Get canny with cloches

Once you start using cloches you'll wonder how you ever did without them. These mini-greenhouses were invented by the Victorians but a century later are still earning their keep in the garden.

The simplest cloches are clear polythene stretched over wire hoops, available in various sizes in our garden centre. Pop one over a row of seedlings and you create a microclimate, protected from chill winds and concentrating sunshine. Under their protection it's possible to start sowing in February with early peas, carrots and salad leaves.

Exotic crops like sweet potatoes are also possible even in the UK with their help: plant tubers through black polythene, then cover with cloches for the tropical conditions they need.

Individual bell cloches protect against birds, slugs and light frosts - courgette plants grow fast and slug-free under them, while in damp winters they give alpines the dry but cool conditions they need.

For the ultimate in style, glass Victorian lantern cloches make handsome features in their own right. Move them around as you want to cover vulnerable plants: pop one over dahlia tubers to fend off slugs while they establish.

Please ask the staff in our garden centre in Poynings  for more information and advice about which cloches are best suited to your needs.

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