Build a Row Cover Frame with fabric cover
Row covers will extend your growing season both in the spring and fall and also offer protection from sun and pests. I have the philosophy of being prepared in the garden so I set my garden up to be able to cover any section of my garden at any time. Row covers also add to my Zone 5 growing season by extending the season by several months.
Row covers that use a fabric cover are easy to assemble and quite cheap if you use available or salvaged pieces. The only cost you have would be the row cover fabric, which lasts for years if properly stored. The advantage of the fabric cover is that is allows sunlight, air and moisture in. Your plants will also stay about four to eight degrees warmer than the outdoor air using a row cover. (If you need additional heat you will need to consider using a cold frame, hot bead or row cover that is plastic instead of fabric.)
You can also use the fabric cover over plants during the season that tend to have insect problems instead of using sprays. Broccoli and cabbage are two crops that are often covered.
Make a row cover
First start by placing 18-inch-long rebar stakes in each corner of your vegetable bed. Place additional rebar stakes every 24 to 36 inches along the sides. Use a mallet or hammer to drive the stakes into the ground. You will want only eight to 10 inches of the stake remaining above the soil line. This will give you a strong support base for your row cover.
Next arch pieces of 1/2 inch flexible plastic tubing over the bed to create the row cover frame. You want the highest point of each arch to be about 18 inches above your plants. Cut the tubing into four to six foot lengths, depending on the width of your bed and the height of your plants. I vary different bed heights for different crops.
Slide a piece of the tubing over a rebar stake. Arch the tubing across the bed, placing the other end of the tubing onto the stake on the opposite side of the bed. Continue until your row has ached frames down the entire length.
I use a six-foot-wide piece of row cover material for garden beds. My beds are three foot wide. This will also work for beds up to five foot wide. If your garden bed is less than three feet across, you can use a row cover with a smaller width. Cut the fabric to the length of the bed plus four feet. Cutting extra material allows you to create a “tent” that completely encloses the frame, including the ends.
Drape the fabric over the frame. Secure all the edges by pinning them into place with landscape fabric pins or rolling the extra material around bricks or rocks. Make sure the edges are tightly secured to prevent insect pests from entering. For me I use a board to make sure the fabric is held down securely the entire length of the row with bricks placed on top of the board. You can also clip a large binder clip in the middle of each arch to hold the fabric in place. This is a good idea for areas with high winds.
These covered row beds will give you more control over your crops and the conditions they are exposed to. Since I have started using covered rows I produce earlier crops and healthier crops.
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