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Improvising, making, or sourcing DIY (do-it-yourself) garden cloches

 
gardener
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I was watching a video of a lecture Paul Wheaton was giving, and one of the things he said was to stop transplanting.  To plant and use a cloche for an earlier start.  I would love to have cloche, but they are just not in my budget at this time.  I did see on Youtube the other day how they would cut glass bottles by soaking cotton string in acetone, wrapping it two times around the bottle and setting it on fire.  Once the fire went out dunking the bottle in ice water.  Some make it seem simple and easy, some made it seem like you would end up with a jagged mess.  
We have several large whiskey bottles, not because we drink to much, but almost equally as bad my husband can't stand to throw anything away.  He has  "I might need that some day" syndrome.  Anyway I was thinking if I could cut the bottom off I could use it like a cloche, and make use of some of these bottles we cant throw away, or recycle.  (of course if I use them he will point out he was right, I did need them and aren't I glad we kept them)  
The point of this wandering post is has anyone attempted to cut glass this way.  If so how did it go.  Part two other suggestions on diy cloche.  
P.S. I don't have any large mason jars, and we don't eat pickles.
 
pioneer
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Thrift shops often have all manner of inexpensive clear glass bottles, candle holders, mason jars, and vases that can be turned upside down to function as a cloche.  If you decide to check that out, call first to find when or if there are discounted days.  Here there are 50% off days in some of the thrift shops which can make for great shopping.
 
pollinator
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They aren't tall, but I've used them successfully in some cases.



These cheese boards with glass domes show up regularly at thrift shops, and are usually very cheap.
 
gardener
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I can respond to the cutting glass that way business. I saved some funky olive oil bottles to use for partyware. I got the glass to cut but it was unpredictable (didn`t break quite the way I expected). I also didn`t realize I would have to sand/file the glass down afterward. I ended up using electrical tape on the cut edges and it actually looks pretty funky but was totally not what I was expecting.

Anyway.... if the whiskey bottles are what I am imagining, they will probably be too thick for good and predictable cut/break using the flaming string. This cutting business seems to be meant for right in the middle of a tallboy type bottle, which works perfectly, but any funky or thicker glass I`ve tried is not so perfect.
I don`t use cloches but I use large glass jars around my house-- they are hard to find here. I was lucky enough to find a restaurant that uses lots of things that come in big jars (think pickled eggs, enormous jars of pickles and olives, etc) and they are kind enough to sell me their old jars for a pittance. Everyone`s happy.
 
gardener
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I have cut some using bottles using a method I learned from green power science, using water as the heat source.
It worked pretty well, but if I wanted to do it at any scale I would use a wet tile saw.

I think a cold frame might be a better choice for a lot of situations.
 
pollinator
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My husband is making cloches from 1 gallon juice jugs, using a glass scoring jig and a soldering iron.
cloche.jpg
cloche from gallon glass bottle
cloche from gallon glass bottle
 
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I make use of this concept by recycling gallon milk jugs! These are free in cost and I find they work very well. The opaque material diffuses the sunlight  and plastic is a bit of an insulator from cold temps. When I am finished with them they recycle on too.  
jug-greenhouses.JPG
plastic milk jug cloches
plastic milk jug cloches
 
steward
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Tyler Ludens wrote:My husband is making cloches from 1 gallon juice jugs, using a glass scoring jig and a soldering iron.



What is the process? Any pictures of the finished product?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's the video he used for inspiration:  


His tools:
soldering-iron.JPG
[Thumbnail for soldering-iron.JPG]
cuttingjig.JPG
[Thumbnail for cuttingjig.JPG]
cutting.JPG
[Thumbnail for cutting.JPG]
 
gardener
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Catherine Windrose wrote:Thrift shops often have all manner of inexpensive clear glass bottles, candle holders, mason jars, and vases that can be turned upside down to function as a cloche.  If you decide to check that out, call first to find when or if there are discounted days.  Here there are 50% off days in some of the thrift shops which can make for great shopping.



