Sow when the temperature of the soil reaches at least 7C (45F), almost all
seeds will fail to germinate below this temperature. When using
poly-tunnels or cloches, this temperature
normally occurs three to four weeks before the last frost date in your area.
A further advantage can be gained by sowing indoors in pots about five
weeks before the last frost date. When the seedlings emerge, they can
be planted out under poly-tunnel / cloche protection about two weeks before the last
frost is due.
Position cloches in a sunny position and keep the
cloches together in units. Prepare the soil before putting the cloches
in position and keep the soil as level as possible. Cloches are liable
to damage in heavy wind conditions and a level soil will help keep the
entire cloche in contact with ground and draught-free.
If at all possible, position the cloches so that they
have the protection of a windbreak such as a wall or a hedge. But be
sure that the windbreak will not cast a shadow over the cloches.
Additionally, the soil around hedges will be less fertile than normal so
place the cloches at least 3 m (10 foot) away from hedges.
In general, windbreaks are effective up to a distance of
10 times the height of the windbreak. So for example a hedge 1 m (3
foot) high will provide protection from wind for a distance of up to 10
m (30 foot) from the windbreak. This gives plenty of scope to place the
cloches far enough away from a hedge so that soil fertility is not
effected but wind protection is effective.
Watering of vegetables protected by a cloche is often
considered a problem but rainwater will run off the sides of the cloche
keeping the soil inside the cloche moist. In warm conditions it will be
necessary to remove one of the top panel of the cloche to enable
watering manually with a hose (if permitted) or a watering can. Removal
of a top panel will also be necessary in warm conditions to allow air to
circulate freely and prevent the build up of disease.
At the end of each season the cloches can be cleaned by
simply washing in water and a little washing up liquid. This will remove
any algae that has built up.
With very little planning it is easily possible to use
the same cloches for three or four different crops in the same season. Click on
the link to the next page below for in depth help on how to get the very
best from your cloches.