Warning about floating row covers: They float

I’ve been trying an experiment with some of my fall crops. To help reduce problems with pests like cabbage worms, I covered two beds of cabbage, broccoli, and collards with a lightweight spun fabric designed to rest easily over the tops of the plants. They are generally called floating row covers because they “float” on top of the crops, blocking out flying pests and offering a little protection from the cold.
When putting out the row covers, I noticed a couple of things. First of all, the only width I could find in the garden centers around here was four feet. My beds are five feet wide, so I had to crowd my plants into about half the bed. Even then, the width wasn’t quite enough when the plants grew taller.
Also, it’s a challenge to keep the row covers in place. I laid 1X2 tomato stakes around the whole perimeter to weigh down the edges, but the wind tends to work the fabric loose. Since I’m not at the garden every day this time of year, and we’ve had some fairly windy days, I often found the row cover literally laying down on the job lots of time.
In spite of all these challenges, the plants under the row covers had grown larger and less bug eaten than the uncovered bed I am using as a control.
As Sandy spun off the coast, we had some unusually heavy winds, even as far inland as Belly Acre Farm is.
I drove over to check on things the next day. There was no significant damage to the plants, but one of the row covers had blown off on three sides and was rolled roughly along the last side of my tomato stake weights.
The other row cover was completely missing.
I looked around the area, including the edge of the nearby woods, but couldn’t find anything. I replaced the remaining row cover and headed for home.
Today I went back to do some work. I decided to look for the missing row cover. I went over the whole of Mom’s property, but found only a nest of (thankfully) sluggish yellow jackets. They buzzed lazily around me, but couldn’t find the energy to sting. I pushed through the underbrush down into the neighbor’s woods, but still no luck.
Finally, I gave up. I gathered a few vegetables to take home and went to the car.
As I was getting into the car, I looked out toward the garden one more time.
A little spot of what looked like a tent caterpillar nest caught my eye, just a foot down from the top of the oak that marks the corner of Mom’s property.
“That’s kind of high for tent caterpillars,” I thought.
Then I noticed another white web a few feet over from the first one. Suddenly I realized I had found the missing row cover.
It now resides about forty feet above Belly Acre, protecting a small area of the fading leaf canopy of a white oak tree.
Talk about your floating row cover.


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