Bonafide Farm

Row covers—and almost a fall garden

August 21st, 2011 § 0

If I’ve learned one lesson this summer as I attempt my first organic gardening season, it’s that I need to use row covers. The idea is that you plant your seeds or starts and immediately cover them up with material that’s impenetrable to pests but that allows light and water through. Obviously I missed my chance with my summer crops, so I thought I’d give it a go for my fall plantings.

My original plan was to make my hoops—the row cover supports—from nine gauge wire bent in a semicircle. However, a nice salesman at Lowe’s demonstrated to me that even with heavy-duty cutters, I’d probably break my wrists just cutting the wires. I am sure I could have gotten it done, but I’ve injured my fingers a lot this summer and they are sore and weak. So I looked for an alternative.


Mother Earth News suggested saplings stuck in pipes, so I picked up a few 3/4″ pieces of PVC and headed home. Once there I commenced to saw the pipe to 10″ lengths using the only tool I had, a jab saw. It wasn’t nearly as fast as a nice chop saw would have been, but I got a good workout and Tucker—who had to be right in the middle of the action—got to experience snow in August.


Once I had my pieces cut down, I took a maddox and buried them in the rock-hard dirt along the edges of the garden bed.


Then I headed into the woods behind my house for saplings. I have to admit it was satisfying to walk through my own property to find something I could put to use.  Through trial and error, I found poplar to be flexible and strong.


I also got in to a nest of seed ticks, which swarmed up my arm. Hard to see, huh? That’s because they’re each the size of a pinprick. And I’ve spent the last week going nuts with the 38 bites I suffered in the name of this row cover project.


But I digress. Once the saplings were cut to length, I inserted one end into a tube and then very slowly bent it over into an arc to meet the other tube. This bending was one of the most meditative things I’ve done in the garden as I had to go so slowly and listen to the wood with my hands as I bent my body into its curve, breathing into it like deepening a yoga pose. If I went too fast, the wood snapped and I had to start again.


Once the sapling was bent, I used cut pieces as locks to hold the ends in place.


Two days of labor (!) later, and I had four beds ready to go. All this messing around took way longer than I thought it would, but I am pleased with the result. I like the natural look, and that I was able to achieve my goal with materials partially found on my land.

Now I just need to get the energy to plant my fall seeds: greens, lettuces, broccoli—all the plants that like a bit of cold and that often do better when frost-kissed. That was on the chore list for this weekend, but it didn’t happen. I know that subconsciously I am dreading having to tend seedlings in the heat of August, and thus I’ve been putting it off even as I’ve been preparing the row covers. But I know I am running out of time, so motivate I must.

Maybe tomorrow.


And finally, an overview shot of the mid/late August garden. This gardening season has taught me a lot, but that’s a subject for another post!


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