Friday, March 7, 2014

DIY Upcycled Garden Cloches

In Montana, gardening is never, shall we say, a done deal.

See, the thing is, that spring arrives in all of its gorgeous blue skies and placations for cabin fever. We lumber out of our winter caves and look incredulously up at the blue sky and the grass that's beginning to turn green.

Then we promptly go back inside and un-earth all of our gardening supplies. We pull out all the stops, planting more starts than necessary, not even getting irritated at the dirt under our nails, and we start nagging our husband about getting the garden rototilled. (Because it has to be rented, and that's a truck job, not because women can't rototill gardens.)

We dutifully mark the day on our calendars that marks the "last" frost date, which we all know is almost entirely arbitrary and the weather pays no such attention to such rules. But since in our neck of the woods the last frost date is the last weekend of May, we just can't hold out any longer. I'm already starting to resent blogs that are posting about their  garden planting-- it's not even halfway through March yet! So here, when Memorial Day comes, it is PLANTING time.

Of course, sometimes this results in nights of nail biting, when late windy rainstorms or even frost come through and play havoc with tender young transplants.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Well, there's many solutions, but a lot of them require purchasing infrastructure like PVC pipe, and wind tunnels, and all sorts of fancy stuff. I'm not gonna lie, I would love to have such things sitting in my garden shed, but as of yet I haven't convinced myself to spend the money on them. Thus far I have made do with whatever containers we can find (usually half gallon mason jars) when bad weather hits, but they're limited in their usefulness, especially once the plants get taller/bushier.

Solution: vinegar jugs.

If you're a weirdo like me, you might find yourself going through gallons of vinegar a year. I use it for cleaning, for dishwasher rinse aid, for breaking down deposits in the toilet, making homemade weed spray, and sometimes even for cooking. (Shocking, I know.) This site has an exhaustive list of vinegar options to dig through, if you're interested. The thing is, vinegar is super cheap. You can buy two gallons of it for about $3.00 at Costco, and then use the containers afterwards.

Why not milk jugs, you ask? Well, I wouldn't completely oust milk jugs from the running, but the problem I have with them is that they're pretty flimsy plastic, and they don't stay upright as well as vinegar jugs. Vinegar jugs are sturdier plastic, so you can kind of "screw" them into the ground around a plant and they'll stay put. Milk jugs mostly bend when you try to push them into the dirt.  Vinegar are taller, which is great for more mature plants. And, of course, they have a handy little attached lid at the top for letting the plant breathe during the day.

Really, this trick is almost laughably easy, and I'm a little irked at myself for not figuring it out about three years ago. But this year will be the Year of Vinegar Jugs! They're easy to store: just string a bungee cord through their handles and hook it to a nail on a shed or basement wall somewhere, and save on shelf or floor space.

So next time you empty out a vinegar jug, slice around the bottom of it and throw the bottom away, run it through the dishwasher (this works fabulously for getting the label off), and add it to your growing stash!

Bonus: if you're slightly OCD like I am, you will delight in having an entire series of cloches that all look exactly the same. My initial dream was to have those fancy glass cloches like the Victorians had, but I had to give that up. Not only are they $20-30 apiece, but can you imagine trying to store 30 of those suckers? That wouldn't happen without a huge Victorian gardening shed on an estate somewhere.

This post is hosted by the Unprocessed Fridays, Old Fashioned Friday, Home Sweet Home, Farm Girl FridayDown Home Blog Hop, HomeAcre Hop, Home & Garden Thursday, Green Thumb ThursdayWildcrafting Wednesday, Real Food WednesdayA to Z Tutorials, Tweak It Tuesday, Maple Hill Hop, Backyard Farming Connection, The Gathering SpotGrowing Homemakers,  Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, and Amaze Me Monday blog hops. 


  1. Brilliant! Lord knows we always have vinegar in the house! Thanks for sharing your outdoor post on The Maple Hill Hop!

  2. What would we do without vinegar to clean? And now a great way to use the container too! Thanks so much for sharing at Amaze Me Monday...

  3. Great idea! Vinegar jugs would be perfect to protect plants! I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  4. Congratulations! You've been featured on Green Thumb Thursday and we hope you'll link up with us again. Feel free to grab our featured button!

  5. I'm saving milk jugs for this very reason! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope you'll stop by and share again today!

  6. Lisa from IroquoisMarch 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Been doing this for year. This plastic seems to handle sun exposure for several years before getting too brittle. You can store them in the rafters between uses by running a cord through the handles and then toss the bundle over a nail. If you do hit 'em with your head they aren't going to brain you either.