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A garden cloche is an alternate name for a bell jar. Typically, the bell jar is rounded glass with no bottom that can be set over collectibles to display them. In gardening, the garden cloche was once solely made of glass but now may be made of many clear materials. It is placed over young plants to protect them from insects or harsh weather. The original cloche designs had a bell shape, which is no surprise because the word cloche is a direct translation from the French for the term bell.
Usually when the term garden cloche is used, it infers outdoor usage of the cloche, and not the decorative uses of the bell jar that became popular a few centuries back. Some people do suggest use of the cloche for indoor decoration, but use as coverings for plants to protect them may be far more popular. Certainly the styles today may far differ from earlier bell jar designs, and garden cloches can be made to cover numerous plants, or merely to protect one.
People can certainly buy open-bottomed bell jars for plant protection, but many people favor recycling bottles or jars for this purpose. Plastic soda bottles may work very well if the bottom of the bottle is cut off. Another potential bottle that works well for this is a plastic milk jug.
When gardeners have skills with cutting glass, another way to create garden cloches is to use glass bottles. Gallon wine jugs and rounded bottles may be perfect if the bottoms of the bottles can be safely removed. It is not recommended that people trying removing the bottoms of glass bottles if they don’t possess the proper equipment or training for this, since cuts could occur.
An alternative is to build a metal or wooden frame, which can be covered with plastic sheeting. There are even kits people can purchase to create these larger garden cloches, that require minimal building skills. Larger cloches could be used to cover many plants at once, and they do stray from the concept of the single bell jar covering one plant.
On the other hand, if a person is planting a high number of plants, the protection provided could be superior. A garden cloche may need to be removed from time to time to check the health of each plant, and having to remove lots of individual bell jars to check tiny seedlings can be a lot of work. A single larger garden cloche can be easily pushed up or over to check all plants at once and thus saves time.
I've found that garden cloches are simple and effective methods of protecting your garden from that cold fall/winter weather. Great for extending your growing season. --Jeff
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