Growing Under Cover

Protecting crops during cold weather is important for the survival and growth of plants, especially during spring and autumn. Cloches, cold frames, greenhouses, and polytunnels are all methods used to provide protection from the elements. Each method has its own benefits and can extend the growing season, increase yields, and provide a controlled environment for crops.

Cloches and Cold Frames

Cloches and cold frames are effective in protecting crops and promoting their growth during cold weather. Recyclable household items, such as clear plastic bottles and storage boxes, can be used as makeshift greenhouses. Corrugated clear plastic cloches can be used for whole rows of plants, while large rigid plastic cloches are ideal for larger crops. Cold frames are permanent structures that can be made of brick or block with timber framed windows that serve as lids. They are useful for hardening-off young plants and extending the productive season of crops such as salads and courgettes.

Greenhouses

Greenhouses allow the home grower to start crops early and improve yields. It is important to ensure proper ventilation and regulate temperature to prevent plants from wilting in hot weather or being scorched by bright sunlight. A cheap and effective method for shading a greenhouse is to apply a coat of shading wash in early summer. Green mesh can also be used but is less effective. Removable or drop down shelving can make it easier to accommodate different plants at different stages of growth. Greenhouses are also useful for accommodating tender plants such as oranges and lemons in containers over the winter season.

Polytunnels

Polytunnels are popular among home gardeners for their versatility and cost-effectiveness. They can be used for growing crops, creating a spacious work area, and storing large pieces of equipment. Polytunnels are relatively easy to build, can be anchored to withstand high winds and storms, and have the added benefit of being 5 degrees warmer inside than outside. Irrigation systems can be easily fitted, making them ideal for off-grid gardening.

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