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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2020

Floating Row Cover


Floating row cover is one of the most important tools for gardeners from fall through spring. Draped over tender plants in the fall when the first freezing weather arrives gives plants at least 4-5 degrees of protection. Used in the early spring it can give a safe head start on crop planting and development.


Floating row covers are sold under many names


Floating row cover or just row cover is a generic term for a lightweight, translucent material (usually spun polypropylene or polyester) that is placed directly over tomato cages, rows of food crops and ornamental plants to give frost protection and to help protect plants from insects and various other unfavorable conditions.


Floating row cover is so named because it doesn't have to be supported with hoops or other devices, although it can be. It is usually set right on top of the growing crops where it will "float" without damaging the plants. It should be weighted down on the edges with soil, rocks, lumber or metal pins available commercially or made from coat hangers. This is done to keep it from blowing away.


The names are a little confusing because there are so many of them. Various brand names include: N-Sulate, Harvest Guard, Frost Shield, Frost Blanket, Reemay, Agronet, Grow-Web, Plant Guard, Plant Shield, Plant Protecting Blanket and others. The generic names include floating row cover, row cover, garden fabric, frost cover and others.


This terrifically useful and inexpensive material allows light and water to penetrate but does not have to be removed as with plastic and other more solid covers. Row covers are available in rolls of various lengths and widths as well as pre-cut pieces and are reusable for several years if handled carefully to prevent tears.


Row covers can be used on individual plants, rows, or entire beds

Row covers should be held down on the edges with rocks, soil, lumber or metal pins


Row covers can be used in early spring to get crops off to an early start. They work by blocking the wind, trapping the sun's heat and even warming the soil. Covering tomato cages in the early spring completely with row cover makes the tomatoes very happy and productive early. When temperatures warm remember to uncover the plants that depend upon insect pollination for fruit production – such as include melons, cucumbers and squash.


Crops planted in the fall, such as radishes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, Chinese cabbage, beets, carrots, turnips and parsnips, can be covered before the first hard freezes to protect and help increase winter production of these crops.


Row cover can be used around tomato cages and other crops to get a safe jump on the season


Cool season flowering plants such as snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, Johnny jump-ups and others can be covered before the hardest freezes and protected to last all winter in many cases.


So – my advice for now is to purchase a supply of floating row cover and have it ready to go over your cool season herbs and vegetables as well as the pretty cool season flowers so the gardens can be enjoyed for a longer part of the year.





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