Garage sales are very good about this too.  I'll buy any large glass vessel with a wide opening and (ideally) straight sides, if the price is a dollar or less.  1-gallon fish tanks (for betas?) are also good.

We are under an unseasonable-but-not-unprecedented frost warning for the next three nights and I had already convinced myself that all danger of frost was past.  Uh oh -- I have half a dozen purchased tomato starts planted out and tender seedlings coming up everywhere.  So today I hauled the garden wagon over to the pallet where I had stacked all my cloches for the summer (a hot sunny day at this time of year will roast anything left under one) and loaded them all back up to drag them to my container garden.  Then I thought I ought to take a photo, so here it is:



 
steward
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If you cut the bottom off a 1 gallon jug, does the open lid of the jar keep them from overheating during the day?  Do you have to put the lid on at night or does it still hold enough heat in?

I have friends that plant tomatoes out at least a month before our last frost date by using "wall-o-waters".  The thermal mass of the water is likely the key to that working.
 
Dan Boone
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Mike Haasl wrote:If you cut the bottom off a 1 gallon jug, does the open lid of the jar keep them from overheating during the day?  Do you have to put the lid on at night or does it still hold enough heat in?



I haven't done the glass cutting experiments, but I've worked with plastic cloches (like with cut-off milk bottles) and in my climate, no ... a large enough hole in the top to keep the plants from frying on a warm high-sunshine day lets too much heat out at night.  And worse, the answer to "how much hole you need" varies not only with the size of the cloche, but also with the precise weather conditions (sun intensity and ambient air/soil temps).  With enough micromanagement, this can be very effective; basically you butler your plant through each day by providing precisely as much extra shelter as it can tolerate.  But when I call myself a bad gardener, it's because anything I need to micromanage absolutely will be mismanaged until my plants die.  So I'm always looking for "set it and forget it" solutions.

I used these glass cloches in my container garden during the coldest winter months to protect cold-tolerant herbs that are marginal for overwintering in my raised, exposed, deprived-of-earth-heat containers.  Then I put them away because stuff would have got fried.  I only do micromanagement during these marginal frost events in spring and fall, to extend my season a little bit.  Otherwise, I am doomed to fail at it.

 
gardener
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Josiah and Jen's bootcamp threads have pictures of the various cloches they're using; including a video of Fred cutting a gallon glass jug:

https://permies.com/p/1087214 - Start of several posts including cloches in action, and some description of their sources

https://permies.com/p/1093306 - Video of Fred cutting the glass
 
pollinator
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I did not know what a cloche was. Thanks for the info, everyone. This would be an easier way to get some things going, plus the benefit of getting started right in place. And you would breed for ones that do well with this amount of protection so they should do better each year.
 
pollinator
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Has anyone tried the tops off of those clear plastic jugs (5 gal/20 litre) used for bottled water?

I get free ones from the recycling depot and cut them with a carpenter saw.

The bottoms make great scoops/pails. But I have tops left over, and my recycling instinct wants to find a use.
 
master steward
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My husband likes to drink apple cider. So we saved all those glass jugs and cut the bottoms off. They're now cloches for tomato plants.

My parents also gave me a giant glass outdoor light cover, and that's a cloche for tomatoes, too (I don't like that it doesn't breath, though).

I also made cloches from these old windows my husband brought home from work 12+ years ago (they were throwing the windows out). I just make them into a /\ shape over the plants. So far, this seems to have protected them from frost and snow (yes, it snowed here yesterday--what?!), and it has good airflow. I'd initially set these up to lean against a the logs at the base of the garden bed, as a tiny cold frame...but I planted peas in there with the tomatoes, and the peas quickly grew too fast and I had to rearrange the coldframe into /\ cloches!

