Welcome to Gardener’s Path, your number one resource for gardening advice and troubleshooting tips, planting pointers, and in-depth reviews of our favorite products and must-haves, whether you’re digging the soil in a small space, planting containers indoors, or tending to trees and rows of seasonal veggies on a larger plot of land.
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Edited by Allison Sidhu.
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Our goal is to bring you the best of everything about gardening, from tips for beginners to the more advanced green thumb gardeners, thorough guides to learn more about building your soil and planting for specific conditions like shade or direct sun, and troubleshooting tips for dealing with pests and plant diseases.
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Every gardener out there can benefit from having floating row covers on hand.
They’re lightweight, easy to store, and inexpensive. And their uses go well beyond frost protection.
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t up for building a mini hoop house either. In many cases, the garden fabric can be draped directly on top of plants and secured around the perimeter.
So the effort involved is often minimal.
Keep reading for a short list of all the ways you can use floating row covers in your garden, how to pick the right types for your needs, and some tips to avoid possible pitfalls.
WHAT IS IT?
Floating row cover, also known as the garden fabric, is a white, thin, light piece of material used to shelter crops for a number of reasons, the most well-known being for frost protection.
It’s typically made from polypropylene or polyester and doesn’t absorb moisture.
It does, however, allow rainfall and sunlight to pass through.
One piece can last multiple seasons, depending on how extensively it’s used each year.
1. PROTECT WARM SEASON CROPS AGAINST FROST
I don’t know a single gardener who doesn’t wish for more time every season.
Well, the garden fabric can actually allow you more time to grow warm season crops.
Garden fabric varies in weight and density. T
o keep plants protected from frost, you’ll need a heavier weight material that is specifically created to trap heat.
For short-term frost protection, all you need to do is loosely lay material over the plants that are at risk, and secure it around the perimeter with rocks or soil.
Peppers especially need warmer temperatures to thrive, so employing garden fabric can really make a difference.
If allowing plants to grow under cover for any length of time, it’s best to build a support structure to increase airflow, allow for plenty of room to grow, and avoid any damage that may be caused to the plants by unsupported fabric beating in the wind.
Also, you’ll want to make sure you use a fabric that still allows plenty of light through.
2. PROTECT COOL SEASON CROPS FROM HEAT, OR WARM THEM UP IN WINTER
Row covers also allow you to extend the harvest of cool weather crops such as kale by providing relief from the hot sun.
Ideally they will allow for plenty of air circulation, but still, block a good amount of sunlight. Garden fabric is a great option if the weather starts heating up early in the spring, or at the end of summer when starting a fall crop.
Also keep in mind that if you are in a region that is exceptionally hot or cold, garden fabric has the potential to allow you to grow edibles you otherwise couldn’t grow.
You can also use heavyweight row covers through the winter to grow some hard frost tolerant vegetables, like cabbage and kale. This works especially well if winters are usually mild in your area.
3. KEEP PESTS OUT
If you will be leaving covers on throughout the season, it’s important to make sure they aren’t heavyweight and meant to trap heat.
Leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and self-pollinating edibles can essentially be grown under the protection of garden fabric from seed to harvest. Bush beans are a great candidate for this.
In order to effectively keep pests out, it’s important to secure material well with staples or soil.
4. REDUCE TRANSPLANT SHOCK
Seedlings grown indoors often can’t handle the stress of outdoor weather right away.
So, seedlings are typically hardened off, which means they are slowly introduced to the outdoors before being transplanted into the garden.
Instead of hardening plants off by setting seedlings out for extended periods of time over the course of several days, you could place plants under the protection of a lightweight row cover instead. This will cut the intensity of the weather and give plants a chance to become established.
CHECK PLANTS OFTEN
If using row covers for an extended period of time, there are several issues to keep in mind:
First, many insects overwinter in the soil, so be mindful of any insect issues that you have had in the past so you know where to look.
As such, crop rotation is especially important if using row covers for protection against insect pests.
The last thing you want to do is to trap pests that emerge from the soil in with your edibles! So be very vigilant. If you notice any insect damage while plants are sheltered, investigate immediately.
Also, for plants that require insect pollinators, like cucurbits, you’ll have to open tunnels regularly or hand pollinate.
One of the most challenging aspects of using garden fabric is that you can’t see what’s going on in your garden unless you take the time to investigate. Regularly assessing moisture levels, temperature, air circulation, and weed growth will save you disappointment later.
If the microenvironment created by the row cover ever becomes too humid or hot, just open the ends to allow for more air circulation.
Also, weeds will likely love the protected environment, so regular weeding is necessary. On the plus side, this will give you a chance to check in on your garden beds regularly.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF FLOATING ROW COVERS
To increase frost protection by 2°F to 4°F, use two layers of material. Any more than two layers, however, and not enough sunlight will reach the plants.
Although you can lay fabric directly over plants, consider building a permanent structure.
