It’s Row Cover Season! I know row cover can cause real headaches, especially now in the springtime when so many things are covered. It’s very classic to have warm days with very gusty winds in the early spring and having your row cover be secured in the best way possible saves a lot of time chasing after row cover blowing away.
First off, we really recommend using the Typar 1.25 Oz/Sq Yard row covers over other brands. It is much more durable and doesn’t tear or shred as easily. It makes reusing it much more feasible. The only concern is when it gets a bit older, the white fibers can shed onto crops a bit. We also use woven sandbags as opposed to shoveling dirt as we are often taking row cover on and off to weed or harvest in the early/late season. We make sandbag trains to walk out the necessary amount, spaced about every three to four feet. We cover two of our 300’ beds with one cover that is 15’ wide by 300’ long.
Above all else, the covering technique makes all the difference. Over the last few years we have solidified our tried and true way for covering crops. Here’s how we do it:
Once our two beds are planted, hooped, and ready to cover, we get four of our crew members to cover. Two people on each side of the row cover, standing in a square. The front people are in charge of holding the tension lengthwise down the bed and monitoring slack on either side. The two behind them are the sandbaggers.
The front pullers always stand next to a hoop, directly across one another, and about 5-6 hoops in front of the sandbaggers. Their outside hand holds onto the edge of the row cover and their inside hand holds onto the row cover at the peak of a hoop. Here’s Kirstie demonstrating the front puller’s hand position.
They simultaneously pull down lengthwise and across the bed so the row cover is completely taut. Once they make the row cover tight, the sandbaggers work their way down the row cover placing the sandbags, working directly across from each other and pulling the row cover tight across the bed as they go. The front pullers are also in charge of communicating how much slack each side has, the trick is to try to keep the same amount of row cover on the ground under the sandbag, and this makes sure the row cover doesn’t get pulled unevenly towards one side.
Here’s a diagram of our “square”. The yellow arrows indicate the tension being held by the front pullers, pulling down and across from each other making a taut “tabletop” (where the row cover is completely flat because it is pulled tight). The blue arrows indicate the sandbaggers pulling across from each other to make it extra tight.
Once the sandbaggers catch up to the front pullers, the front pullers move down another 5-6 hoops and repeat this process section by section until the whole row cover is installed.
This guarantees the tightest application of row cover that hopefully will withstand those pesky spring windy days!
To fold up row cover, we fold it hot dog style in half lengthwise all the way down the field. Then we walk one end to the other, and continue to walk back and keep grabbing the fold and walk it in the same direction. Once it is folded most of the way, we fold it once in half and tie it tight with extra drip tape. This helps keep things organized for the next time we use the row cover.