(Ignore the funky fencing. My husband brought them home from the dump, and I needed a fence to keep the ducks out, so I quickly rigged this up. It keeps the ducks out, hahaha! I plan on making a nice little wattle fence to keep them out instead, but I'll do that when I get the rest of the garden bed planted.)
20210408_120541.jpg
Glass cloches from giant light cover, cider jugs, and old windows arranged like this /\
Glass cloches from giant light cover, cider jugs, and old windows arranged like this /\
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Sorry off topic, but I think it's funny I have those same things you're using for a fence.  I don't remember what they were originally. We kept them, well because it's the I might need that someday disease. Anyway I'm thinking about making a garden gate with them.  
I think you're on to something about the air. I used make shift cloche to start to tomatoes last year.  Most never germinated, and the two that did came up after I gave up on them and removed the cloche.  It was my first time, so maybe I did something wrong.  They didn't produce that great, but it was a strange year last year, and no one in my area had luck with tomatoes.  I'm redoing my garden this year,  I'm getting a late start, so no point trying this year, maybe next year.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I think I've had a few tomatoes seedlings sprout inside the cloches, but I'm not sure. I also planted carrot seeds there, and at their size, I can't easily tell which is which. Even the ones I planted inside in pots with a growlights are taking a long time to germinate. Everyone said to wait to start tomatoes, and I'm thinking I shouldn't have waited, because they're taking 2+ weeks just to put up their seed leaves.

This is my first year trying to grow tomatoes from seeds, so I'm very likely doing something wrong!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Unfortunately I had my best luck this year with tomatoes and peppers, on a heat mat.  The chickens got into them when I was hardening them off, so I lost most of them. Oh well.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Sorry you lost your seedlings!

To follow up on my earlier post: last year, cloches made from discarded 5 gal. water jugs turned out to be outstanding for tomatoes and peppers. We had a wet and cool summer, and they made all the difference. Highly recommended. Just cut the top and bottom off with a fine-tooth saw. It's great that you mostly don't have to do extra watering -- let the sky earn its keep!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks Douglas, I will have to try that. I will be on the lookout for old bottles.  I used a glass I think vase maybe? I thought it was perfect about a 6" diameter, and about 10" tall.  But like I said nothing germinated under it.  Maybe having the top open is the key.  I thought a real cloche is glass with no openings.  Maybe I did something else wrong.  Gardening is always an adventure.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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True, I suppose my water jugs are more of an open top greenhouse instead of a true cloche. Most true cloches I see are way to0 small for my taste.
 
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I was just brainstorming about this the other day! Dug through the recycling bin to see what I could use. Glass jars that previously had tomato sauce, mayonnaise jar, and a dome cake top. A friend started saving water bottles for me. Those will probably need to be staked as so lightweight. But should work.

As for cutting glass bottles I use a scoring knife & dunk in hot & cold water.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I should clarify: I initially talked about using the short tops off of 5 gal. water jugs as a cloche. Tried that: the plants fried when the sun hit. Not enough air space for a temperature buffer, even with the open hole on top. If it was a full half of the jug's height it might work.

I'm now using the body of the jug, top and bottom removed, as a sleeve greenhouse. With impressive results I might add.
 
William Bronson
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I have a tile cutter, but no supply of big bottles, so I've done other things.

I've been buying almost every clear tote I find at the thrift shop, and using them to start a new clover lawn, protected from the dog, chickens and wild birds.
I really need to clear coat them or the sun is sure to destroy them.


I build a kind of cloche/coldframe from pallet wood and the shelf glass that comes out of refrigerators.
I make a second frame so to stack with the first , for when the plants get bigger.
This is the first year using them, so the jury is still out.

I make a kind of greenhouses tent from a bike rim, a shower curtain, and a piece of conduit (pipe).
They have worked great , and I think a screen house version could help my broccoli survive the pests this year.

