Gardening Under Cover – Protect Your Plants With Cloches

Gardeners have used coverings to protect plants and to extend the growing season for centuries.

These coverings can be as elaborate as heated glass greenhouses, or as simple as a plastic bag supported over a single plant. Temporary shelters are known as cloches, and can be almost any size or shape.

Sheltering your plantings offers protection in four different ways:

  1. Trapping heat with the greenhouse effect. The sun’s rays have radiant energy that becomes heat energy when it strikes the soil under cover. This warmth accelerates the growth of the plants.
  2. Protection from damaging rain. Heavy spring rains can compact the soil surface and wash seeds out of their soil covering. Wet conditions also encourage rot and disease, and can even rot germinating seeds.
  3. Protection from frost. By covering plantings in early spring and late fall, there is less transfer of the heat in the soil to the surrounding nighttime cool air, so plants do not freeze.
  4. Protection from winds. Winds can damage plants by knocking them over or breaking stems. It also chills them. A covering will deflect damaging winds.

Any material that transmits light can be used to make a plant protector. The original cloches (the French word for bell) resembled glass bells, and each one sheltered a single plant.

Today, we have many possibilities – plastic containers with bottoms removed, recycled windows, supported plastic sheets, or commercially made cloches. One of the most efficient and useful cloches can be easily made to cover an entire raised planting bed, thus functioning as a mini greenhouse.

Coverings that you make yourself have three main advantages:

  • They are low cost.
  • They are easy to build and move.
  • They can be made to a desired size.

Here is how to make a lightweight portable cloche that is both economical and reusable:

From sections of 2X2 lumber, make a rectangular frame 4 feet by 6 feet, screwed and braced on the 4 corners. Drill a 1 inch hole in each corner, but not all the way through. Insert two ten foot lengths of three quarter inch PVC pipe into the corner holes, and across diagonally, so they form an arched framework crossing in the center, much like a tent frame.

Now, lay a 6 mil poly sheet over the framework, and staple it snugly along the 6 foot sides first. Then snug it along the other two sides, and staple. You’ll need to fold over the excess at the corners, sort of like how you gift wrap a box. Staple it down, and cover the staples on all four sides with duct tape. Trim off any excess plastic from the bottom.

This lightweight device can be set over a raised bed, over a grouping of plants, or even over a freshly seeded area. You can easily lift it off for watering and weeding, or lift and support one side up for ventilation.

Build this simple cloche, and use your ingenuity to design and create others to fit your needs. With just a little expense and a bit of carpentry skill, you can add months to your gardening pleasure.

Designing Outdoor Living Spaces: Advice From An Experienced Interior Designer

As an interior designer in Sarasota, Florida, I am often asked to design living spaces that embrace the outdoors. For much of the year, the climate in Sarasota has balmy breezes and minimal bug-life, and you can spend a great deal of time either in the sun or under cover. Either way there are many ways to enjoy comfort and luxury while enjoying nature’s gifts.

One of the ways we like to use the outdoors is an architectural feature often called a “loggia”. This is often a terrace with a roof, sometimes part of the structure of a house, sometimes a free-standing pavilion. We often furnish them with handsome teak-framed furniture (from sustainable forests, of course). We love they way this develops a beautiful silvery patina in just a few years. We use loose, thick and luxe cushions on them, covering them with the new indoor/outdoor fabrics. These are made of polyesters which are now being made to look and feel much more like cotton yet hold up against rain and are resistant to mildew. They dry quickly too. They can come in bright weaves and marvelous prints that can be bold and tropical or quiet tones for subtle and quiet rooms.

For many of these spaces, we use them as outdoor living rooms, which they are. When we are using stone floors in an interior, we like to use the same material to carry to the outside, uniting the indoors and the outdoors. This gives a great feel of expansiveness and connection. These floors are stone or tile with a honed or tumbled finish that gives them a more rustic and casual surface. They are cool and easy to walk on in the shade, a lovely relief from the heat in the summer on bare feet!

Walls are as non-existent as possible. The whole point is to welcome the view of the sun, the sea and the sky. We recently completed a home facing the Gulf with one wall being the wall of the home, with expansive openings onto the Loggia and the water beyond. Three sides of the loggia can be closed and secured with a coiling closure that provides protection from storms and security when the owners are not in residence. The closures retract discretely into the ceiling when the house is open. When the closures are up, there is no barrier between the indoors except the furnishings on the loggia – an extension of the living space. One moves effortlessly from the indoors to the outdoors. Outdoor curtains can be another way of “dressing up” a terrace. The draperies can be closed at the most intense moments of the afternoon sun and then opened when the light modulates and welcomes us back. Casual tie-backs can hold the curtains at the corners of the space then, to keep the view clear and expansive.

As much as possible we make these spaces outdoor rooms. Where there are wall surfaces we often hang mirrors, to reflect the view and bring more light to the interior and as a handsome decorative treatment for the walls. We add other furnishings too, like lamps – with heavy ceramic bases, and positioned close to walls so that they are safe from wind and rain. Hurricane lamps on tables adding the soft glow of candlelight at dusk is a wonderful feature as well. If we need to add other decorative lighting we often use surface-mounted fixtures to the ceiling or bold and weather-resistant sconces to the walls. Hanging fixtures can be problematic unless they can be secured against high winds. Ceiling fans however are often designed with short or rigid stems so that they can be used to help stir a breeze and be a decorative element as well.

