Climate and the environment impact the conditions which affect the natural cycle of cultivation. Sometimes it is necessary to employ row covers and other materials to protect plants from the elements. Read on since we have researched which vegetables need row covers.
Garden fabrics or row covers are primarily used to extend the growing season and increase crop yield by regulating the temperature and incidentally protect plants from weather and pest damage.
Most vegetables benefit from their overall features but the application and function of row covers vary depending on the season.
Here are some vegetables that benefit from the material:
In this article, we will talk about the benefits and application of row covers relative to the seasons, the crops, and the general environmental conditions.
Cool Vs. Warm Season Crops
In agriculture, vegetables are classified as cool and warm season crops. The key to a productive vegetable garden is knowing the difference between the two since vegetation is planted and grown based on its capacity to handle and withstand temperature changes.
Cool Season Crops
Cool season crops are grown from seeds and are planted in early spring or a couple of weeks before the last frost date when the soil can already be worked with. By doing so, they will be ready for harvest before temperatures begin to rise.
Cold hardy vegetation including broccoli, cabbage, garlic, and spinach can be sown in late summer for overwintering. Some cultivars such as kale and Brussels sprouts are highly dependent on winter frost.
These vegetables require the cold temperature to grow, germinate, and produce fruit. Attempting to plant them amidst hot weather will affect the crops’ overall quality and taste.
Cool season crops can be covered with garden fabrics when temperatures begin to rise. The material will protect the vegetation from heat and the sun’s UV rays.
Row covers simulate and replicate the climate to which these vegetables are accustomed to, and as such, the material help extends the plants’ growing season.
Arugulas, Carrots, Lettuce, Radishes, And Spinach
Use the row cover on transplants and seedlings during the spring to hasten growth and maturity. You may begin using the fabric on arugulas, carrots, lettuce, radishes, and spinach all throughout March to May.
Salad greens can be covered from planting until the harvest season. However, it is important to check the temperature under the fabric during the months of June to August to ensure that the crops grow within the microclimate they prefer.
Strawberries are cold-hardy crops planted in the fall. Even though they can survive the winter frost, you are required to place a garden fabric over the crops to prevent the crowns from being damaged by the cold weather.
In spring, strawberries will begin to produce flowers, thus, it is necessary to remove the row covers to facilitate pollination needed for fruit production.
Warm Season Crops
Warm season crops are usually planted during late spring and early summer since they require warmer air and soil temperatures to grow and yield fruits. Even a slight change in temperature will affect the vegetable’s taste and quality.
Since these crops only have one growing period (summer), they are the ones most in need of row covers to extend their growing season. The garden fabric will create a microclimate that will protect the plants against temperature fluctuations.
The use of row covers in regions with shorter summers is highly recommended.
To illustrate, watermelons take three months to harvest. It will be necessary to use garden fabric late in the season to protect the plant from the cold.
Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Pepper
In late spring, cover these crops immediately after transplanting to speed up their maturity and to protect them against the weather and pests such as beetles, aphids, and cutworms.
Be sure that the garden fabric is held tightly to the ground without any openings to prevent insects from damaging and feeding on the plant.
During the summer months, you can remove the row covers because the temperature under the fabric may increase by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. When such situation ensues, fruit and flower may drop and wither.
When growing peppers, it is necessary to prune off flowers and fruits until the plant reaches maturity so you may have to remove the garden fabric while doing the task.
After the critical period, it is time to remove the row covers off your crops, especially when the vegetation begins to grow.
It is however important to consider the air temperature in regions with shorter summers since the fabric may have to be kept in place or maintained over a certain time until the conditions warrant their removal.
Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Watermelon, And Squash
These warm season crops should also be covered immediately after being sown or transplanted for the same reasons. However, the garden fabrics should be removed after the plants begin to produce flowers to facilitate the pollination process – to yield fruits.
Use a low tunnel row cover so that you can still place a shade cloth at the sides to protect the crop from fluctuating temperatures even when the fabric is removed (if necessary).
What Are Row Covers?
Row covers are light, woven porous fabrics draped over plants to regulate temperature. To some extent, it reproduces the effects of a greenhouse on a smaller scale. Depending on the season, it also functions to protect vegetation from extreme heat or frost. Incidentally, row covers keep animals and insects from damaging the crops.
What Are Row Covers Used For
Season extension refers to any process or practice that allows a crop to be cultivated and harvested beyond its normal growing period.
In principle, it involves regulating the temperature to insulate the crops from the adverse effects of extreme heat or cold and enhancing the growth and quality upon maturity.
It is important to note that row covers are available in various specifications in terms of thickness and weight that serve different functions relative to the weather.
High-density fabrics provide frost protection and are ideal for extending the growing season in early spring or late fall when most plants susceptible to cold may not thrive.
Specialized garden covers have UV layers that provide shade during the summer months and protect crops from intense heat. They filter excessive light while allowing cool air to circulate. Heat-sensitive and cool season crops may be grown under the said type of canopy.
Increase Crop Yield
There are two general categories of vegetables, cool and warm season crops. As the name suggests, the former thrives during early to late spring and in the fall, while the latter is best grown in summertime.
Since garden covers prolong the period in which either crop can be cultivated, the annual yield is increased.
To illustrate, lettuce, carrots, and celery are cool season crops but can be planted during warmer months under specialized garden row covers.
They are shielded from excessive heat and light while the temperature within the canopy simulates cooler conditions. Being able to cultivate, grow and harvest vegetable off-season considerably increase their production.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans which are categorized as warm season crops can be planted in colder weather under high-density fabrics which protect them from frost while retaining heat and sustaining their growth.
Protect Seedlings Or Transplants
Seedlings and transplants from the nursery are critically vulnerable when introduced into the garden. They are susceptible to wind or rain damage when allowed to develop in the open. Pests, diseases, and certain animals can prevent their development and consume the entire yield.
All purpose, year-round covers allow adequate light and water to penetrate while keeping moisture and temperature within optimal levels.
They shield the seedlings from extreme weather and reduce the presence of pathogenic organisms and keep invasive animals out.
Reduce Pest And Weather Damage
The main cause of poor production or depleted yield can be attributed to weather damage and infestation.
Heavy rains, typhoons, sleet, and windy conditions coupled with inadequate control of insect and animal presence will result in the destruction of most crops.
Most forms of garden covers can be employed to address these issues. Finely meshed fabrics will prevent the entry of most critters while heavier materials are effective to repel heavy or extreme weather.
Other Types Of Garden Bed Covers
Here are other types of garden bed covers you can use as an alternative:
Insect barriers are enclosed fabrics, nets, or meshes which are placed on hoops to protect your crops against pest infestations. The material can also keep rabbits, deer, and chickens out of the plot.
Shade cloth can be used as a temporary cover to protect crops and vegetation from changing temperatures or bad weather.
To illustrate, the material can be used as shade for cool season crops during late spring when air temperature becomes too hot. It helps maintain the microclimate suitable for these vegetables.
Mini Hoop Tunnels
Mini hoop tunnels have a structural framework made from PVC, wire, or metal wherein the cover or fabric is fastened or floated onto the hoops. They facilitate better air circulation since the material is open on both ends.
Should You Cover Your Vegetable Garden?
It is advisable to use row covers on your vegetable garden to keep the crops safe against rain, strong winds, extreme heat, winter frost, and insect infestations. However, their use and application would depend on the specific function relative to the crops, the season, and the general environmental conditions.
All vegetables may need to rely on row covers at some point to ensure quality yield. We hope the article helped you understand the use of garden covers and their application. Happy gardening!
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