Last spring I grew potatoes in buckets with white bucket cloche.
Ot worked great, except I forgot to water them.
This year I used clear bowls, plates and cake carriers as the transparent tops to the bucket cloche.
I did not plant potatoes in them, so it will be hard to compare the results.
 
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I work with glass as a hobby. I make wind chimes and sun catchers. I have a glass bottle cutting jig that I purchased of Amazon. They are not super expensive but not supper cheap ($40 and up). They work well. I have found the ones that lay the bottle down an you just turn the bottle work better than the ones that clamp around the bottle. It is hard to hold the bottle and the clamp at the same time and ensure an even score line.

You need to make sure that your cleaning the outside of the bottle well. Remove label and residue and then clean the bottle well. The glass cutter won’t cut well if you don’t. Once you score the along the base of the bottle you can take the bottle from cold (ice bath) to hot (pouring boiling water) along the score line. This will cause the score line to deepen through the bottle until the bottom falls off.

Side Notes:

Make sure there is not lid on the bottle because that can cause pressure to build up and can be very dangerous.

The thicker the walls of the bottle the longer it takes to cut.

Square bottles are much harder to cut

Use wet glass sanding paper to get a smooth edge. It takes time but is worth in the end.
 
Dawn Weller
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I forgot to mention that I use a DIY label remover
1 part baking soda
1 part cooking oil
A few drops of a Citrus essential oil

You can store this for a long time and it works just as well as the commercial Goo Gone but no chemicals.
 
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These are fabulous ideas! We are in Haida Gwaii, Canada, a rain forest, just south of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. I perused our dump and took the glass shelves from refrigerators to make the "tent" structures but also the clear plastic vegetable drawers work amazingly well turned upside down. Shallow ones, deep ones. They're light weight to move around. A small rock on top keeps them weighted on windy days. Also, the white metal shelves are wonderful for trellis, placing pots on to drain, etc. I also start everything indoors as we can go days and days and days, did I mention days? without sunshine. So far..........so good!
 
pollinator
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As several of you know, I bought a huge shed from a closed garden center which came crammed full of her unsold stock. Amongst the other treasures, were cases of glass cloches, in three different sizes. I've been selling off as much of the goods as I can but so far no one has been interested in these. They are often used inside as displays.
 
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I just got back from our local re-use-it center...I recall seeing lots of glass globes, domes, sconces for lighting fixtures. I suppose the right sized one of these would work.
PS--I've been following threads for a few years, but this is my first post.
 
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My growing season is from early -late April until late October, sometime early November.
But a hoop house with no cover all Summer, then put a cover over it when a cold snap threatens to burn the plants.
 
pollinator
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Jain Anderson wrote:I make use of this concept by recycling gallon milk jugs...quote]
I like how you made those wire protectors -- I've wrestled with making round tops so I could have round bottoms and what a bother that is!  Your method of just making rectangular tops and pulling the bottoms out to make them round is perfect!  So glad you posted the photo.

 
gardener
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One of the things I have discovered is what a difference very small irregularities in the soil can make.  I discovered by accident that sunflowers do NOT need to wait for the soil to warm to germinate.  I have sunflower seedlings in my yard right now.  They came up several weeks ago.  They have  lived right through sub freezing temperatures, they've been snowed on.

They came up from seeds off  last year's plants.  The first ones I noticed are next to a concrete sidewalk.  there's a sort of tiny crevice right next to the concrete.  I think the concrete works as a heat sink.  The ground is mostly covered with coarse wood chips, and there's been germination down in the cracks between the pieces of wood.

It's the same effect as half burying rocks, which also conduct heat down into the soil as well as provide heat and shelter above ground.  I sometimes put rocks on three sides.  

So, I think it's important to realize that the information that accompanies the seeds we buy is not necessarily about what the plant can do, but about the company who is selling the seeds is concerned with. In this case, if I had paid for a pkg of about 20 sunflower seeds, I would not be so casual about throwing them around, and if I planted them earlier than the packet said, then the company would not pay me back if I planted them "early".

