Row Covers

- Effective and non-toxic protection -

Summary: Row covers are an effective alternative to insecticides for certain pests. They can also be used to extend the growing season or to shade garden and greenhouse plants from too much sun.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

What are row covers?

Row covers are lightweight, non-woven, synthetic fabrics that are placed over plant rows or individually potted plants (right) in a greenhouse or garden. Row covers are one of the best ways to protect plants from flying insect pests like aphids, thrips and leaf-feeding beetles without using insecticides (see Related Articles below). They can also be used to extend the growing season or as temporary sun shade in hot areas of the garden or greenhouse.

Row covers should be put in place early in the season when young plants are especially prone to leaf injury and removed after plants have become well established. Row cover fabric can be reused for several years if not damaged.

Row cover fabric comes in several weights. Heavyweight material is best used to extend the growing season while lighter weights can be used for protection against insect damage and shade. The thin, strong fabric allows light, water and air to get in but excludes pests. Be careful not to trap pests under covers. For plants that need insect pollination be certain to remove row covers before flowers develop.

row cover fabric

Row cover fabric loosely draped over a potted plant on greenhouse bench.

Heavyweight fabrics may require some type of support such as wire frames across the rows on which the material is placed. Lighter fabrics can be placed, loosely, directly on the plants. These are called floating row covers. Row cover edges can be held down with boards or rocks. Adjust floating row covers as plants grow.

Where to purchase row covers

Row cover material is available at large garden centers and online. Three different weights, heavyweight, floating and super-light are generally available and you can cut the material to the size you need. The floating covers are sold in a width suitable for typical garden rows while the other weights are often sold in "squares".

Related Articles

What are Aphids and How To Control Them in Home Gardens?

What are Thrips and How To Control Them in Home Gardens?

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