Row covers are in use in my garden twelve months of the year. Here is how I put them to use.
1. Frost Protection
Row covers help to extend the garden season by insulating my plants from early or late frosts. In a cold spring like we've had this year, plants definitely grow faster when covered.
2. Cover for a Hoop House
One way I extend my garden harvest is to plant a small hoop house beside my garage. The concrete wall helps to protect this bed. I use Tunnet row cover which is strong enough to withstand our snow storms. I plant lettuce and spinach in this bed. In the dead of winter, the plants will go dormant, but as soon as it becomes warm, the roots send out new shoots.
I could cover the hoop house with plastic, which would have a similar protective effect. But I'm a lazy gardener. If I covered the hoop house with plastic I would need to remember to open it up to water. On sunny days, I would need to ventilate it so that it wouldn't overheat.
Since having children, there is only so many living creatures that I can remember to feed and water. The Tunnet row cover allows air and water to pass through so I only need to open it up when I want to plant or harvest.
3. Insect Protection
My favorite use of row covers is to avoid insects. I don't like to spray my broccoli, but the alternative is picking lots of little tiny worms out of the broccoli heads, which can ruin any appetite. I can avoid worms on my broccoli as long as I don't allow the cabbage butterfly to land on the plants. Row cover is perfect for avoiding flying insects like butterflies. As long as I keep the edges sealed well, I can enjoy worm-free, chemical-free broccoli (and cabbage and cauliflower) all season.
Row cover is also good for vining plants, like squash, to protect from cucumber beetles and stink bugs. It can help get the young plants off to a good start without insect damage. But the row cover will need removed once the plant is blooming so that insects can pollinate the blossoms.
4. Peacock Protection
There is probably no other gardener who battles peacocks in their garden. But I do. Especially in the fall, when nothing much is growing in the garden or pasture except my late fall broccoli. Our neighbor's peacocks like to browse on the succulent plants. In one afternoon, they can turn broccoli leaves to only the veins.
This spring, before I had my broccoli plants covered, the peacock was already enjoying a snack of the young plants. Since they can jump or fly over any fence, row covers are a way to hide their favorite snacks.
I'm guessing that row covers wouldn't be as affective for burrowing creatures like rabbits and ground hogs, but I have proof that it works for peacocks!
If you ever need to know!
What uses have you found for row covers?
Linked at Tuesday Garden Party