I am often asked how I use row covers on my farm. Below are the reasons to use, how to use, and when to remove. In all installation during warm-to-hot weather hoops are recommended to create more air space under the cover. I use the lightweight floating row cover because it is the most versatile. If I have a need for more protection (colder temperatures) I double the cover.
Cool-to-Cold Season Plant Protection
Floating row covers in action in winter. We have whipping wind for most of
the winter and spring. Just imagine if the plants had to take that wind.
Cover fall, winter and early spring plantings of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Use hoops and floating row cover (no plastic) that are super easy to install and maintain. Because these plants are cool season hardy annuals they don’t need cold protection–although they appreciate it– we use it for wind and deer protection.
Cover in fall when nighttime temperatures begin dropping below 32 degrees. If a run of several warm days comes during winter that go above 55 degree, temporarily uncover to prevent encouraging plants to grow to big before their time. Recover when freezing weather returns.
Uncover in early spring when the threat of hard freezes has passed. Pull covers off and leave in garden for just in case until only above freezing is expected.
Preventing Insect Pests
Some crops like beans, squash, asters, and others can be protected from pests for a good portion of their growing time in the garden with a row cover. The important step is covering immediately at planting time.
Plant the crop in a spot that has not previously had the pest you are trying to prevent. Hoop and cover with a floating row cover and leave it on 24/7 except when tending the bed.
When the plants begin to bloom remove the cover. This allows pollination. If and when the pest arrives it is usually in low enough numbers to not cause significant damage. It’s the eggs they lay that cause such damage and laying so late in a crop doesn’t usually give them time to evolve.
Floating row covers are great for protection from birds, rabbits, squirrels, and deer. Covering the plantings like strawberries, seedlings, and others immediately protect from damage. The creatures literally don’t even realize they are under there.
Plant, hoop, and cover immediately. Remove from crops when they start to bloom or from seedlings once they are established (2-4 weeks.)
Covering a seed or transplant bed at planting will retain moisture, protect from wind, and protect from pests and varmints. Seed beds will have a higher germination rate because of more consistent moisture and transplants will establish faster.
Seed beds can be covered without hoops. The germinating seeds may bend a little under the cover but will quickly straighten once removed. I like to hoop and cover transplant beds for the best results.
Remove the cover from seed bed when the seedlings are 4-8” tall and can be mulched. Transplant beds can be removed anytime after established.
Lisa Mason Ziegler, founder of The Gardener’s Workshop and Flower Farming School Online. Award-winning Author of Vegetables Love Flowers, and Cool Flowers. Watch Lisa’s Story and view her blog Field & Garden. Connect with Lisa on Facebook and Instagram!