The past few days in the Seattle area have been so lovely, I think the weather Gods are apologizing for the veritable monsoon of rain that dumped on us two weeks ago.
If you are not in the Maritime Northwest, you might be shaking your head right now, saying: “Seattle is called Rain City for a reason. Suck it up.”
And it’s true: it rains a lot here, in terms of number of days per year that precipitation falls. But the total volume of water that falls to earth in our bioregion isn’t any more than Chicago and is quite a bit less than New York. See, we excel in drizzle. Many, many, many days of drizzle.
So the sky-opens-and-water-is dumped-down-by-the-bucketful rain from two weeks ago was quite atypical. It ravaged a flat of seedlings I had set out to harden off; just full-on shredded the tender leaves. It left puddles of standing water in my loose-soiled raised beds. It washed fertile mulch off garden beds and into paths in rivulets. It fully saturated the soil, which was none too dry before.
After the monsoon I knew I had to cover my beds to allow them to start to dry out for planting. This time I wasn’t trying to create a better microclimate for seed sowing or transplants, I was just trying to keep any additional rain off.
We have PVC Hoops installed on most of our beds. So constructing a plastic tunnel cloche was just a question of throwing some 4 mil plastic over the top and securing. I know a lot of people advocate securing plastic or row cover to PVC hoops with clips but I’ve found that in a good wind the clips tend to just pop off and the cover will come loose.
Instead, we use a good length of cheap robe and a bungee cord to secure the plastic all around the wooden outside frame of our raised beds. Here’s how we do it.
Get some rope and a bungee cord. A “stiffer” bungee and a rope without too much stretch works best. Figure out how long your rope will need to be to wrap the perimeter of your bed and be held taught by the bungee.
The first time you do this, it’s a good idea to measure “in the field” so you can see how stretchy your rope and bungee are when pulled tight. Cut the rope to the appropriate length. I cut my rope 25 feet long to wrap a 4’x8′ bed. This gives me plenty of room to tie knots at the end.
Tie a sturdy slip knot in both ends of the rope.
Hook the bungee into the loop of one of the knots.
One 10’x24′ foot roll of 4 mil poly cut in half to make two 10’x12′ pieces is just the right size to cover two of our 4’x8′ beds fitted with low PVC hoops. It’s easiest to measure and cut the poly inside or in a non-windy, level spot.
Cover the PVC hoops with the plastic, making the whole thing even all around.
Pull the excess plastic to the short ends of the bed, making the long ends as smooth and flush to the bed as possible. Pull the rope around the bed and secure with the bungee.
It is important that the rope be pulled tight so that it will hold the sides of the cloche down against any spring winds.
The finished product. All our little beds, cloched up and ready to laugh off the rains.
It’s a good thing we got these done when we did; five minutes after completion of this project a hail storm started, followed by yet more buckets of water.
Now that we are having some clear and sunny days the cloches are actually starting to get a little heat built up. I have the ends of each of them vented a bit for airflow and to prevent overheating.
How do you use low tunnels, cold frames or cloches?0