If you have lived here in  Colorado for any length of time you know how bizarre and unpredictable our weather can be.  As a gardener in Colorado we have to go to extreme lengths at times to have productive vegetable gardens.  If you have never used garden fabric/row cloth in your vegetable garden now might be perfect time to check it out.

This spring has been one of cold temperatures with little moisture.  Now the temperatures are rising fast, what is a gardener to do to ensure a healthy and productive vegetable garden?  The answer may be just a short drive to your local nursery or your favorite gardening catalog.  Garden fabric has many valuable uses in the garden at a very minimal expense.

  • Protects your plants from the cold and wind
  • Protects your transplants from harsh conditions while acclimating to the outdoors conditions
  • Protects your plants from diseases and bugs
  • Helps to moderate the soil temperatures

There are a number of different garden fabrics in the market, you must decide what you are trying to accomplish.  Are you trying to keep your plants warm or cool?  Are you trying to protect your plants from bugs?  Or are you trying to protect your transplants from the wind?  Once you have decided what your mission is you can start shopping for the correct garden fabric.

An all-purpose fabric cloth can usually meet the typical gardener’s requirements.  It can protect your plants down to a certain temperature, keep the bugs out and provide protection for your newly planted transplants.  Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s fabric cloth’s description.  It is a good idea to keep a variety of fabric cloth on hand  so you can adapt as the season changes.

In the early spring you are looking for a fabric cloth that will protect our plants from cold temperatures.  Some fabric cloths provide protection down to 24 degrees while letting 70% of the sun rays penetrate.  It also allows the rain and overhead watering to penetrate.

Come summer you are looking for a fabric cloth that will keep your cool weather crops like lettuce from getting overheated, becoming bitter and finally bolting.  At the same time you need a fabric cloth that will keep insects like the carrot fly and cabbage root fly out.

Once your vegetables are up and producing you want to protect them from those varmints looking for a free meal.  How many times have you gone out in the morning for some fresh strawberries for your cereal only to find the birds have beat you to them?  All you have to do pull your fabric cloth back pick the vegetables you want and cover them back up.

Fabric cloth is easy to install.  You can just loosely lay it down on top of your plants and as they grow the cloth will remain on top.  Ah but we live in Colorado where those nasty Chinook winds blow everything from here to Kansas.  One way to keep your fabric cloth here in Colorado is install hoops over your vegetables and attach the cloth to the them.  Or you can just put dirt on the cloth that hangs down the sides or stake it with some garden staples.

Here is an example of a more permanent method of covering your crops.  It is very sturdy, allows moisture in and keeps bugs out.  It takes about 20 minutes to build and can be used time after time depending on the strength of fabric cloth you use.  This one was built with UV Spun-bonded Polypropylene – 1.25 oz/sq.yard- approx. 10 mil.

No matter what type of fabric cloth you decide to use the ultimate end is to harvest good looking, tasty vegetables from your garden.

Contributed by Rich Young, Certified Colorado Gardener.