Row covers – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Plant Care Glossary

I. What are row covers?

Row covers are a type of protective fabric that is used in gardening to shield plants from various environmental factors. They are typically made from lightweight materials such as polyester or polypropylene and come in various sizes to accommodate different types of plants and garden beds. Row covers are designed to be placed directly over plants or rows of crops, creating a barrier that helps to regulate temperature, humidity, and light exposure.

II. How do row covers benefit plants?

Row covers offer a range of benefits to plants, making them a valuable tool for gardeners looking to protect their crops. One of the primary benefits of row covers is their ability to provide insulation against cold temperatures. By trapping heat close to the plants, row covers can help to prevent frost damage and extend the growing season. Row covers also help to protect plants from pests and diseases, acting as a physical barrier that keeps insects and other harmful organisms at bay. Additionally, row covers can help to regulate humidity levels, reduce wind damage, and protect plants from harsh sunlight.

III. When should row covers be used?

Row covers are most commonly used in early spring and late fall when temperatures are still fluctuating and there is a risk of frost. They can also be used throughout the growing season to protect plants from pests and diseases. Row covers are particularly useful for tender crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, as well as for delicate flowers and herbs. In general, row covers should be used whenever plants are at risk of being damaged by environmental factors such as cold temperatures, wind, or pests.

IV. What types of row covers are available?

There are several different types of row covers available, each with its own unique features and benefits. Floating row covers are one of the most popular options, as they are lightweight, easy to install, and provide good protection against pests and frost. These covers are typically made from spunbonded polyester or polypropylene and can be laid directly over plants or supported by hoops or stakes. Other types of row covers include mesh covers, which provide protection against insects while allowing air and water to pass through, and plastic covers, which offer superior insulation but may need to be removed during the day to prevent overheating.

V. How are row covers installed and maintained?

Installing row covers is a relatively simple process that can be done by one person in a matter of minutes. To install a row cover, simply lay it over the plants or rows of crops and secure the edges with rocks, soil, or clips. If using hoops or stakes for support, make sure they are firmly anchored in the ground to prevent the cover from blowing away in strong winds. Row covers should be checked regularly for tears or holes, as these can compromise their effectiveness. If any damage is found, it should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent pests or diseases from gaining access to the plants.

VI. What are the potential drawbacks of using row covers?

While row covers offer many benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider when using them in the garden. One of the main drawbacks is that row covers can restrict airflow and trap excess heat, leading to overheating and moisture buildup. This can create a favorable environment for fungal diseases and other pathogens to thrive. Additionally, row covers can be cumbersome to remove and replace, especially for larger garden beds or crops that require frequent maintenance. Finally, row covers may not provide complete protection against all pests and diseases, so additional measures may be needed to ensure the health and vitality of the plants.