Friday, May 20, 2011

Pvc frame for floating row cover

Here's a relatively easy way to cover staked determinate-type tomato cultivars and pepper plants with floating row cover to prevent brown marmorated stinkbug feeding.
Low tunnel covered with floating row cover

I built two low tunnels for the Grow It Eat It demo garden at the Home and Garden Information Center. They are 2 ft. wide and 18 ft. long. I hammered ten, 2 ft. long pieces of 3/8 in. rebar, 10 inches into the ground along each side. The rebar pieces are 2 ft. apart across the row and 4 ft. apart in the row. I then cut ten, 10 ft. long pieces of 1/2 in. pvc water pipe into 8 ft. long pieces and inserted them over the rebar to make five bows.
End bow of the stable frame- 42 in. high
I then connected the bows at the top with stretchy clothesline and along each side with some nylon twine. I drove one short stake next to each tomato and pepper plant for support and covered the tops with duct tape to prevent tearing of the row cover. I cut and draped a piece of 22 ft. long X 10 ft. wide row cover over the frame, and secured it to the ground with bricks (you can use sod pins, boards, etc.)

"Insect Barrier", a light-weight floating row cover
Kathy Rosendale, UME MG from Howard Co., and I built these on May 6 and they have held up nicely. We'll leave the covers on throughout the summer to exclude insect pests (pepper and tomato do not require cross-pollination. More detailed information will be available in a few weeks with the revision of GE 004, Floating Row Covers, and a new YouTube video clip. Stay tuned...

8 comments:

  1. I'm also using PVC row covers in my raised garden beds this year. Everything looks so much healthier than last year, and the row covers maintain good moisture levels and protect young plants from winds.

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  2. Wow, what an exciting experiment. I hope you win your battle with the BMSB's! Can you give us additional information in the updates you've promised:

    1. Cost of the 18' tunnel--the works?

    2. Can the typical gardener--one person--easily open and close the tunnel for cultivation and, I assume, checking to see BMSB's somehow have gotten inside?

    3. Are you going to try to adapt the structure to protect indeterminate tomatoes, which most of us grow--and for our raspberries and blackberries and other "tall" crops?

    Thanks for the exciting start!

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  3. Side note about row cover from personal experience. Don't use green colored row cover. I got some and thought it would be great to use in my suburban back yard because it would blend in better. But it seemed to block a lot of the important light spectrum from my broccoli plants in just a few weeks. I planted it to keep out the cabbage moths. When I removed it, the plants were stretched out and the developing heads were small and sparse. As soon as I removed the green row cover and harvested the heads, the plants thickened up and the side buds are developing nicely.

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  4. Cost for the 18 ft. long low tunnel:
    (5) 10 ft. long 1/2 pvc = $8
    (10) 2 ft. long pieces of 3/8 in. rebar = $11
    25 ft. x 10 ft. piece of row cover = $7
    Twine, clothesline, sod pins = $10
    Total: $36; $4/plant
    Costs can be reduced by using what's at hand. The useful life of the bows and rebar is >10 years. Row cover and string will need to be replaced every 2-3 years.

    I'll be posting some photos of two other designs- one suited for indeterminate tomato cultivars.

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  5. Witch king of row cover is on your picture? The winter one or the summer one ?

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  6. @ John T - Where did you purchase the floating row covers? Locally? I'm looking to find some affordable ones and not sure what I can use.

    Do you recommend something at home depot?

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  7. Summer one- very light-weight; about .55 oz./sq. yd.

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  8. Floating row cover is easy to find and buy through garden supply and seed company websites. A Google search will yield many hits. Here are some examples:
    Johnny’s Selected Seeds- http://www.johnnyseeds.com
    Harris Seed Co.- http://www.harrisseeds.com/
    Gardener’s Supply Co.- http://www.gardeners.com/

    It is more difficult to find in retail stores. I have noticed it in two Southern States Co-op stores (a 40’X50’ piece for $15). I have also spoken with some hardware stores who are trying to stock it. Several large garden centers I contacted recently did not have light-weight FRC. Your best bet is to call ahead. Be aware that store personnel may think you are asking for landscape fabric or will try to sell you bird netting as a substitute. If your favorite retail stores don’t carry it ask them to try to start stocking it.

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