My First Real Row Covers

I say first real row covers because last year I put them over my raised beds in October and then started my seeds. Nothing grew, of course. This year I am more educated and I am using the covers to protect the plants that are already growing and maturing. I didn’t really need to put these up because of the weather, but (as I mentioned in my previous post) to keep the leaves off the young seedlings (which would kill them).

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This is a new design for me. In the raised beds, I had the pvc pipes secured to the wooden walls. For erecting a row cover directly over the bed, I got some standard 1/2″ rebar and hammered it along the edge of the row. With the large amount of rain we have gotten, it was quite easy! I then cut the pvc down to 8′ and inserted them into the rebar. I only ran into two problems:

  1. Some of the steel was a little curved at one end and would not fit correctly into the pvc. When switched ends of the rebar, it worked fine.
  2. The Agribon-19 cover I bought last year is 83″ wide… my poles are 8’… I will wait while you do the math, because I didn’t… yep, that is 6.9′. It won’t fit an 8′ pole. When I laid it out, I was sorely disappointed.

So, since I was determined to get a row up, I cut some of the pipes down to 6′ to cover the beets. I think it should be tall enough, and I can use this set up in the future for shorter plants. It will be too low for the kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., though. So on the second row, I used some clear plastic that I had from last year. It fit the 8′ poles fine. I left the ends open for now so it is ventilated, but will hopefully keep most of the leaves out.

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Agribon vs. Plastic

Agribon-19 is a light material I found on Johnny’s Seeds last year that seems to be used quite a bit by small farmers. It is air and water permeable and lets in 85% of the light. It provides frost protection down to 28 deg F. There are other grades, like 15, 30, 50, 70, used for more protection in harsher winter areas.

The clear plastic is just plastic I got from Lowes. It isn’t the UV resistant plastic that is available and used by farmers for their large greenhouses. The plastic from Lowes will only last a season or two. I am not sure about light transmission or frost protection, but it does provide some.

So, what will I use? I could stick with plastic. It is cheaper, and there is nothing wrong with it. Here is a great post with ideas that I imitated last year. I still have plastic and may put it on the raised beds that get sun to do a comparability test. I could go with the UV resistant plastic for longevity. The price is comparable. If I were to ever add another greenhouse, I may do it with steel piping and this plastic.

For Agribon, here is a great blog post illustrating the versatility of it. I already know I am not going another season without covering my squash, and even my cucumbers, so I will need an insect barrier. The beetles I had this year were like out of Starship Troopers! I will definitely keep them covered and this material or Agribon-15 will do it. I can also use the material in the spring by just covering a seeded bed, providing  a little more warmth.

So, for the fall it is Agribon, and some experimentation with it in the coming year. My order is already in for some 10′ wide fabric and it should arrive this week!

PS Here is a pdf on Agribon from Johnny’s

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