The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

What’s a Cloche?

April 18th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Posted in Blog


Nineteenth-century Paris grew much of its own vegetables using horse manure and glasses cloches, these tall, bell-shaped glass domes (“cloche” translates at “bell” in French) that serve as individual greenhouses for the plants. Imagine acres of cloches, each making a cozy little house for a squash or a pepper or an eggplant.

Why in the world would I be resorting to 19th century technology in my 21st century garden? Well, we’ve had a pretty cool and wet spring in the District of Columbia this year. Many of the plants I started in seed trays indoors according to the usual schedule were starting to get long and leggy waiting to be transplanted to the garden outdoors. With daytime temperatures still in the 50s, and falling into the 30s overnight, I was worried I’d never get my heirloom Italian squash plants in the ground. They like it hot.

When I mentioned my dilemma to my wife, she scurried to the back storage room and returned with this cloche. You can take one look at the squash plant inside and see how happy it is.


Unfortunately, we only have one cloche and three squash plants. What you see here covering the other two is the bottom of a plastic animal crackers container and on overturned bucket. Until things warm up, they’ll just have to do.

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  • The Giraffe

    The cloche is really attractive – how French, how Paris, how chic.
    The bucket, on the other hand, is quite tacky. Why don’t you use some of those large canning jars I gave back to you recently – that way the plant will also get light.

  • Sylvie

    Bucket is no good except at night (in my not so humble opinion). Any very large jars will do for a while. Otherwise, make a cloche frame using 12 gauge wire (or coat hangers, cut), place that over the seedling and draped with clear plastic such as dry-cleaner bags. Anchor the edges of the bag with soil or rocks. Still tacky, but better than the bucket.

  • Ed Bruske

    Susan, I don’t expect we’ll be needing these past next week. So while the bucket is tacky, it’s not permanent.

    Sylvie, I should have known you’d have a formula for making cloches. My main concern is the nighttime temps. I’ve been removing them during the day. I’ll probably leave them on this week when the cold rains come.

  • marcyincny

    I’ve been using Haxnicks Solar Bells the past few years and now I’d hate to have to do without ’em:–Solar-Bells/VegetableGardening_SeasonExtending,35-067,default,cp.html

  • lauren

    I have also had good luck using 2-liter bottles or empty liquor bottles (need some? Just have a party!) with the bottom cut off. If you leave the cap off, it makes a nice little vent for the hot air during the daytime.

    Planting my cucumbers, summer squash, and watermelons (yay!) tomorrow!

  • Ed Bruske

    Marcy, thanks for that link. My first impression is, Wow–they’re charging 10 bucks a piece for those plastic cloches. (Bet they don’t cost 50 cents to make.) Love the idea–love the little vent at the top–but that’s too rich for my blood.

    Lauren, I’m with you. Time to be foraging for cloches. I bet if you put a notice on Freecycle you’d get all kinds of stuff. It’s great to be putting summer vegetables in the ground. Good for you.