Friday, October 5, 2012

Garden Cloches

The latest project has been making cloches for the garden. Now we have four raised beds I want to compare growing over wintered onions outside with tunnel grown ones, and broad beans planted outside and planted soon with the ones done a bit later  in root trainers started in the tunnel and then planted out in spring. I feel that if this is successful I can put the tunnel to better use although I'm not too sure what I would be doing that is different. Once we had worked out the design for the cloches they proved to be easy to make.

Each hoop is 8ft. 3/4 inch thin wall plastic water pipe , and the supports are 6mm rebar cut to 2m. Each frame has four hoops and five support rods, this give a cloche that will cover a bed just over four feet wide with a centre height of about eighteen inches, tall enough for onions and beans to over winter. Each cloche can overlap the previous one to give a continuous length.
Once in place they are covered with tunnel plastic and secured by an inch of split plastic pipe.

When cutting the pipe we gave a good allowance for insertion into the ground. If  we find they are disturbed by high winds, we seem to get a lot of those, we can put rebar into the ground and push the ends of the hoops onto them.

The covers are easily removed in the spring and the frames could then be covered with crop fleece or carrot netting. The total cost for forty meters x 4 ft of cloches was eighty euros, much cheaper than the ready made type. We had the rebar cut to the lengths required at the store, no extra charge.
Two  hoops from each frame have 5, 7mm holes drilled at equal distance to insert the rods through, the end hoops have 6mm holes through one wall to give a tight fit at the ends. The ends of the  rods were inclined to slip a bit so the rods have been   secured with water proof tape.

Next season I have plans on growing strawberries under one of the cloches, I will try one of the old breeds, the  Cambridge Favourite, this strawberry is supposed to produce even in bad weather and the cloche can be covered with a crop fleece rather than the plastic as the fruit

One cloche has already been put to use, covering the chard and also the new wallflower seedlings, I'm still hopeful that we will have wallflowers blooming next spring.

 We are wondering if this design could be adapted to make runs for the rabbits, at present their runs are made from wood frame work, this has three disadvantages, it makes the runs quite heavy to move, the runs distort slightly each time they are moved and the rabbits like to eat wood.

 Peter rabbit has eaten his bedroom wall so that has to be replace, he has also had a very good go at his run and the whole run needs to be replaced or remade, so maybe the plastic hoops idea will be able to be adapted some way, I don't think he will eat that.

Below is a picture of the pipe clip, just sawn along on side it then will open up to clip over the plastic cover,

 Our cherry tomatoes have been brilliant this year, so far they have produced over fifteen pounds of the best tasting tomatoes we have ever had, with probably as many to come providing we don't get any very hard frosts that effects stuff in the tunnel. Any that remain green will be made into green tomatoes chutney.

 We did have frost last night so we probably have come to the end of the sweet peas, but who knows, they might continue.

The La Bresse table birds have worked out very well, we have kept two of the pullets to breed from next year and are going to look at a cockerel next week.  We had two other pullets that had not feathered well and seemed to be rather small but in fact they killed out at 2lb 5oz cleaned weight, we have done one cockerel  
so far and he weighed in at 2.5kg about 5lb 5oz cleaned weight at 129 days,  when we start to breed them we will be hoping for male and not female chicks. These to us seem the perfect bird for the table, slow growing but not so slow as to make them too expensive to do. With the increase in feed costs, we are now paying twenty euros for a bag of growers, I will try to work out a formula that we can make at home and maybe reduce the cost of feeding a bit, but that still gives the birds the correct amount of nutrients to thrive well. 


  1. Nice one, Anne and Simon and thanks for the detailed pictures. We are definitely going to have a go at this while we do not have a poly tunnel. Where did you get the rebar in the end? We have a steel supplies place in Balla-D which will almost certainly do it.

  2. Yes, that is where we got it, they will cut to size.