What is row cover, and how do I use it?
Row cover is a fabric that is water permeable, breathable and will let light through. But one of the main functions of row cover is that it helps the soil to retain the heat gathered from the sun during the day. It can raise the temperature of the soil 10 degrees F. That will allow seeds to germinate or protect tender plants from frost that would normally not survive the cold temperatures. Cover loosely and anchor with rocks or other heavy items to keep it from blowing away.
Using row cover is very easy and will make a huge difference in your gardens outcome. A few of the things I have used row cover for is:
· Covering strawberry patch to help the plants keep the fragile flowers. If the flowers abort on the strawberries, that would mean no strawberries. We used it and had a wonderful harvest of strawberries last year! This was one of the keys to the patches success.
· Use it to start lettuce and spinach seeds earlier than normally possible. Plant the seeds, and then cover. You will need to check the soil moisture every so often because although it lets water through, it is not getting as much water as being uncovered. As the seedlings sprout and grow, you will need to raise and support the row cover so that any moisture that gets on the top will not weigh the cover down and smother the fragile new seedlings.
· Cover newly planted squash plants. Covering not only allows the soil to be warmed and enhances the growth, but helps to keep bugs that like to eat tender squash plants out. You will need to remove the cover once the plants start to flower or if the temperature gets above 80 degrees F.
· It can be used to cover almost anything that would benefit from warmer temperatures or needs a little bit of protection from the cold weather.
Row cover will last quite a few years with proper care, but is a thin material and will rip and wear out from use and exposure to the elements.
To me, row cover is one of the best things that I have discovered to use in my garden. Being so easy to use, and the great benefits from it, I highly recommend you try it out this spring. Happy Gardening!