Last year we built a hoop house and saw first hand how plants could thrive in that environment. The plants were protected from the harsh effects of the weather but received plenty of sun and heat to encourage growth.
While looking through the seed catalogs during the long winter months, I wondered if this same type of environment would work on raised beds. One concern – how to handle the excess heat during the day.
After some online research, I found and ordered Clear Slitted Plastic Row Cover from Fedco Organic Growers Supply. It cost $10 plus $5 shipping for a 6′ x 50′ piece of slitted plastic. We already had a supply of galvanized wire hoops from a previous NOFA-NH order that could be used to support the plastic.
We first tried assembling the wire and plastic by placing the wires in the soil of the raised beds. That didn’t work too well because they weren’t very stable and kept moving up and down.
So, my husband drilled holes in the top of the wood, and that worked great – they were stable. The plastic fit over the wires perfectly.
I had a good supply of wooden clothes pins and thought they might work to hold the plastic on the wire, but they kept falling off. So then I tried some small black plastic clamps purchased from a local box store that my husband uses for wood working projects. They worked great.
We planted our seedlings – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squashes and melons the first part of May instead of after Memorial Day which is recommended for this area of the country.
The slitted plastic row cover kept the heat in but allowed excess heat to escape through the slits in the top of the plastic. When it rained, some of the rain got to the soil through the slits, but we also had soaker hoses in the beds for consistent watering.
When the weather warmed up and became consistent, the tomato plants were already pushing against the top of the plastic. Before Memorial Day, we removed the plastic and the hoops – imagine that in New England.
I folded up the plastic and intend to use it again. When folding, I checked it carefully and there were no tears in it after about four weeks of use.
The $15 I spent for this slitted plastic was without a doubt one of the best gardening investments I’ve ever made. If you live where you have a short growing season like we do here in New England, I would highly recommend this slittled plastic row cover to get your gardening season up and going earlier than normal
Look at my tomato plants and fruit! I’m going to have tomatoes to eat in July – now that is something to SHOUT about in New England.