally in small rolls but think that when it needs replacing I’ll go for the 30g one as it wouldn’t tear so easily. I’ve just spotted these nifty anchoring clips that look effective. Now where did I put my Christmas list?

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  1. Pete Carter

    We bought a while ago plastic corners that would hold polythene piping. We made a frame for the corners to sit on. The kit also had a straight bit that you were able to put in the middle if the length.
    The instructions said
    Instructions for a Grow Frame Kit.
    I’ve googled this heading but can’t find anything. Can anyone help. There’s nothing on the plastic to say where it came from, only part numbers, which again haven’t revealed anything.
    Any ideas.
    Pete Carter

    • Fiona Nevile

      If you can upload a photo it would be much easier to help! If you can’t do this here try the Cottage Smallholder page on facebook – I will do all that I can do to help, Fiona

  2. Thanks for your advice about covering plants with fleece for winter. I am keeping my dahlias in the soil this year and covering with bucket of bark clippings. This fleece will be a good protection and cover as you describe. I dug the dahlias up last year but despite following all the storage rules still lost them. I hope Harrods Horticultural are giving you a discount!

  3. Thanks for taking the time to share your advice and learning journey on cloches! I’m new to growing veg and love making things myself so this is my entertainment for today. You have saved me so much time ?

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