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Garden Cloche and Hot Cap Buyer’s Guide

Garden cloches

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Garden cloches — also called hot caps — are plastic, fabric, or glass covers than function as mini greenhouses to protect individual plants from inclement weather or pests. Hot caps are effective at deterring frost on chilly nighs and warming plants on cold days. They can also be used to protect plants from insect or animal pests.

Cloches and hot caps are also know as season extenders, plant protectors, and plant covers. They are usually placed over small plants and anchored in place by garden staples, stakes, soil, or stones.

Cloches are often translucent or clear. They trap solar energy and warm the air around plants. They are often used in early spring or autumn to protect plants from frost or heavy rain.

A cloche or hot cap works very much like a cold frame, but it’s portable. Clear cloches allow light to pass through the material so that a plant’s green leaves can still photosynthesize. Some plastic or fabric cloches are large enough to place over several plants. A cloche that covers an entire row of plants is called a row cover or fabric or plastic tunnel.

Fabric cloches in autumn
Fabric cloches in autumn

Types of cloches and hot caps

There are many both simple and ingenious designs for cloches and hot caps. Glass cloches or domes with knob-like handles are traditional; they were common in the nineteenth centruy. Some cloches are made of galvanized wire mesh covered with plastic to paper. The most familar are molded plastic. One design of interconnected clear plastic tubes that hold water. The water retains solar heat during the day and releases it at night, acting as a temperature moderator and insulator.

Commercial cloches come in various sizes and shapes. It is not difficult to make a small cloche from a gallon-size milk jug. Cut through the base of the jug on three sides, open out the bottom and place the jug over a plant; use a stone weight the bottom flap.

Plastic cloches
Plastic cloches with tubes to hold water which is heated by the sun

Garden cloche and hot cap uses and tips

  • Use cloches and hot caps to protect young, small, and tender plants during early spring from frosts and cold winds. Crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and other transplants can get a head start when a cloche is placed over them in spring.
  • Use cloches and hot caps to extend the seaon into autumn, again protecting plants from frost and rain.
  • Use cloches and hot caps to protect seedlings from birds, insects, and hard rains.
  • Be sure to remove the cloche when the day temperatures are particularly warm (75°F or greater); plants may heat up too much under a closed cloche. As temperatures rise, remove the cloche or hot cap to allow trapped heat to escape. Cloches and hot caps can be very labor intensive if temperatures fluctuate dramitcally.
  • If you remove a cloche as daytime temperature rise, set it back in place when the temperatures begin to drop.
  • Stop using cloches and hot caps when temperatiures stay consistently well above freezing. You can use a wire mesh cloche in late spring and summer to protect plants from pest insects or animals.
  • If you plan on using cloches for several years, buy the higher-priced fabric or solid plastic ones that will last, and store them in a dry place between seasons.
Plastic cloches that can be placed over multiple seedlings
Plastic cloches that can be placed over multiple seedlings

Garden cloches and hot caps we like

BOTARO GRO-Caps Reusable Plant Covers (30 Pack) Plant Protection from Frost, Cold Weather, Garden Insects. About $61.

Dalen 12 Pack of Frost Protection Gard’N Hot Caps. About $21.

Garden Cloches for Plants, Multifunctional Plant Covers Plant Protectors Transparent Bell Jar Cloches to Protect Plants from Birds, Slugs, Frost, Freeze Weather. About $15.

Fshow Garden Cloches,20 Pack Reusable Plant Bell Cover,Bell Jar Cloches for Protection Against Sun, Frost, Snails. About $19.

Gardeneer Season Starter Plant Insulators, Pack of 9. About $73.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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Row cover

Row Cover Buyer’s Guide