What can I reuse or recycle to make garden cloches (row covers)?

I thought we’d already covered this but apparently not!

At the weekend, I made some 4ft by 1ft garden planters from scrap wood – having a lot of fun and saving myself a heap of money in the process. I think I’ll probably use them in our front garden – there are just a few scratty pots of herbs out there and planters like these (I may make a couple more) will make the currently dead space a lot more productive. Around here though, between the slugs & the dismal Yorkshire climate, things either need to be started as seedlings elsewhere or grown under row covers — cloches — for the first few weeks of their lives.

So what do you use for cloches? The tops of plastic bottles make great mini-cloches for individual plants – my dad uses the bottom of the bottles as seedling pots, the tops for seedling protectors when they’re planted out.

But what about for larger areas? I might want to grow stuff in rows and had an idea to make some “hoops” on a made-to-measure frame and cover that with either clear but heavy-ish plastic (for example, the chickens‘ feed bags) or opened out plastic pop bottles (although I’d probably need a lot of them to make it work). Any other ideas? And suggestions for the hoops? I can find scrap wood for the frame but would need some metal strips or plastic tubing, or the like for the hoops – any ideas?

As I’m aiming to minimise my workload – and minimise the waste going to landfill each year – I’d like to make them not only from post-consumer waste but also make them to last for as long as possible — so any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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10 Responses to “What can I reuse or recycle to make garden cloches (row covers)?”


  1. Bertie says:

    I’ve recently made some cloches out of A4 sized perspex sheets. I’ve simply taped pairs of them together with parcel tape to make a ridge shape & used several in a row with some off-cuts at the ends.

  2. Cappenz says:

    I used light weight concrete reinforcing wire, which people occasionally discard. I let everyone know I need it through Freecycle and other groups. It comes in big rolls or sheets that you can bend into a tunnel (a hoop house). For the cover, I cut open a plastic bag that a mattresses came in, making one huge sheet. I love concrete reinforcing wire in the garden because by the time I no longer need the hoop house, it’s time for me to bend some of the tunnels into cylinders for large, sturdy tomato cages and flatten others and stand them up to support beans. Next season I just gently return the wire to tunnel shape and start the cycle again. I have wire that I have been using for ten years and it’s still fine.

  3. Petra says:

    I use electricity tubes for the hoops. Since we are always renovating the house, there are always some pieces left.

  4. Monkey says:

    I use old wire coathangers for the hoops, easy to bend and a continuous supply, with an old clear plastic shower curtain for plastic. However, as it’s about 25 degrees here right now, they’re firmly hidden in the shed!

    I love wire coathangers (no Joan Crawfords here), you can use them for so many things.

  5. closetheloop says:

    Many pallets are wrapped in shrink wrap and this is tossed out at most grocery stores or home centers ~ basically any business that receives shipments by the pallet, you may be able to get your hands on lots of this stuff to cover young crops in long rows, just ask the owner of the biz or someone in shipping & receiving. See http://bit.ly/i504nX

  6. This was already alluded to but my grandma cuts the bottoms off of her large milk jugs and creates a larger hole in the top. She probably has a hundred or so. She is my inspiration when it comes to upcycleing. She hasn’t thrown anything away in years.

  7. bookstorebabe says:

    clososethehoop is absolutely right about pallets. I know at the book store, even with heavy boxes that are almost all the same size-it’s tightly wrapped in a clear stretchy plastic, to make sure nothing slides around. And a pallet is as wide as I can reach, and between 5 and 6 feet tall. A smaller store will be most apt to save it for you. Big chains tend to be by nature suspicious, or unwilling to take the trouble.
    My husband worked at a big chain which shall remain nameless-employees couldn’t even take home damaged/broken items from the dumpster. It was considered theft.
    My small local bookstore recycled everything-then we were bought by a chain. No more bins of glass, plastic and aluminum in the kitchen for us to take turns taking home to put in our recycling bins-they were afraid we would steal by hiding merchandise in the refuse. And…this has been off topic. Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
    To get back on topic-plastic bags can be ironed to make sheets of fabric. ALWAYS have something between the iron and the plastic, to avoid ruining the iron, and don’t have the iron too hot! It’s easy to melt holes in your plastic until you get the hang of it. Go to craftster.com for some good examples. If you have plastic wrap from a pallet, or tons of dry cleaning bags, or other clear thin plastic bag type plastic, you could make a large sheet the size you want, or even make the sheet you have thicker and sturdier. It’d take a lot of trial and error, though.
    I’m going to try something similar, to make a heavy sheet to help quickly smother weeds in a neglected area. Then, I’ll roll it up, and mulch heavily.

  8. Michelle says:

    So this is our first year attempting an organic and winter garden… we’ve had the same dilemma. Being very $ conscious, and trying to stay as earth friendly as possible has been difficult. So far, I constructed our “hoops” out of sticks/branches held together with rubberbands, or other tying materials in the house. This makes a teepee shape, not hoop. Then we purchaced from thrift stores, goodwill etc, (only $6) blankets to cover. We layered atleast 2 thick, and threw a tarp over top when freezing rain. We uncover in the day and cover before nightfall. Rocks or heavy fallen limbs, even water filled planters and paintcans hold down the edges. So far we have 2 16×3 foot beds, growing collards, brussels, chard, lettuce, parsnips, broccoli and cabbage. I worry about the plastic leaching into the soil and food, so decided to go this route instead. Is anyone else worried about the plastic?

  9. Lee says:

    For the hoops, this year I am thinking of, scrap pieces of plumbers pvc tubing. Which in turn made me think of old hoola hoops. Both are plastic, which will last, and do not go well into our waste piles. My thought was just to shove each end into the ground, but, i guess u could bury a small plastic bottle, and use its opening to put the ends in.

  10. Sandy says:

    My mom was given two hoop skirt petticoats from a wedding dress. She was sure she would find a way to reuse it in someday. I guess the vinyl/plastic boning could be removed from the fabric and identical arches constructed. They may hold better if they were grounded in a buried soda bottle filled w/dirt (as Lee suggesed).



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