basic question re floating row covers

winnjoe(MTL)March 14, 2005

I tried this 2 years ago and put thin wooden stakes to support the frc, and it kept tearing through, getting blown off, etc. After researching I think I may have made a mistake: does a frc need to be supported (e.g. with 'hoops', or does it lie loosely on the plants? And spec. in the case of melons, can it lie loosely on the plants, or does it need to be lifted off somehow? Thanks. Joe

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)


The purpose of the floating row cover is to keep the black and white striped and spotted cuke beetles off the melons and cukes and squash, as well as any other critter looking for trouble.

So you want to anchor it down so that nothing can fly in or under. One way is to mound up dirt, pardon me, soil, along the edges leaving some slack in the middle for plant grwoth.

Then take off the cover when both male and female blossoms are ready to be pollinated by insects and leave it off.

You've protected the plants long enough so that even if they are attacked by cuke beetles you'll get a harvest since it takes at least a month from cuke beetle bite until you start seeing the symtoms of the wilt diseases transmitted by those critters.

Carolyn, wondering why a floating row cover question is posted here? LOL But we be friends ( in Pasture, LOL) so floating row cover question I answer . (smile)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 3:15PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

Joe, the name "floating row cover" comes from the fact that the material floats on the plants, and is lifted by them as it grows. So what you do is lay it loosely on top of the planted bed, anchor the edges with soil as Carolyn points out, and leave it be until time to take it off.

Some folks do support it, in the form of row tunnels and the like. But to do this you want to use wire or PVC hoops to support the material, because it's too fragile to be held up by sticks, as you found out. It's only spun polyester, after all.

The two actually serve different purposes. Tunnels (which usually use poly material like greenhouse cloth) are primarily used to extend the seasons. Row covers are used primarily for insect control.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 4:01PM
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My garden wouldn't SURVIVE without my floating row covers!!! They not only keep off insect pests, but also keep deer & groundhogs off my crops (& I have a groundhog hole right smack in the middle of the garden - lol).

Since VA is hot & humid in the summer, I bought the lightweight row covers intended for insect prevention, as opposed to the heavier weights meant for frost protection.

I cover all my crops except for my caged tomatoes, & fasten them around each raised bed with pins specifically meant for that purpose, as well as with bricks, rocks, etc. The important thing is to allow a LOT of slack so that the plant(s) can grow & push the fabric up without resistance.

Plants that require pollination, like peppers, eggplant, squash, etc., get uncovered during the day once flower buds form, but are recovered at night. Plants that don't need pollination, like root crops & greens, are covered all the time except when harvesting.

Works more than perfectly for me.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 4:36PM
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Thanks everybody. Carolyn, in my mind my question was primarly about melons, and I grow heirloom melons, so the connection, while vague, was there. Or another version of the truth (for those who liked The Life of Pi) might be I didn't look carefully enough at the list of forums to find a more appropriate one, for which I would apologize!
I am especially grateful for the distinction between floating row covers and tunnels, because my concern is primarily to extend the season, so I have more research to do.
Joe, Winnipeg

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 10:45AM
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motherduck(Z2b MB)

I guess I'm not too far away from you (approx. 1/2hr NE of Wpg). I don't think those floating row covers would help much with extending the growing season here since melons need heat to thrive. You would need something more substantial especially if you want to protect the plants from frost. Frost will get through those row covers wherever it touches the plants. Have you tried plastic (poly) row covers with the hoops to hold it up? This will then need ventilation at times, since, as you know, it can also get hot here. I find it easier to grow short season melons if you want a more reliable crop.

I use the floating row covers for cabbage, broccoli, etc. because that seems to be the only crop that can get destroyed by insects (and my geese). I never have insect problems with melons, squash, cucumbers, etc. I have a harder time keeping my geese out of the garden because they like to take bites out of everything. They only find out they don't like zucchini after they take a bite!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 1:39PM
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fletchg(3b Calgary AB)


I am also very interested in season extension, as I live in Calgary. I have posted an open topic about season extension (sans greenhouse) in the Far North forum and have received very little feed back (only a couple of replies), which surprises me. I figured there would be a wealth of tricks that folks employ (and are willing to share) to eek out a couple of weeks on either end of the season in the far north.

Perhaps a more lively discussion will ensue (on my open topic) once we get closer to planting time.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 4:24PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

GF: Try posting it in the Vegetable Growing forum and see what happens. I bet you'll get a better response rate.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 7:02PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

That should have been Vegetable Gardening forum.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 9:05PM
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