Build Your Own Windproof Cloche
by John Harmon
January 23, 2000

Last Thursdays cloudy weather made the total eclipse of the moon kind of a non-event. The clouds didn't clear enough out east of town till after the event was past the total blackout stage and about half the moon was emerging again. It was nice however to see that part of it and at least it was warm enough to spend some time outside.

The big news of course is the ongoing search for that meteorite/missile/seed pod/alien spacecraft that flashed over Whitehorse last week and headed out east of town. I'm beginning to lose hope that it was a seed pod, although that's still a possibility, since the U.S. military got involved in the search. Would the U.S. be involved in looking for a seed pod or lowly meteorite ? I hope they don't find anything so my seed pod theory will hold up long enough for my planned search next summer.

Every spring I get requests for information about propagation mats. They are a very useful addition to any gardeners collection of tools and absolutely necessary for some of the harder to germinate seeds. There are many of them on the market but most tend to be big ones aimed at the commercial grower. The biggest advantage to using a propagation mat is that they will keep flats of seeds at a constant temperature which results in a higher germination rate and better seedlings. They are also great for rooting cuttings. This year I found a small propagation mat aimed at the home gardener. They come in two sizes with the smallest one just the right size for one standard seed flat and the larger one for two seed flats. The small on will only set you back $35.50 and the larger mat is $59.50. Both are available from West Coast Seeds in Vancouver. You can order from their web site at or give them a call at 604-482-8800.

One of the other neat things that West Coast Seeds offer in their catalog this year are GroBrix. These are compressed bricks of coir which are the shorter fibers from the coconut husk. They partially compost these fibers and then compress them into bricks. You add warm water and in 15 minutes they expand to give you four point five liters of growing media. This stuff wets easily unlike peat and has a loose structure that holds moisture but drains easily. It's great for starting seedlings or rooting cuttings or even filing flower boxes. Each brick weighs 600 grams and costs $3.25 or you can get them at five for $13.25.

One more thing in their catalog that caught my attention as being a great idea for the north and especially for around Whitehorse in areas where we get such strong winds in the spring is a system for making a cloche that won't blow away. They take pieces of re-bar long enough so that four or five feet remains above the ground after they are driven in and the right size to fit inside one half or three quarter inch black plastic pipe. Drive them into the ground every couple of feet down both sides of the row or area you want to cover and slide lengths of black plastic pipe over the re-bar on each side to form hoops.

Then you cover the whole thing with plastic. They sell handy plastic clips that you snap over the pipe to hold the plastic in place. They also sell polyethylene pipe to use for this project since PVC pipe tends to deteriorate greenhouse film. Whatever plastic pipe you use the clips should be placed every two feet or so along the pipe and that holds the plastic securely to the hoops. This system is easy to set up and has the advantage of easily coming apart in the fall so you can remove the plastic and store it over the winter. The two sizes of clips sell in packages of ten 20 or 30 and cost less than $.75 apiece depending on how many you buy. They can be re-used year after year. This is a row cover that won't end up across town when the first spring winds hit and will provide protection for your plants throughout the summer.

If you want to use this system and don't want to buy the clips you can make your own by cutting small lengths of the same size black plastic pipe and then splitting them lengthwise and removing part of the center to make the clips. They may not work as well as the store bought clips but they should work well enough.

With the days getting longer again it will soon be time to get out and give gardening in the north another try with a few new things to help you out.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail Website:

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