There is one thing that has completely revolutionised and substantially improved my gardening susses in the last couple of years and that is the use of my home made cloches which are covered with bionet or enviromesh instead of clear plastic. The problem with cloches in Ireland is that they usually blow away so only buy sturdy ones or make them yourself.
But first of all – they are useful in so many ways! I first made them to protect my onions from the crows and about three weeks later I moved the cloche over the newly planted lettuces for a couple of weeks and then they can move onto their final destination for the year – either over cabbages (to protect them from the cabbage white butterflies with their ravenous caterpillars) or over the carrots (to protect them from the carrot root fly). You can also use them over the winter months to give some shelter for some overwintering oriental salads such as mizuna, rocket or claytonia.
Make a frame using 2”x 2” timber. The width of the frame should match the width of your bed. The length can be 3 or more metres. Drill holes through the sides at 50cm intervals on each side wide enough to hold a strong flexible pipe. I use the plumbing pipe. Then cover with bionet and fix it onto the frames. If you wish you could have extra holes drilled through the frame for pegs to further support the cloche especially in windy areas.
It is crucial though to use bionet rather than clear plastic. Most cloches are covered with clear plastic, but you will have to ventilate every day and water regularly and then when you finally remove it your poor plants will get quite a shock. With the bionet you don’t force your plants too much, but they are safe from strong winds. The rain will get through it so there is no need to water your plants.
We all know how important it is to harden off our transplants before planting them out. With the help of a cloche they will establish much more reliably.
For hardening off purposes I’d keep the cloche on for about two weeks.