Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
Alan J Hartley
Making and Repairing Cloches.
Having finally bought a metre of “Velcro,” to replace the broken zip on my giant cloche the plastic cover is clean and dry and still waiting to be dealt with. However, the cloche is being used exactly as it was intended and giving the Sweet Potatoes much more favourable growing conditions, but instead of using the plastic cover, I have carefully wrapped a pack of “Horticultural Fleece,” over the metal framework. One of the pre-wrapped packs that are sold everywhere was the perfect size and secured with a number of cheap plastic clothes pegs, does the job admirably. Bricks hold down the bottom edges and the pegs
readily clip it to the metal frame, but also give easy access to weed and water inside. The fleece doesn’t really allow rain to enter used like this, so it does need a couple of cans pouring in regularly, but the plants have put on tremendous growth since being covered. Having said that, the Sweet Potatoes are still way behind the plants that I put into a potato bag, at home, in the unheated greenhouse. Then again the greenhouse plants are being troubled with “Fly,” whereas those under the fleece are clear of it, so it will be interesting to compare the plants at the end of the season.
Several other people on the allotments have replaced their original, assorted, plastic cloche covers with fleece and it occurred to me that it should be possible to make a larger home made cloche than last Autumn’s effort that I made to protect my Chicory which was made using wire coat-hangers and fleece. At home I have talked many times with my mother about different old-fashioned crafts and basket weaving was one of them that had been mentioned because we have a mature Hazel tree in the front garden and I am also a bit of a fan of Willows.
We decided that it should be possible to cut suitable lengths of Hazel to bend over into
a half hoop, or a bow shape, to make Cloche supports. I know commercially Hazel is steamed to soften it and then dried under heat to “Fix,” it into shape when they use it to make things, but cutting it “Green,” it is very flexible and will hopefully dry naturally into a set shape. To do this the lengths were all cut into similar 6
or 7 foot pieces and bound together with their tops and bottoms alternated in the bundle. Then they were bent into a bow shape and held tight with a length of stout nylon twine. Tying them with the alternate tops and bottoms together, the bundle curved more evenly when bent and hopefully, in a few months when they are untied, they will retain their hoop shape to make cloche supports. For spacing and to make a framework that will better support the fleece, I am going to use the old Buddleia canes that I saved from last year because they have gone a little too brittle, as predicted, to use as normal canes now and they will cut to fit
more easily than bamboo.
The Hazel lengths that I cut from the tree were probably 2 seasons old, so I am hoping that I have left enough mature wood to let the tree fruit next year. As it is common practice to remove old wood every 3 years I have undoubtedly removed some that I shouldn’t! In fact it won’t be long before I start picking my own nuts again this year! People normally think of picking Hazel nuts in the Autumn when they have turned brown and are ripe, but there are two problems with that; Firstly, as the outer cases start to dry the nuts quickly fall to the ground and are lost in the undergrowth and secondly, ripe Hazel nuts are irresistible to squirrels!