Frugal for me
My big gardening experiment for this year has come (mostly) to a close. My cloches have (mostly) been removed from the garden where they so tenaciously protected the dirt from frost and even a couple of snows over the last two months.

Around here, "cloche" is just a fancy word meaning used milk jug or used 2 liter bottle. In other places, like France, it means bell. Some people go all out with these little mini-greenhouses. But not us. We just stuck our trash in the garden to see if it would do any good.

And with some minor frustrations, it did. We found that plastic milk jugs just tend to collapse when you push them into the soil and blow away once you get them in so they are kind of pointless. Two liter bottles hold up much better, and old V-8 bottles don't even crinkle when you press them into the soil around your newly planted seeds.

You do need to watch them, though, and they take a little care. The lids for the bottles worked well to hold in heat at night. When taken off in the morning, the openings served as a perfect vent to keep from cooking the plants during the day. And oh yes, even on a cold day, those things can start cooking your seedlings so long as the sun is out. Which means paying attention to the weather every day and lidding or unlidding cloches accordingly.

You also have to watch the moisture level. The cloches seem to suck water from the soil and regular watering is a must. Trying to aim a narrow stream of water from a hose three feet away was a bit of a challenge, and sometimes I did give up and go over with a cup of water. I think next year, I may try to start the cloches closer to the hose. Or get a longer hose.

Finally, when we went to take the cloches out, they tried to take the garden soil and all its vegetable contents with them. That was a little annoying and two of my cloches are still in the garden because I can't get them to let go of the soil.

But then, I didn't expect trying to start plants outdoors a full two months before our last frost date to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. This year was just an experiment to see if it did work and how well.

Comparing the beets grown in the cloche:

to the beets grown outside the cloche with a little mulching (that blew away in a storm anyway):

clearly demonstrates that the concept works. Even with my leftover pop bottles.

And they were free. And free always works for me.

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