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How To Use Row Covers

In the past, one of the things that frustrated me to no end in my Summer garden, was the constant battle with insects.   I don’t mind sharing, but sheesh, where I live they wanted it all!

And yes I did my best to encourage beneficials, and they did quite a bit of good, but with the crazy Texas weather, and the fact I am bordered by wild Ranchland and Cactus made my plot primo pickins in their eyes.

Commercial growers and many experienced gardeners have long used a method of covering their vulnerable plants with a light fabric to let sunlight in and insects out.

Depending on the type of plant, you either cover the plants directly like a blanket, or place some small wire hoops over the plants and then draping the fabric over the “ribs”.  The hoops support the fabric away from the plants for those with weaker stalks like peppers, etc.

After draping the plants with this fabric, you bury the edges of the fabric in the soil, which secures the cover from wind and more importantly, insects.

Eventually, I finally started using a very light weight fabric called “Agribon” as a cover to my greens, and some other plants. It’s widely available, but I found mine at Johnnyseeds.com

This fabric allows about 90% of the light to get in, and even rainfall, but is very good at keeping many of the insects off your plants.

I decided to try row covers myself, at first, mostly as an experiment.   At the end of the season, I was pleasantly surprised at the amazing results I got.

I had almost no insect damage, and the produce quality was some of the best I have had in a long time.

This past winter, I decided to try another experiment.  Since it was a cool Weather season with no insects about, I decided to try some experimental Broccoli, grown in the open with no  cover.

With the simple change of cold weather keeping insects away, I was able to produce some amazing Broccoli without row cover.   I now saw first hand the difference insects can make in the garden.  Since I grow to put food on the table and avoid buying from stores, this was a big deal to me.  Two years ago I was practically cleaned out by Grasshoppers.

Am I advocating everyone use Row Covers on their Garden?

Absolutely not!

But if you have serious trouble with insect damage, its a relatively inexpensive option for you to try in your battle to thwart ongoing insect attacks.  Not only that, with care, the cover can be re-used each year.

Only you can decide it they are right for you.  But I will use them every summer now that I have seen the benefits..

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Eric Andresen March 30, 2012, 6:16 am

    Do you have to be concerned about insets not being able to pollinate plants when you install a row cover? I have constructed a row cover for a SFG to help start the season early and take advantage of the nice weather we are having in Iowa, but do I need to take it off later for pollination?

    • Steve March 30, 2012, 9:40 am

      Good catch, Eric. Yes, if it is a crop needing pollination, you will need to uncover the plants during the day when the pollinators are around. But until the flowers form, you will be fine. And you can still cover them at night if needed to protect against some nighttime insects ( although these are mostly crawling bugs)

      I use the covers primarily on brassicas, lettuces, etc, so I don’t worry much about the pollination aspect.

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