There are some plants that are quite hardy and don’t mind a bit of frost. Others need to be covered to survive once it gets cold. See my photos on using row covers to extend the harvest!
I generally cover my lettuce, spinach and kale and continue to harvest them—sometimes as late as Christmas. If you live further south, you might be able to keep these plants going all winter long with proper protection.
Covering Plants With Row Covers
Row covers are transparent protection often the shape of small tunnels. Lots of crops will carry on a while longer if they’re just given a little warmth and shelter—such as summer salads, spinach, greens, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and green beans. And by adding row covers, those late-season stragglers can keep producing for a two or three more weeks.
You can use a variety of row covers. Most are made from plastic or polythene sheet held up with metal hoops. They are cheaper than cold frames and can easily be moved to where are needed to provide protection for several weeks. It’s important that covers can be pinned down so they don’t blow away or tear. Also, the covers need to be transparent and clean to let lots of light in, given low-light levels at this time of year.
The row covers need to wide and tall enough for your crops so they don’t touch the sides when fully grown. Also, you need to be able to open or roll back for watering since rain won’t reach the plants. You could also use fabric row covers which do let in water but they will not give as much protection or warmth as other covers.
You want the plastic to be away from the plants so this requires some kind of support. I have hoops for the spinach and lettuce, but the kale was much too high for them. Luckily, it was up against a fence so I decided to be creative in building their support. I took some bamboo poles and inserted them in the ground in front of the kale. Then I placed another bamboo across the middle of the front to keep the plants away from the front of the plastic.
Then I took some small hoops and tied them to the top of the bamboo poles.
The other side of the hoop was clipped to the fence using clothespins and I tied them to the fence (snow can be quite heavy).
The whole lot was covered with plastic, pinned in places and grounded with rocks.
I picked all of the leaves out of the lettuce and covered it.
I did the same with the spinach.
You need to use some heavy rocks or the wind will just blow the cover off. I’m planning on having a nice, big salad for my dinner party on Saturday. The lettuce does need to be thinned and I’ll toss it with a bit of kale and spinach. Yum!
Handy Video Demonstrations
See how to make a row cover tunnel.
See more about using cold frames, row covers, hoop houses, and other ideas.