Row Cover in the Winter Garden

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Earlier this year I talked about fall gardens and I briefly discussed covering your plants in cold weather. Covering your plants is a great way to protect your garden during the winter and with the coldest days of the year still yet to come I thought I would share some tips for covering your winter garden. Semi-hardy crops should be covered when temperatures fall below 30F and crops listed as hardy should be covered when temperatures are predicted to fall below 25F.

If your not sure which vegetable crops are considered hardy check out NC State’s Horticulture Information Leaflet “Growing a Fall Vegetable Garden”. To cover your plants you can use floating row cover. Floating row cover is a woven material used to exclude bugs, extend the growing season and protect plants from cold weather. When used for frost protection use a medium to heavy weight cover. A higher weight means more heat retention under the fabric.

Row cover is sold based on weight per square yard. 2oz per square yard is considered a heavy cover. It has a light transmission of 30%-50% and provides frost protection down to 24-28 degrees. The most common type of row cover is 0.50-0.55 oz. These are medium weight covers that allow 85% light transmission and provide frost protection down to 28 degrees. Medium or heavy covers is what should be used during our winters here in North Carolina.

If you don’t have floating row cover you can use old sheets, blankets or other insulating material and remember that double layers work better than single layers. Make sure your covers reach all the way to the ground and secure the cover to the ground on each side with weights or landscape staples. If your crops are tender use hoops or stakes to support the cover. As temperatures rise you can then remove your covers until they are needed again.