In addition to loggias, terraces and decks can extend the living space. Terraces off of bedrooms are lovely areas in the early morning and the evening for moments of quiet contemplation and to recover and rejuvenate in a private outdoor space. Once again, comfortable indoor/outdoor furnishings make them feel more like living rooms than just a deck with a hard chair. Amenities can often include a wet bar, an outdoor shower, and a fireplace or firepit. All of these things help extend the time we can spend under the sky or the stars.

eBook Cover Design – Yes, You Can Do it for Free!

It has been statistically shown that eBooks with an attractive cover graphic, outsell those that don’t have a cover graphic. So, if you are creating any kind of written information product, it is imperative that you have a Cover Graphic with it, and let’s face some facts, people like to “see” what they are buying…So, an eBook Cover Graphic gives folks a visualization of your product.

There are two ways to acquire a nice eBook cover graphic:

1) Pay a designer to make you one…This can cost anywhere from $50 to $100+.

2) Design the cover graphic yourself.

Now, I realize that you may NOT want the hassle of learning a piece of software, or you may only produce one information product (eBook)…If that is the case, then paying a designer would be the logical solution. But, for those who have more time than money, or for those who will want to create many information products (and doesn’t want to pay multiple fees to designers), there is a simple & FREE alternative: GIMP

GIMP is a 100% FREE software, and you can find the download link by searching at Google or Yahoo for “GIMP download”…You’ll find many different web sites offering it for free.

GIMP has a very similar user interface as the Adobe PhotoShop software (which costs around $600), and was really the only way to make professional looking eBook covers, until the GIMP software was available.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still prefer Photoshop, as it’s the program I’ve always used and am familiar with. Plus, I’ve already paid for it, so I might as well use it. But, for those who have a limited budget, you can start producing web graphics for just about any purpose: eBooks, banners, Headers, etc…for FREE with the GIMP software.

There is something to be said about making your own graphics:

1) You have FULL control of the outcome: You know how you want your product to be represented, so doing it yourself puts you in complete control of every aspect of your products look, feel, and design.

2) The cost savings will add up VERY quickly: You can change your products graphics at any time, with NO additional fees that you would have to pay a designer. This alone is well worth the time involved with learning a new piece of software.

After downloading and Installing the GIMP software…Below, are the basic steps to making your own eBook cover:

STEP #1
– From the top Menu Bar…click: File, New.
– Width = 500, Height = 750
– Click “OK”

STEP #2
– From the top Menu Bar…click: Layer, New Layer.
– Layer Name = Front
– Width = 250, Height = 350
– Set “Layer Fill Type” = Foreground Color
– Click “OK”
Change color of layer to a “blue”…

STEP #3
– From the top Menu Bar…click: Layer, New Layer.
– Layer Name = Top
– Width = 250, Height = 50
– Set “Layer Fill Type” = Foreground Color
– Click “OK”
– Change color to a Light Gray

STEP #4
– From the top Menu Bar…click: Layer, New Layer.
– Layer Name = Side
– Width = 375, Height = 50
– Set “Layer Fill Type” = Foreground Color
– Click “OK”
Change color to a Yellow

Move the layers around so you can see all Three of them.

STEP #5
– Click “front” layer in Layers box
– Click “text tool”
– Make text box on front layer image
– Type in text, then click close
– Adjust text as needed (size, font, etc).

STEP #6
– Click “side” layer in Layers box
– Click “text tool”
– Make Text box on side layer image
– Type in text, then click close
– Adjust text as needed

STEP #7
– In Layers Box, you can “merge down” by RIGHT clicking the text layers, and then click the “merge down” option. Make sure text is directly above the layer you want to merge with.

STEP #8
– Flip side layer around…by:
– Click on Side layer in Layers box
– Click Layer from top menu bar
– Click Transform Layer
– Click Rotate 90′ Clockwise

STEP #9
– Save File…by:
– Click on File from top menu bar
– Click Save
– Name file…be sure to label with the.xcf extension
– Save in Folder where you’d like it to be saved on YOUR computer

STEP #10
– Add Finished layer
– Click Layer from top menu bar
– Click New Layer
– Name “Finished”
– Width = 250
– Height = 375
– Layer Fill Type = white
– Click OK

STEP #11
– From Top menu bar, click Filters
– Click Map
– Click Map Object
– On new window…change “Plane” to “Box”
– Click on Show Preview Wireframe
– Click on “Orientation” tab…
– Under “Rotation” heading, change X to 15
– Change Y to -20
– Leave Z set to 0
– Click on “Box” tab
– Under “Map images to box faces” heading, change Front to front.
– Change Top to top
– Change Right to side
– Scale X =.50
– Scale Y =.50
– Scale Z =.08
– Click Preview – NOTE: preview dimensions will NOT be to scale.
– Click OK

Finished eBook will appear in Finished Layer.

The above steps are the VERY BASICS of creating an eBook Cover Design with the GIMP software.