Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trust Issues in the Garden

The last average frost date has passed here, which means I've been busy planting.  I've planted tomato, winter squash, summer squash and melon seedlings along with massive amounts of bean seeds: black and pinto beans for dried beans, soy beans and pole green beans.

However, it you take a look at my garden you may begin to notice I have trust issues, or perhaps an obsession with row covers.


It all started innocently with row covers for my brassicas.  The cabbage moths made me start.  I tried picking them off and spraying Bt, but it seemed to always rain the day after spraying.  I put up my first row cover using rebar and pipe for the frame and Agribon AG-15 for the covers. The cabbage moths no longer destroyed my broccoli and cabbage.

My spring potatoes get attacked by potato beetles.  After trying concoctions of hot peppers, garlic and neem oil, I resorted to handpicking them.  Then the light bulb moment, potatoes don't need pollination and up went another row cover.

Last spring my turnip leaves were mangled by harlequin beetles and they had no energy left to produce turnips, so this spring, up went a row cover.  The beets and carrots and radishes just happened to be next to the turnips, so why not cover them as well?

Before I knew it row covers popped up everywhere.


They may not be the most attractive garden additions, but what they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in easy pest control- no spraying, no handpicking. Simple, effective and low maintenance- row covers won me over.

Of course there are crops that need pollinators or are simply too large to fit under a row cover.  Last spring something kept destroying my tomato seedlings.  I broke out the row cover material and my sewing machine and made mini row covers for seedlings.


They are about 18 inches wide and 24 inches tall.  I anchor them down with rocks and the drip hose.  Of course the tomatoes can not grow in these mini covers forever, but it gives them time to get established before being exposed to whatever bugs want to munch on them.  I do the same for my eggplants.  Flea beetles will decimate young seedlings here, so they get a little cover too.


I have an ongoing war with squash vine borers.  I have not resorted to keeping my squash completely under row covers because that would require hand pollination.  I do put the mini covers over the squash seedlings and try to keep the covers on until they begin to flower in hopes that perhaps the vine borers will miss my squash or at least have a bit later start.


There are some downfalls to row covers: wind, rips and excess moisture.  It seems that we have had a spring filled with gusts of wind.  I use bricks to anchor my large row covers and sometime the wind blows them free.  Imagine a 50 foot kite and that's what it is like wrestling a loose row cover in the wind.  This can lead to the second problem, which are rips.  This material is flimsy, so it tears easily.  I usually either sew up the rips or break out the duct tape, which does not improve my garden aesthetics.  The third problem can be too much moisture and humidity causing fungal problems.  I haven't experienced this, probably because of those excessive winds, but it is a potential problem.

For me, the negatives of row covers are outweighed by the positives.  I will take a garden that looks decorated for Halloween than to have to wage the spraying and picking battle with the bugs!


8 comments:

  1. Love seeing all the row covers in your garden, they work so well against all those pests. They even work against birds, which usually destroy half my tomato seedlings every year. I don't know why I got out of the habit of using them. We used to keep tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers covered the first 3 weeks they were planted out.

    I have to cringe when you mention harlequin bugs, so destructive they just suck the life out of brassica plants.

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    1. Row covers are definitely helpful against birds, although once I got a bird inside a row cover (no clue how) and it destroyed that row cover getting out!

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  2. Like you said much better than trying to control pests. The looks are minuscule really when you may end up with a lot more to harvest. Really looking forward to updates to see how your new plants go. I'm still learning a lot from you.

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    1. I do occasionally dream of a lovely Pinterest worthy garden, but in the end producing vegetables wins over looks!

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  3. I feel exactly the same way - when it comes to my crops, give me function over form any day! In fact, I just broke out the duct tape yesterday ;)

    I tend to use Agribon in the spring when it's chilly and then again as a shade cloth for lettuce during the summer. Most of the time, however, I lean towards using netting - we have wind issues as well and I find that Agribon tends to blow off much more easily than netting.

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    1. I keep forgetting to get more duct tape! Yes, netting may be a better choice for wind, perhaps I should look into netting for some of the bigger bugs.

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  4. Looks like your garden is a minute camp area! Whatever keeps the pests and poisons from your plants is good though. Wishing you bumper crops.

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  5. I say as long as it protects your crops do it! I kind of have one this year. We moved and I thought I was ordering a cold frame but it is just protection. Hope you have a great harvest! Nancy

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