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Protect spring vegetables from hungry bugs

Bunnies have found our spring vegetables. Gardeners can certainly relate to Elmer Fudd and his iconic grumbling about ‘that rascally rabbit’.

We expect the lush greenery of spring, but gardeners aren’t the only ones who have their eyes peeled and their taste buds waiting for the first bright green shoots of the season. Those villainous rabbits!

A garden cloche made of wire protects the lush spring sorrel greenery from rabbits.  Garden bells with their domed bell shapes add elegance to a garden while also acting as botanical protection.

A garden cloche made of wire protects the lush spring sorrel greenery from rabbits. Garden bells with their domed bell shapes add elegance to a garden while also acting as botanical protection.

It is utterly disheartening to plan to mow spring vegetables, only to go into the garden with our basket and discover that we have been beaten to them by those critters with an unquenchable appetite. Rabbits are crafty creatures, quickly finding their way into our gardens once we run out of edible greens.

A sure way to preserve the greenery for our own harvest is to cover it with garden covers. The English word ‘cloche’ comes from the French ‘bell’, because of its dome shape.

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The concept of the garden bell jar for horticultural use is attributed to Europeans in the 17th centurye century (cloche.com.au). Early bell jars were made of hand-blown glass; they were large, heavy and expensive, which meant they were mainly used by the wealthy who could afford them.

Glass bell jars became common in the 19th centurye century when gardeners developed increasingly advanced techniques. Cloche shapes in the Victorian era evolved into elaborate tall cylinders, flat spheres and flanged bells with or without terminal knobs. Cloches brought elegance to Victorian gardens.

In my 20se century bell jars were already common in European gardens and became popular in North America. In the early 20th century, cloches became more widely manufactured, lowering their price and making them more economical for a wider variety of gardeners. Glass still remained the dominant material, but as with many products in the 1920se century, plastic came into common use, leading to the introduction of plastic cloches. Plastic cloches were lightweight and less prone to breakage, making them practical choices for novice gardeners.

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The term garden bell refers to a specific shape and not to the material from which they are made. Depending on their horticultural use, cloches are made of glass, plastic or wire.

PeffleyPeffley

Peffley

The function of a cloche is to protect seedlings or plants against cold, wind, severe weather and pests. Today’s column features a wire hood because the focus is on protecting spring crops from rabbits, skunks, opossums and other herbivorous mammals or rodents that have a taste for fresh spring greens.

The wire bell jar in the accompanying photo is a near-perfect facsimile of a Victorian hand-blown glass structure. It is an elongated, perfect bell shape that is wide and tall enough for the blob of sorrel green to expand.

Gardeners who choose not to incur the expense of purchasing a manufactured wire canopy can create a structure that performs the same function of protection against predatory herbivores. The Better Homes & Gardens website, bhg.com, has steps to make structures out of chicken wire. Chicken wire has a flexible and lightweight mesh that can be formed into a circle that resembles a bell jar.

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Garden cloches are a popular item of clothing for many gardeners. The classic dome shape harkens back to a gentler, slower time in our past and is reminiscent of Victorian elegance.

Note: Some information from cloche.com.au

Ellen Peffley taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, including 25 years at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole owner of From the Garden, a horticultural farm. You can email her at Gardens@suddenlink.net

This article originally appeared in Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Gardening for You: Protect Spring Vegetables from Hungry Critters

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