Proper gardening requires you to have the right equipment, to do a good job, and make your work easier.
For example, your garden constantly needs to be protected from pests, frost, and even heavy freezes. Equipping your garden with a floating row cover is a sure way to protect your precious plants from the elements.
Gardeners out there are taking advantage of floating row covers in their gardens. You, too, can benefit immensely from having a floating row cover to ensure your plants survive inclement weather.
Floating row covers make a difference in your garden, and you’ll experience optimal harvests. Beat all the odds by planting heat-loving vegetables during a cold season and vice versa.
What Is A Floating Row Cover?
Although this might sound like jargon or modern-day mumbo jumbo to some, the concept is quite simple.
Floating row covers are simply thin, delicate pieces of material used to cover crops to protect them from different threats.
Otherwise known as garden fabrics, they can either be spun-bonded or woven and are mostly made of plastic, polyester, or polypropylene. They are incredibly lightweight gauze-like white fabrics that you drape over garden plants.
A floating row cover doesn’t absorb any moisture. It also allows rainwater or irrigation water to pass through efficiently.
Owning a single piece of a floating row cover can serve you for multiple seasons. It all trickles down to how you use these covers. Extensive use reduces the durability of these plant covers, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to use them for two or three planting seasons.
Floating row covers can be a vital addition to your garden, reaching out for them when they’re most needed. Perhaps, listing down the uses and benefits of row covers can convince you to invest in one or several.
Why Do You Need It?
Floating row covers won’t be the prettiest addition to your torch-lit garden, but they will protect your plants. Protecting your plants also protects everything you invest in your garden, from the money to the effort.
If you’re growing flowers, you want to be able to admire them from the frame of your window. You will also want to observe their progress from your car as you leave home every day.
Of course, draping a translucent polythene cover over your plants is the last thing you want, especially if you’re all about the visual appeal.
So why bother using floating covers?
The advantage of floating row covers goes beyond the risk of exposing your plants to possible threats.
Let’s investigate some of the benefits of using floating row covers in your garden.
1. Keeping pests and diseases out
Whether you’re gardening just for the fun of it or to supplement your diet, taking care of your plants is a priority. And what better way to take care of your plants than protecting them from harmful pests and disease.
Pests such as insects can cause significant damage to your veggies, flowers, and herbs.
Beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and locusts are unwelcome garden guests as they’ll feast on your plants. An open garden leaves your plants vulnerable to mass destruction.
You especially need a floating row cover if you’re cultivating vegetables. Common bugs such as flea beetles, seed corn maggots, thrips, grasshoppers, and caterpillars can be kept out by using this type of plant cover.
Also, floating row covers are a non-toxic pest control measure, highly recommended by gardening experts.
To understand pest control better, here’s a list of the specific pests from which you can protect your plants:
Seedcorn maggot mainly attacks corns and beans.
Cucumber beetles are common in the garden during the early stages of plant growth.
Aster yellow disease is transmitted by leafhoppers–common in carrots and flowers.
Caterpillar attacks on broccoli and cabbages.
2. Limits transplant shock
If you’re growing seedlings for your favorite plants indoors, transferring them to an outdoor garden may induce transplanting shock.
Many indoor seedlings don’t cope well with the stressful outdoor weather after living life indoors.
Using lightweight floating row covers can reduce transplanting shock by slowly introducing the seedlings to the outdoor weather until they are established. In addition, the lightweight floating row covers protect the seedlings from harsh outdoor weather.
3. Protect plants from cold
Gardeners in the north have probably experienced the biting cold firsthand. It can be devastating. Frost will surely devastate your plants and kill them.
Freezing temperatures are equally destructive as most plants cannot survive frost.
So, to protect your garden from an infestation, a floating row cover can be a game-changer. Covering your plants with a protective sheath will also keep most insects away from the plants.
The chemistry is simple, the water in plant cells freeze in icy conditions, damaging the cell wall. Then, when the temperature gets warmer, the damaged cell walls allow excessive moisture to escape, killing your plants.
Using a floating row cover during freezing temperatures keeps your plants warm.
Typically, the temperature inside the row cover is between four to ten 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than temperatures outside, which effectively protects your veggies.
Imagine being able to plant warm-season crops over the winter? You can achieve this aim when you use these covers.
Plus, the fabric protects plants from chilly weather and provides relief from the hot sun, serving a dual purpose. This is undoubtedly a valuable tool for your garden.
With floating covers, you have the advantage of setting out warm-loving plants like tomatoes or hot peppers a week or so earlier than usual.
In addition, it spearheads your planting times. Heavyweight covers during winter will also serve your purpose of protecting your plants from the frost, making the use of this technique vital for all serious gardeners.
4. Protect cold season plants from heat
As ironic as it sounds, there are cold-loving plants that need protection from heat. For example, vegetables such as kale don’t like too much heat. Using floating covers protects them from excess heat during summer.
You can also use row covers to extend the harvesting periods of your kale by filtering out excess heat in summer.
The trick is to allow sufficient air circulation for your plants while blocking a significant magnitude of sunlight. If you experience hot weather, especially early spring, these garden fabric covers make life easier for your plants and yourself.
How To Make One
Learn how to make a simple and effective floating row cover for your garden with the right tools and straightforward steps.
PEX Pipe–used for making hoops. You’ll need 5 feet of 1/2″ diameter PEX for each hoop segment.
7/16″ x 48″ round wood dowel
A 3.5 mil plastic sheet–the amount and length depend on the measurements of your garden.
Stones, logs, or bricks to hold the plastic firm.
These straightforward steps will guide you to make floating row covers for your garden.
Use the lopping shears to cut the wood dowel in two halves.
Each half should be approximately two feet long. These will be used as support stakes on each side of every loop.
Use the looping shears to cut a 5-feet PEX pipe segment for three feet beds.
Adjust the lengths according to the size of your garden. Use the tape measure for accurate measurements. You’ll require a single hoop for every 3-4 feet.
Hammer the stakes a foot below the ground, leaving the other foot above the surface level.
Space them in in 3-to-4-foot segments and repeat the procedure till all the hoops are done.
Insert the pipe over the dowels and slide it down a few inches.
Measure the plastic sheath and cut it to the desired length.
It must be measured to go over the garden completely. Drape the plastic sheath over the hoop structure, covering the structure entirely.
Use logs, rocks, bricks, or other weighty material you can find around the garden to secure the plastic around the hoops.
Important Tips When Using Floating Row Covers
Remember, if you’re protecting your plants against the frost, the plastic sheeting will have to be thick. You can use two layers of the plastic sheet to increase protection from ice by two to four degrees Fahrenheit.
Before I forget, ensure that you check your plants frequently. Remember that some insects emerge from the soil. Regular checks help you to spot them quickly. You don’t want to trap insects in with your plants, providing them with a stable food source at the expense of your crops.
Regular checks also allow you to assess your plants, including their moisture levels and general health.
Don’t forget the weeding. A protected environment is a perfect place for weeds, so remove these regularly.
Gardens add value to a home. They are pleasing to look at, and the plants provide the essential vitamins your family needs.
It is every gardener’s dream to have a well-maintained green space. However, as much as tending to your garden can be fun; it is by no means easy. You must devote time to regularly caring for your flowers, herbs, or veggies to ensure their health.
Give yourself the chance to extend the gardening season by making your own floating row covers or purchasing them ready-made.
Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.