Most traditional gardens are finished for the season long before the first frost. But an organic garden seems to out-last the traditional ones. Mine does anyway.
If you’re an organic gardener and live in zone 7 as I do and are prepared for frost protection for plants in your garden via garden fabric called row covers, you can extend your growing season possibly another month or two.
Even if the weather turns consistently cold sooner than usual, every week you extend your season is that much longer you can enjoy your garden and the bounty it gives.
We usually have a light freeze or frost and then have several weeks or longer of beautiful growing-weather. All you have to do is give a little frost protection to your snap beans, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants via garden fabric (row covers) and they’ll keep right on going as long as the weather holds.
Frost Protection for Plants
The easy way to do that is with garden fabric known as row covers. It usually comes in widths of 6 to 12 feet and in lengths of 20′, 50′ or 100 feet. You can cut it with scissors if you want. There are various kinds for various purposes. This time of year we want the ones that offer protection from frost.
For years I’ve had the kind that gives frost protection for plants down to 28 degrees. I literally have been using it for more than 12 years. (The manufacturers advertise that it will last 2 years, but it just depends on how often you use it and how you care for it.)
It’s time for me to order new fabric (row covers), so I’m ordering the kind that gives frost protection for plants to 24 degrees. More bang for the buck and it enables the garden to go that much longer. And — I’ll use it in the Spring to cover my transplants rather than to have to hold them in pots so long.
What I Do with the Row Cover Fabric
When frost is called for in our area, I drape the fabric (row covers) right over my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Almost wrap them with it. I clip the fabric together with clothespins so the wind won’t blow it off. Next day I just unwrap the plants and leave the row covers on the ground until the next frost or freeze is called for. Then I do it again.
With string beans, I drape the row covers over the entire row and put mulch and/or bricks or dirt along the edges to hold it in place. I don’t use Earth Staples to hold it when I’m just protecting from frosts because it becomes too much hassle to take it off and put it back on. If you just anchor with mulch and/or dirt it’s easy to redo.
How Long Will Row Covers Keep Plants Going?
You can get through quite a few light freezes this way — as long as it doesn’t stay below freezing for more than a few hours. Once it starts freezing for 3, 4 or more hours during the night or day — it’s probably over — at least for cold sensitive crops.
With crops that can take frost – like lettuce, spinach, and kale this same fabric – row covers – can be used in place of a cold frame when temperatures drop below freezing. Just drape on the bed or better yet — put over supports like hoops to hold it off the plants. It’ll give your greens the protection they need in the winter and it’s easy to just lay it back when you want to harvest.
How to Make the Row Covers Last
When you’re finished with it, bundle up the row cover fabric, put it in a plastic bag and store away from sun and moisture until you need it again.
Emergency Measures if You Don’t Have Row Covers
Here are some emergency actions you can take to give frost protection for plants if an expected frost is upon you and you don’t have row covers:
- Try laying newspapers over the plants and then wrapping with an old sheet or old sheer curtains.
- Card board might work as protection for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants if you can find a way to get it to stay on.
- Maybe a large card board box over each plant.
Garden fabric (row covers) is a great investment and something every serious gardener will want to have on hand. Order it when you can. It gives frost protection for plants and makes it easy to extend the growing season – either at the end of season or at the beginning.
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