Monday, March 24, 2014

Row Covers

The forks are to keep my cats out.  They think I build these hot houses for them to enjoy.

I consider row covers a garden necessity. Be sure to have them on hand before spring.  Using row covers gives you a head start in the garden.  Row covers are your best strategy for extending your garden season.

What is a Row Cover?

Row covers are a spun polypropylene fabric used for a variety of purposes.  There are many brands to choose from.  They transmit light and air and come in different weights. Most are meant to lay or float directly on the plants.  Wire or PVC hoops can be used as supports and the row cover attached to the hoops.  Secure the cover with landscape staples or lay boards or PVC pipe down the side of garden beds.  You can build a simple low tunnel with rebar stakes or build a frame to suspend the cover off of plants. The lighter weight fabrics can float directly on top of plants. 

Row covers come in 4 different weights for different purposes.  They come precut to certain dimensions or can be purchased on roll of varying lengths and width.  They are available online at most garden sites and are at most garden centers. I have been using Harris Seeds to purchase mine.

Multiple layers of row covers can be used.  A floating row cover directly on the plants and a heavier weight row cover on the frame.

Types of Row Covers

Insect Barrier or Floating Covers 
  • Almost transparent
  • Lets 95% of light through 
  • Used as insect barrier 
  • Protects newly seeded beds from birds, squirrels, rabbits,etc
  •  Boosts germination by locking in heat and moisture

Light Weight Row Covers
  • Great for protecting newly seeded beds.  Lay directly on top of garden bed.
  • Boosts seed germination because it warms the soil
  • Protects new seedlings from birds, squirrels, rabbits etc.
  • Protects new seedlings from intense sunlight while they get established
  • Can be used as a second layer under a cold frame or row cover
  • 4 degrees of frost protection
  • 85% light penetration   

Medium Weight Row Covers
  •  Used for light frost protection 
  • Used as a winter cover over low tunnels underneath a layer of greenhouse plastic
  • Best choice for a low tunnel in early spring
  • Up to 6 degrees of frost protection  
  • Allows 70% light penetration 
  • Holds in more heat
Early spring greens grown with row covers and low tunnels.

 Caring for Row Covers
  • Holes can be repaired with clear packing tape
  • Dirty covers can be washed in lukewarm water
  • Fold or roll around a tube to store

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