I have tried growing brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts) over the past two years and have been pleased with the results... except for when I find worms crawling in my cabbage. EWWW! I do find these wormy cabbages make wonderful chicken treats though! I have also found my tiny, spring Pac choi and late season kale covered in flea beetles. So disappointing!
This year my husband built a row cover to help prevent these pests from attacking my plants. He also placed hoops over two other beds, in which I plan to plant beans. My beans especially were wiped out when it hailed last spring, not only because of being covered in icy hail but also because, when I covered them, the heavy covers filled up with hail crushing the tender bean plants. Now I can place a hail cover over my row cover hoops to protect the tender plants. A third use for row covers is that they can be used as cold frames in cooler weather by placing clear poly over row cover hoops. I am so excited to have these row covers in place! If you want to build your own row covers, I will share with you the directions for how we built ours.
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Supply List for Building Garden Row Covers
Screws and washers or metal hose clamps to attach the pipe to the wooden bed frame.
How to Build Your Own DIY
Set the flexible row cover pipe to the height you think you want it and measure to see if the row cover fits over it with room to tuck the cover between the edge of the bed and the soil for a complete seal. Cut your pieces of pipe (we just used pruning shears to cut ours) to the correct length. Plan your spacing. placing hoops about every 3 feet. Dig soil away from the edge of the bed so that you can attach the hoop just below soil level. The reason for doing this is so that you can bend the hoop forward and slide the row cover between the hoop and the garden bed frame. When you release the hoop your row cover cloth should be pinched tightly in between, securing it on the sides. Use washers and screws to secure the flexible pipe, placing two on each side so that the hoop can not piviot, or use metal strapping for firmer pipe.
Cut the row cover to the correct length, leaving at least a foot more than you think you will need at each end. Pull it tight and wrap an elastic band around the ends of the row cover. Place a rock over the ends to hold it down. Check all around your cover to make sure you have a complete seal.
Row covers are intended to let through sunlight. Although they allow some water to get through, you will either need a soaker hose to water your plants or else lift the cover and water as needed, replacing the cover as soon as you are finished.
Warm weather crops such as squash, cucumbers, beans, peppers and tomatoes benefit from the added heat and protection from wind underneath row covers. For plants that need pollination, remove the row cover once you notice blossoms opening to allow pollinators access to your plants.
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