Floating Row Cover

floating row coverFloating row cover is probably my favorite organic pest control product! It is a lightweight fabric that looks very similar to the interfacing used in shirt collars and cuffs.

It lets in air, light and moisture, and it also provides a few degrees of frost protection early and late in the growing season. But one of its best attributes is that it acts as a physical barrier against troublesome insects.

Here’s how you use it: floating row cover works best when placed on hoops — or some other form of support — over the bed you want to protect. Since it’s very lightweight, you need to weigh down the ends and sides with bricks or boards to make sure it won’t blow off in a windstorm.

I only use floating row cover over cabbage family crops (i.e., broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale) and beet family crops (spinach, beets, Swiss chard). In the case of cabbage family crops, it prevents the cabbage butterfly from laying eggs on the plants’ leaves; those eggs hatch into the very destructive cabbage worms. For beet family crops, the cover prevents the adult leaf miner fly from laying eggs on the plants’ leaves. Let me tell you, it works GREAT!

floating row coverI can use the row cover for the entire season on the above crops because none of them needs to be pollinated. You can use row cover early in the season over plants that will eventually need to be pollinated, just to give a warm environment to get started in. But once the plants begin blooming, those covers need to come off so the pollinators can get to the flowers.

You can find floating row cover at well-stocked garden centers and online. It comes in many different lengths and widths so be sure to shop around for the size that works best for your situation. In Spokane, Northwest Seed & Pet carries it on a huge roll (you can buy it by the linear foot); to find it online, just do a search on “floating row cover.”

By the way, row cover comes in different weights but the best, all-purpose weight is the lightweight version… which, happily, is also the least expensive!

If you take good care of it, the row covers will last for years.

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