March 6, 2013

Trying Floating Row Covers this Year

Last year was an ongoing struggle against the local bird population who became a tremendous pest in the vegetable garden. A mild winter combined with a record hot summer left a large bird population. Early on the birds consumed 27 of the 52 baby tomato plants set out whiling topping the rest, the okra starts suffered a similar fate to the tomatoes, and the first planted beans and squash seeds were eaten. Bird netting and fencing stopped the larger of the birds but the smaller ones were still able to get into the garden. The garden never truly recovered from the onslaught.

This year I plan on taking a different tactic. Rather than netting the whole garden against birds, I am going to use floating row covers to protect the plants the vile creatures seem to favor. The floating row cover is said to have the added benefit of excluding vine borer moths, Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and flea beetles as long as the critters aren’t already overwintering in the soil. I went ahead and purchased a 25 x 10 feet length of Agribon 15 floating row cover from Ebay. Agribon 15 is said to have a 90% light transmittance and holds heat in very minimally which is useful since I am only planning to use it for pest control rather than frost protection.

This gives me hope for the summer squash and zucchini which I tend to lose early to vine borers and squash bugs. Many people swear by floating row covers as the only surefire method of protecting eggplants from flea beetles and their insatiable appetite for the plants' leaves. Hopefully I will only have to use the covers in the spring to give the plants a head start, otherwise it could be some trouble keeping the garden watered and weeded.

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