This will allow you to use the material in a number of ways, and allow for easy installation.
If stapling material to the ground, double up fabric to prevent ripping.
Store covers when dry and away from the ground, as rodents may find this makes a cozy bed.
GIVE YOURSELF THE OPTION
It doesn’t take much to purchase a few yards of floating row cover. So what are you waiting for?
When temperatures suddenly spike in April and threaten your lettuce crop, or dip and stress out your peppers, you’ll be thankful you made the extra investment.
Do you have experience using floating row covers? What are your thoughts?
We would love to hear about what worked and what didn’t.
Let us know in the comments!
GROW TOMATOES FROM SEEDS IN 6 EASY STEPS
Growing tomatoes from seed is rather easy. Not only will you save money on buying from the produce department at your local grocery store, you will also save money on buying tomatoes plants when you grow them from seed.
You can purchase seeds at your local garden stores and department stores with the garden department.
For the price you would pay for one tomato plant, you can buy enough seeds to grow twenty or more plants for around a buck.
Depending on the variety you may get up to 100 seeds for $1.00-$2.00. Below you will find that growing tomatoes from seeds is not only beneficial but very easy.
What you will need:
- Tomato Seeds (any variety of your choice)
- Well Drained Sterile Seed Tray and Dome
- Popsicle Stick (or another tool to create rows)
STEP #1: PREPARE YOU SOIL
The first step is to prepare your planting area. In this case, it will be your seed tray. Fill your tray with 1-2 inches of soil depending on its depth.
Water the soil until it is moist but not soggy. You may need to water, let it set and then water it again to allow it to soak up the water evenly.
Once your soil is nice and wet, you then want to create rows to plant the seeds. Using a Popsicle stick or other tool, make rows that are approximately ¼ in deep.
Depending on how many tomato seeds you are growing, you may decide to simply create small holes with your Popsicle stick and drop a seed in each one.
However, if you are planting a lot this could be very time consuming and take up more of an area to ensure that you don’t damage the previously planted seed.
STEP #2: SOWING YOUR SEEDSOnce you have your rows finished (or holes), it’s now time to plant. Take
a few seeds at a time, and lightly sprinkling them down each row evenly.
If you happen to get two touching don’t worry, they will still grow.
Once you have placed your seeds, go back and pinch the dirt in the rows to cover the planting.
You can also use more potting soil to lightly cover if you choose.
If you do add soil, be sure to lightly spray it down to give it some extra moisture.
STEP #3: CREATE THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Once your tomato seeds have been sown, place the clear plastic dome over the tray.
If you are using a greenhouse then the dome isn’t really necessary as long as you maintain a high humidity level.
STEP #4: GERMINATION BEGINS
Once your plants begin to germinate, watch them closely.
You will want to keep the soil moist but not soggy. They will get root rot if the soil is too wet.
Once they get about an inch tall, you can remove the dome to allow fresh air to move through the seedlings. Allow them to grow 2-3 inches before transplanting.
STEP #5: TRANSPLANTING THE SEEDLINGS
After your tomato plants have grown to 3 inches it’s time to transplant them.
Using sterile pots made from burlap or peat (Styrofoam cups work well also), fill them to about ½ inch from the top with sterile soil.
Moisten the soil just as you did with the seed trays.
Again, you may need to water and wait a few times to allow it to soak in well.
If using Styrofoam cups poke a small hole in the bottom with a toothpick to allow drainage.
Using popsicle stick, create a hole in each pot that is about as big around as the popsicle stick and 2-3 inches deep.
Once your pots are prepared it’s now time to start the main transplanting stage.
Using a popsicle stick, gently slide it under the soil beneath a seedling and lift upwards to life the seedling.
Always hold the seedling by the grown to ensure no damage is done to the stem.
Gently pull the seedling upwards while pushing the soil and roots up and the same time.
Once your seedling is removed, place the roots and stems into the holes in each container.
Plant it as low to the crown (or baby leaves) as you can without them actually setting on the soil.
Secure the soil around the tomato seedling and move on to the next.
STEP #6: MAINTAINING HEALTHY SEEDLINGS
Once you have potted the entire tray tomato seedlings, you can now place them in front of a sunny window and continue to water them routinely.
Be sure to check them every day to ensure that they have dried out.
A few sprits of water from a water bottle works great on a daily bases to ensure high humidity and help the leaves take in water since their roots are still growing.
As they grow you will see their true leaves begin to grow and then from there on your tomato plant will take off.
You will need to replant them in a few weeks, either in the ground, growing bags or bigger pots depending on you gardening preferences.
Water, fertilize and weed regularly to ensure healthy, vibrant tomato plants that will last for many months!
For something a little different, tomatillos can also be grown in a similar fashion.
- Don’t Eat What You Don’t Know
- Become Familiar with the Local Environment
- Watch Out for Hazards!
- Leave Some for the Birds
- Experimenting with What You Procure
- Basic Berry Identification