Gardens

Reemay Garden Blanket

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Easy way to keep pests away from growing vegetables

If you want to keep out the bugs and other things that munch on your veggies; speed your crops’ growth; and protect your crops from frost, Reemay floating row cover is just the ticket. It’s a lightweight non-woven white fabric (like a kind of gauzy felt) designed to be spread over your crops. It’s so light in weight that it just floats over your crops. Reemay comes in several weights. The lightest weight is called “insect barrier” or “summer weight” row cover. It traps very little heat, while protecting your crops from bugs. Heavier weight row cover is often referred to as “frost blanket” or “garden quilt”. It can provide several degrees of frost protection as well as providing a barrier to insects. Treated with care, most row covers can last a couple of years. And row cover that’s gone ragged at the edges can be cut down to protect smaller areas. Sturdier weights can last several years. I’ve used row cover for well over a decade here in Seattle, and can testify that it’s amazing stuff.

Pretty much all you do is spread it over your crops, leaving some slack so that your plants can grow underneath it, and seal the edges with soil or boards or U-shaped garden staples. You can support it with lightweight hoops, but mostly I don’t bother, unless I’m protecting very delicate seedlings. Not only will this protect your plants from bugs, but it provides a visual barrier for rabbits, hungry wild birds, and chickens who, if left to their own devices, can devastate a garden. Water, air, and sunlight pass through unimpeded.

What I love about row covers is peeling it back to reveal flawless veggies. Used in combination with organic slug bait, you can have picture-perfect greens. All those pretty little yellow butterflies that lay their eggs on your broccoli will bang their heads against the Reemay in vain. And crops grow and mature faster underneath the row cover as well.
There are some downsides to row cover. First you don’t get to see your veggies, which can be frustrating to people who like looking at growing plants. It isn’t much help against slugs.
Also, mice, and gophers will just pop up underneath it. In hot-summer areas, crops can overheat underneath it. Also, if you don’t leave enough slack, the pressure of the plants’ growth can cause them to become misshapen. There is a slight reduction in the light that reaches the plants, though the extra heat more than makes up for this. And you will have to remove the row cover on insect pollinated plants so that pollinators can access the flowers. Still, I think this stuff is worth the fuss and bother. I’ve taken to buying it by the roll, which gives me enough to last for years!

-- Amy Thompson 04/5/16