The first year I grow a particular plant, if I have to buy the seeds, I make sure to get the plant all the way to seed production, and save a whole lot of seeds, so that I can afford to practice the "STUN" method, and find out what the plant really is capable of.
 
pioneer
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Nicole-  tomatoes from seed are easy. Indoors.  But I think you are saying yours are starting outdoors?  I frequently get volunteers from a previous year after I've missed a fallen fruit. But I am in southern California and don't get hard frosts or snow.

I imagine you Do get these chilly conditions and need a bit more protection for your babies (seedlings to be). It is possible to create a row covering cloche by use of wire clothes hangers deconstructed and shaped into a "U", then running a heavy clear or semi clear plastic sheeting over them and held closed at the ends by some means. And if you have the space you can include a bottle of water inside to act as the overnight heat source.

Being accustomed to fruit trees that don't like super cold temperatures and knowing that I'm eventually going to live in a cold winter area, I've put some thought into how I might accomplish keeping such trees there. My initial answer is to build each tree its own giant cloche of pvc pipe as the framework and covering that. I still need to work out a few issues with this concept like a door, or will it be an annually constructed then pulled down for summer?

 
Thekla McDaniels
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sorry,I thought this was a thread on  extending growing season
 
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Up north here in Maine, I've actually had great success using our old plastic juice bottles. I cut the bottom off and leave the cap on until the temps reach the upper 60s on a regular basis. I've been testing this for a few years now and found it works beautifully to speed up germination of all sorts of crops from cabbage and kale to squash and corn.

I have even ditched the need to start tomatoes indoors, which is FREAKING AMAZING here in Maine! After several years of testing, I've found tomatoes started direct-seed under a bottle cloche catch up to and surpass tomatoes transplanted by the first or second week of July most years and there's been no discernible difference in yields.

I take the bottle cloche off entirely and pull the mulch in around the plant once it's large enough to start touching the sides of the bottle (or in the case of squash and beans, when the plant is starting to poke through the hole at the top)

Added bonus for those of us dealing with slug pressure: by leaving the cap on the bottle until temps are warmed up nicely and the surface has dried a bit, I've found a had a huge decrease in loss of seedlings to those slime balls

I also use uncut bottles for irrigation / fertigation when necessary. We have a few hundred of these saved up over the years that get reused over and over every season. I figure we're paying some 5 cents per bottle when we purchase the juices, so we might as well get our money's worth out of them before recycling

A few pictures below to show my "system"
DSC00078.JPG
cabbage seedlings from under bottle
cabbage seedlings from under bottle
DSC00079.JPG
tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini being started
tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini being started
expanded-duck-run-garden-blue-corn-with-sunflowers-misc-squash-and-bush-beans-under-bottles-2.JPG
corn, squash and beans starting
corn, squash and beans starting
 
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I also use plastic milk jugs for garden cloches. Use what you have on hand!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Tristan Vitali wrote:I have even ditched the need to start tomatoes indoors, which is FREAKING AMAZING here in Maine! After several years of testing, I've found tomatoes started direct-seed under a bottle cloche catch up to and surpass tomatoes transplanted by the first or second week of July most years and there's been no discernible difference in yields."



When do you sew your tomatoes in the cloche? I planted my seeds in their cloches at the beginning of March, and none in the cider jugs seem to have become seedlings. I have one inside the big lightbulb cover, and one inside the glass window cloches, but nothing inside the cider jugs. I'm not sure why.

I'm not sure if I should try sewing more seeds, or just cut my losses and buy a few more tomato plants. We get a lot of late blight on my property, and we get it as early as August, so I'm trying to get the tomato plants growing sooner so I might get more than a few cherry tomatoes before the blight sets in.

