Fall planting with an oversized cloche

Beefed up my garden this year with more containers, and with fall upon us, I really want to continue growing. Living in the desert, I am continually seeking ways to conserve water. I found a few huge grow bags at my local nursery, and popped them in the masonry pans you can find at hardware stores. Was hoping that this would work like a sub irrigated pot, allowing excess moisture to hang out at the bottom and get wicked back up when needed. I use earth boxes and love them for basil and marigolds, thyme and winter savory. To get a leg up on planting, I created PVC frames that fit just inside the lip of the earth box. Cover those with green house plastic, nylon netting, upcycled nylon sheer curtains, or garden fleece. They make a difference at the beginning of the season to help baby plants through the chill of early spring.

Location Location Location. I have been noticing spots in the yard where things might be a little happier growing. The spot below is where the compost bin had lived for years. With the sun hitting the south wall of the house, this was a seriously cozy spot. Sometimes too cozy, and certain plants struggled there. However, Okra, who likes it hot, did really well in a 3’x3′ box I planted along the wall next to the lavender this year. Used compost that had been collecting, and netted three volunteer spaghetti squash from it! In late summer, I decided this area would be great for winter growing. Moved some masonry pans (with holes drilled into the sides about two inches up from the bottom for drainage) into this spot with grow bags and home mixed soil. Peas and spinach are happily growing in this area. Well, happier after I added some shade since these are cooler weather loving plants. The folding plant supports are helpful in holding up the shade cloth for now, the peas will climb on them. I have used and loved them for years. They are versatile! Plans are to use either floating row cover or green house plastic over this area when the weather cools. I am also considering building a PVC frame for more protection in this area.

Peas and spinach in grow bags.

Asters and beans grow, up a chain link fence. I measured the masonry pan, which is about 20 x 27. Plan to put two of this bag/pan ensemble side by side in the PVC “cloche” in a sunny area of the garden to grow beets, turnips, and salad greens. The asters I planted the first time this year may have been happier in a shadier part of the garden. I will mark the bag so that we may see them come back in the spring. In the mean time, this bag can give us winter greens.

I used the dimensions of the masonry pan to cut my PVC pipe.

Here is the recipe for this version.

Six horizontal 27 inch pieces and eight horizontal 20 inch pieces and six vertical 24 inch pieces came from three ten foot lengths of 3/4 inch PVC pipe. There was an almost 12 inch piece left over which was cut in half and used to raise the center bar.

The 3/4 inch fitting pieces were found locally at Lowes. Two cross tees two 90 degree elbows and eight 90 degree side outlet elbows. I went on line for the two – four way furniture fitting side outlet tees.

This design with the raised center should deflect snow, and rain so that there is not a sagging issue. It feels sturdy and heavy enough to deflect wind. I just got notification that the garden fleece I ordered from Ace hardware is ready for pick up. I plan to use clamps to clip the fleece onto the PVC pipe. This may cover my pots of basil and lemon grass when we have a cold spell next week. I often use these to start beans and peas, and keep critters from eating the plants. Unfortunately they blow away in our wind and the staples they come with are not quite long enough for NM winds. Used in conjunction with a heavier cover, they are great for double cover.

Above are end of season second or third generation Marigolds in earth boxes with tarragon cascading over the side. They were started under a small PVC frame. The clear cloches fit nicely underneath the frame for a little extra warmth and protection. For more great information on extending your season, check out Eliot Coleman’s video here

Happy growing! Joan

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