Chilly nights beginning to slow down some of your cool-season crops? Falling leaves burying your veggie plants every day or so, preventing water and sunlight from reaching them? Early frost predicted for your area? It’s time to think about ways of prolonging a frost-free environment for your plants.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to garden equipment. When I hear landscape fabric, I think “old shower curtain.” Tomato growing cage is “sticks and string.” So my row covers for new spring seedlings are actually old lengths of gauze I picked up long ago at a swap meet. They are a little ripped and very much the worse for wear by now, but pretty good at letting in the sun and rain while protecting, almost weightlessly, tiny plants.
But clearly, a feathery layer of gauze isn’t going to cut it over the big, leafy greens and cole crops of fall. In the past I have rigged ridiculous contraptions with PVC pipe or, much more often, just let the crop go when hard frost arrived. (My garden philosophy can be summed up as “survival of the fittest,” otherwise known as Lazy Gardener Syndrome.) This fall, I’m lasagna-gardening to build up my depleted and generally bad soil, so I don’t have to worry about it — everything’s getting tilled under anyway. But I have to tell you about a product — an actual store-bought product — that I got to try out recently, because it made me think of putting aside my homemade frost-protection remedies.
It’s called an Easy Tunnel, and it’s basically my old PVC pipe attempt, except done by someone who knew what they were doing. The fabric is permanently attached to the hoops, so you just sink the hoop ends into the ground as you expand the tunnel. Drawstrings at either end let you open the row up on warm days and cinch it tight on cold nights. It’s reusable (the fabric is durable; I checked it out), and of course it folds flat for storage. I put it up in a minute flat, which is about 2 hours less than I would expect to spend nip-and-tucking my way through a homemade row cover project.
When I say Easy Tunnel, there are actually several kinds. The one you probably want for fall is the Fleece, which does the best job of warming up the plants inside the tunnel. For shading them in hot weather, you want the Net. And the Poly seems to be more of an all-purpose, maybe the right one to get if (like me) you are only going to buy one and then make it work for every season. (Do-it-yourselfing really never dies!)
So if you feel inspired, pick up an Easy Tunnel
and see what you think. I was impressed that I could so easily pull out part of the tunnel to reach, say, a lettuce right in the middle of the row that I wanted — the hoops are super easy to pull out of the soil and then reset, and the whole thing is pretty lightweight. I may still have to use my old gauze for spring seedlings, because it has some pretty sweet history by now, but next fall (with my new enriched soil *fingers crossed*) I’m Easy Tunneling my way to Thanksgiving!