Day’s work

It was a busy, busy day today. It started off with me versus the usual prevailing wind. Today was row cover day. We had a light frost last night. I am not so worried about the frost as I am bugs. Aside from weeds, my battles last year were against potato beetles, bean beetles, cucumber beetles and harlequin bugs. I hope to avoid those guys this year. So, I maintained a low center of gravity and tried not to fly away. Still, it was kinda like the parachute thingy you do as a kid in elementary school. But I managed and got 4 covers up and 5 rows ready as the next group to be done. Here is what the row covers look like.

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  1. What do you use for your hoops? They look robust, like they would stand up to snow well. Also they look nice and tall so they won’t crush your plants. We have troubles with ours (9 gauge brace wire); not tall enough or strong enough to do much but protect very small plants. Looking for a different system to use. Your looks nice! But if they are conduit are they very expensive?

    1. Hi Meredith. Thanks for checking in to our sight.

      For the row cover supports, we use fiberglass rods. They are 1/4″ in diameter by 8 feet long. We purchased them from Seven Springs Farm, organic garden supply store located in Check, VA ( The web link takes you to their catalog page for row covers and supports. The ribs currently cost $1.45 each. We bought 100 last year (they were sold in bundles of 50, I think for $50 a bundle). They do an OK job and are listed as an alternative to 9 gauge wire. I had early string beans because of the row covers. The hoops the ribs make are tall enough to have mature bush beans thrive beneath them. In terms of strength, our winds are something else up on our ridge, and they stand up to them fine. This winter, though, we had many splinter and/or snap after that last big snowfall. The row cover collapsed. If we were on site and brushed off the heavy snow, they would have been fine. That all said, I am considering wire as an option (I have only just begun to put out the row covers, and I am out of ribs). I found a company on-line (Coastal Wire Co.) that sells straight wire (many lengths) in addition to coiled wire. I contacted them about our application (to see if one of their products would work) and asked for a quote. I am waiting to hear back. Did you make your own wire ribs? Do you think matching the length of the fiberglass rods might help or is the wire just not rigid enough (subject to collapse)? I feel that the fiberglass is strong but expensive. I, too, would like to find a strong but affordable option.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to respond and write those other posts! I enjoy your site, you guys are doing a lot of good work down there and I hope you have a great first season at your market. We made the hoops from 9 gauge fence brace wire rolls bought from Southern States. The rolls were about $14/roll and maybe make about 30 hoops, we cut them to length. The wire hoops definitely would probably not be sturdy enough to do at longer lengths, and under even the light snows we had this winter they tend to bend in the middle (though they can easily be bent back to the proper shape). Also it could be that our beds are too wide for the length we are cutting them; our beds are about 5′ wide. We definitely have a lot of problems with the row cover coming off in the wind, though this year I bought a roll of 10′ wide row cover and it is staying on the rows much better than the 7′ wide stuff. We use rocks, bricks, and boards (when we run out of rocks and bricks). The bricks are the best; perfect weight and easy to handle. Great if you have a free source. Rocks have to be the right weight or they will just roll off when wind catches the row cover and then you have to go back and adjust. I think using dirt to weigh down the row cover would be too messy for me:) But it is a pain moving around rocks all the time. I am thinking the best option is just to put up more tunnels where you can cover stuff and not even have to secure the cover at all which is awesome, not have to worry about winds. We have also used 1/2″ pvc electical conduit last year to make a heat chamber, and it made some really nice tall hoops, we put in fiberglass rods and then just slipped the conduit over the rods. This was indoors though so don’t know how it would be outside. All in all the wire works good enough for small crops, but you probably have to space them closer than the fiberglass rods. We’ll just have to keep experimenting I guess! Maybe you could make the wire the same length as the fiberglass and then do every other one fiberglass down the row for sturdiness but save a little money by using the wire hoops too.

    1. Great information! Thanks, Meredith. Our rows are smaller – 30 inches wide. I may try the wire to see how it fares. I like your idea of every other rib! Also worth a try.

      We’ve used the 1/2″ conduit to hold down the row covers, using clamps to secure the cover to the pipe. It isn’t heavy, but I think the length distributes the weight well enough to hold the cover down. It is also handy to just lift a pipe and have access to the plants. Still, with 50-80′ rows it comes down to cost again. Currently, I am using bricks from a chimney we tore down this winter. As you mention, they have the heft, they are easy to haul, and the rough texture gives good friction to keep covers in place.

      Thanks, again, for visiting and sharing your ideas! I’ll let keep updating our trials and outcomes. A

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