Row Covers Protect Plants from Chill

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Floating row cover rolled out over seed bed.
Floating row cover rolled out over seed bed.

Floating row covers and plant blankets are an easy way to protect crops from chilly nights and light frosts.

Row covers and plant blankets are commonly made of lightweight spun-fabric cloth such as Reemay which lets water and light reach plants but keeps the chill off plants and warms the soil. You can use row covers to get an early start in spring and to extend the season in fall.

Row cover material usually comes in rolls so that it can be simply rolled out over plant rows loosely and quickly. Anchor row covers to the ground on each side and the ends; use garden staples, rocks, or boards to hold row covers in place.

Light row cover material will keep plants 2 to 5°F warmer than the air outside temperature—enough to protect plants from an overnight frost—and protect plants from drying winds and insects. Row covers lift as plants grow and do not require supports.

For tall plants, spun-fabric or poly cloth can be wrapped around plants to create a warming plant blanket. Hold plant blankets in place with garden or clothes pins.

For more tips on protecting plants click here to visit the Season Extension topic area.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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