By Michael Jenkins
Gardening is in part about connecting with nature, learning the rhythms of the natural world, and working with the earth and the weather to get the results you want. While we can’t control the weather or the creatures that inhabit the natural world, there are a few things we can do to stack the odds in our favor. Garden row covers are a great tool for gardens of any size, allowing you to mitigate the effects of sun, cold, and pests to help keep your plants safe.
What are row covers? They’re just what the name suggests—a material of some sort that covers your rows and protects them. There are a number of different ways to do this. You may have seen the hoop-like row covers made of a flexible PVC pipe or a metal frame, but some folks prefer box-like wooden frames. Whatever your choice, there are a number of things row covers can do for you and your plants at various points in your gardening season:
- Cold and frost protection: row covers can help you extend your growing season by providing some protection from cold, frost, and other forms of winter weather. These kinds of row covers are typically made of clear sheet plastic or garden fabric made of something like polypropylene, which allows the sun through while keeping heat near the plants. Such row covers can protect your plants at temperatures down to 28F/-2C, depending on the plants in question and other conditions. While not foolproof, row covers can help you extend your growing season or protect your plants from a cold snap.
- Shade: Just as they can be used to protect from cold weather, some row covers can be used to give your plants some relief from the heat. Row covers made from shade cloth keep the worst of the sun off your plants, while allowing some light through and letting air circulate. Properly configured, these row covers can provide some protection from hot weather and help your plants thrive during the middle of summer.
- Bird and pest protection: Row coversmade from netting can be very useful in protecting your plants from birds and small animals. Securely mounted and anchored, this kind of row cover simply prevents the critters in question from being able to get to your plants and cause them damage. It’s a fairly cheap and easy solution, popular among vegetable gardeners, and it can help keep your flowers or harvest safe until you’re ready to use them.
- Severe weather: A sturdy row cover, like the kind made to protect from winter weather or the sun, can provide some level of protection from other forms of inclement weather. Hail, high winds, and excess rain can all be mitigated to some degree by the use of a good row cover. It’s important to set up such a row cover before the bad weather starts—don’t go running around in a storm trying to put your row covers up!
Row covers are affordable, easy to set up, and can be reused year after year in order to help you protect your plants from a variety of potential problems. Whether you’ve got a few containers on a patio or a larger collection of garden beds, row covers are a great tool for any garden space. If you have any questions or advice about row covers and their use in the garden, get in touch and let us know. We love hearing from you!