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In the garden: Poor person's row cover

I wanted to protect my peppers (green, but, more importantly, hot) from deer,* because last year deer came and nibbled the flowers. Johnny's sells floating row covers for 50 bucks, and I tried a small-scale version of the same technology a couple of years ago, and didn't like it. The idea is to stick metal hoops into the ground, which have non-woven fabric attached to them, so you end up with something shaped like a quonset hut covering your rows. Row covers are a season extender because they capture heat and moisture; good when germinating, good toward frost. They also protect against bugs (if rigorously sealed along the bottom) and, for me, critters. (Though I suppose a bear would rip one apart, if it had a mind to and the smell of vegetables was delicious enough.)

But I didn't like the official row covers. First, the hoops weren't tall enough, so the peppers ended up "banging their heads on the ceiling." Second, I don't like metal in the garden, except for tools. Stuff near plants should be able to rot, I feel. (I know this isn't entirely rational.) Third, the whole process of installing the accordion-like, pre-assembled row covers was just irritating. I have beds, not rows, and putting a row cover over half a bed... It felt to me like I was having an industrial process applied to my garden, Procrustes-style. Fourth, the row covers aren't good for anything else.

So here is my alternative:

If you have the following materials lying around:

1) Stick bamboo U-hoops into the ground the bed;

2) Attach non-woven fabric to the U-hoops with clothes-pins.**

3) Trim fabric with scissors.

So, the Poor Person's Cover is tall enough. The only metal is in the clothes-pin springs. The cover fits the bed (and the bed is not forced to fit the cover), and installing it was fun. (It took fifteen minutes, tops, and that includes finding the scissors). Finally, I can re-use the U-hoops to stake plants, use the clothes-pins for other purposes (like attaching seed packets or labels to plant stakes), and recycle the non-woven fabric for some purpose I haven't figured out yet. (Using clothes-pins means there are no holes or tears). And as a bonus, I can pin the sides up to allow pollinators in when the peppers flower (taking the pins out at night). And another bonus: The non-woven fabric catches the breeze, so the house has a pleasant breathing look to it; it adds another dimension to the garden's constant action.

Here is the now-secret world of the peppers:

(Sorry about the snail and slug damage on some of the peppers; it was a cold and wet spring, besides being late).

Bad lambert for not weeding out that quack grass. And bad lambert too, for being too parsimonious with the sheet mulch, which is why the quack grass seeds germinated and found their way to the light. But this has been my year to be cheap, for good or ill.

NOTE * I'm told that deer don't like vegetables in the nightshade family, like tomatoes, but I'm also informed (via DCBlogger's splendid video) that deer eat anything. I'm going with "deer eat anything." However, if something does end up nibbling the flowers, I will have ruled deer out. And so science progresses.

NOTE ** Clothes-pins, at least at the hardware store I must go to now that the town hardware store has been closed, have been crapified. They are smaller and not so rugged.

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V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...bent to an arch that would be more like 5 or 6' in height. And, it could be quasi-permanent and or movable; depending how much you want to put into it.

Submitted by lambert on

Which is the real season extender, not least because if it's 7' or 8' tall, you can work inside in the winter and grow lettuce and such. Some people arrange for them to be heated with manure or a compost bed.

That's more than I need. My requirement is to protect against critters and an early frost. I am not totally enthusiastic about hoop houses:

1) I see a lot of them abandoned, meaning they're they are better as an idea than a reality; for example, I don't want to bother with lettuce in the winter because the winter is too damn depressing;

2) I'm not enthusiastic about the plastic in the pipes;

3) The technique is to cover the hoops with transparent plastic, which I don't like, and which gets ratty and torn and windblown, which I like less.

I like this little trick because it is so light weight and easy and dismantle-able. It's not more than I need or want.

If I really really wanted to garden in the winter, and I had the money, which I don't, I'd think about window greenhouse, and start seedlings in it.