Row Covers

Floating row cover is a spun-bound polyester which can be purchased on large rolls and lets water, air, and most of the sunlight through. The row covers keep in warmth and humidity and exclude insect pests. They also reduce shock for newly transplanted plants. We have been experimenting with different types of support for the floating row covers. Sturdy plants like garlic do not need support, but more fragile plants like tomato and pepper seedlings need something to keep the row cover from bruising or breaking them when battered about by strong Colorado winds.
In 2004 we cut 3/4″ irrigation tubing to make support hoops. It already had a curved shape, is inexpensive, and lightweight. Eight or 10 gauge wire can also be used for support hoops. We used 18 grams/sq meter weight row cover to cover the eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and artichokes. We also used it in the fall to cover the pumpkins and protect them from frost damage.

It can take time and labor to lay out row cover but the advantages to the crop can be great and worth the effort.

For the warm weather crops, we held the row cover down using #2 plastic pots filled with field soil. The pots worked very well and held the row cover in place even in high winds. It is easy to dump the soil and store the pots in the off-season, and easy to add more pots later on. By not putting the soil directly on the row cover, it preserves it and makes it easy to uncover and cover again. Some growers use sandbags but these can be heavy to transport and take space to store.

Other Sources of Information About Row Covers

Several of the Specialty Crops Grower Grants involve research with row covers such as Increasing the Marketing Period for Melons Using Row Covers and Using Row Covers and Plasticulture to Produce Earlier Harvests and Greater Yields.

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