Added bonus for those of us dealing with slug pressure: by leaving the cap on the bottle until temps are warmed up nicely and the surface has dried a bit, I've found a had a huge decrease in loss of seedlings to those slime balls  



I did noticed that I actually have carrot sprouts inside my cloches, while I really don't have any elsewhere. I'm thinking that might be due to protection from slugs!
 
Joe Grand
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Carrots sprout under a board or shade cloth on the ground.
I have been told as soon as the soil soften you can plant carrot seeds.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Tristan Vitali wrote:I have even ditched the need to start tomatoes indoors, which is FREAKING AMAZING here in Maine! After several years of testing, I've found tomatoes started direct-seed under a bottle cloche catch up to and surpass tomatoes transplanted by the first or second week of July most years and there's been no discernible difference in yields."



When do you sew your tomatoes in the cloche? I planted my seeds in their cloches at the beginning of March, and none in the cider jugs seem to have become seedlings. I have one inside the big lightbulb cover, and one inside the glass window cloches, but nothing inside the cider jugs. I'm not sure why.

I'm not sure if I should try sewing more seeds, or just cut my losses and buy a few more tomato plants. We get a lot of late blight on my property, and we get it as early as August, so I'm trying to get the tomato plants growing sooner so I might get more than a few cherry tomatoes before the blight sets in.



I start sowing tomatoes the last few days of April earliest, and most years in early May - in fact, around here, we usually still have snow on the ground on until April 15th and our normal last frost isn't until middle May. Quite a different climate from yours even with the similar latitude. So, though I don't wait for the soil to warm up to 60* or anything a normal or sane person would do, I do try to wait for it to drain and dry a little from the spring melt...this way the soil surface has a better chance of warming up enough under the cloche for the tomato seeds to sprout. Likewise, sun angle and amount of cloud cover would have a lot to do with how much soil warmth you get during the day.

I should note that I do plant ~5-10 seeds "per plant" for tomatoes, then thin any extras / transplant them to non-sprouting sites, as I'm trying to breed my OP strains toward cool soil germination. I haven't noticed much difference between saved seed with this treatment and newly bought seed so far, but I'm sure there's at least a few of those epigenetic switches being flipped somewhere. I have had tomato seed sprout up to 8 weeks after going out on cooler, cloudier years, but those ones never do catch up and rarely produce before frost. Usually I see them starting to break the soil surface by week 2, and if they're not up by week 3, I replant. By that point, the soil's warmed more so they tend to sprout faster and catch up quickly.

With the late blight issues you face, though, I would still give things another shot even now. Tomatoes direct sown are sometimes more tough and disease resistant, so it's worth while even as just an experiment (and isn't everything we do "experimental"?)  We get some late blight pressure here on some years with Maine's potato country just north and east of us, but that specifically hasn't noticeably affected our harvests so far either way (transplants or direct sown). That could be the varieties we grow, but most likely we've just been lucky so far


Nicole Alderman wrote:

Added bonus for those of us dealing with slug pressure: by leaving the cap on the bottle until temps are warmed up nicely and the surface has dried a bit, I've found a had a huge decrease in loss of seedlings to those slime balls  



I did noticed that I actually have carrot sprouts inside my cloches, while I really don't have any elsewhere. I'm thinking that might be due to protection from slugs!



Cloches do also help keep the soil surface from drying out and crusting, similar to the board over carrot seed trick, which is also usually a major plus. We have a funny issue with our "front garden" where magenta spreen has self seeded a few times (the sparrows love those seed heads come winter). Anywhere I put down a cloche now quickly becomes a jungle of little spreen seedlings while only a few plants each year bother to sprout through the mulch on their own. Even pulling mulch back doesn't result in such a flush of seedlings popping up. It's become a bit of a joke to try planting anything else out there with a cloche since you inevitably only end up with more magenta spreen (which certainly isn't terrible...love those things!).

But I've even been using bottle cloches over onion transplants the past couple years to help keep slugs off them - it's become a tool I rely on more and more all throughout the growing season
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