Row covers are a chemical-free way to protect many plants from insect pests.
Floating row covers are made from extremely lightweight synthetic or woven material that allows light and water to pass through, while protecting plants from pests. The fabric is so light that it “floats” on the top of your plants. If enough slack is made available when first placing row covers, the plants can push it up as they grow. The edges of the fabric need to be held down on all sides by dirt, wooden boards, or some other measure that prevents openings. Some growers use PVC or other material to create hoops to hold the material above the plants.
If you are growing cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, bok choy) or members of the cucurbit family (squash, melon, pumpkin), the cabbage moth may be a major pest. Using row covers can stop cabbage moths from laying eggs on the underside of leaves, preventing the leaf loss that occurs when those eggs hatch and ravenous caterpillars (cabbageworms) emerge. Leaf miners, cucumber beetles and many other pests are also halted by row covers, and vulnerable strawberries and bramble fruits enjoy protection from hungry birds and squirrels.
Row covers are generally available in rolls that are 5 or 6 feet wide. These rolls can be as long as 375 feet and the material can be reused for several years if handled gently.
The only downside to using row covers is that overwintering pests, such as tomato hornworms and flea beetles, among others, may find themselves borne into a Nirvana of abundant food stuffs and an absence of predators. The best solution in this case is to rotate crops each year.
Row covers are an inexpensive, organic method of pest control that will make your job as a gardener easier and more productive.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!