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How to Protect Plants from Frost - Low Tunnels

February 22, 2013 - GrowOrganic
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We’re always talking about extending your growing season with floating row covers, low tunnels, and hoop houses. These all protect your plants from frost. Today we’ll give you easy instructions on how to build a low tunnel with PVC pipe and floating row cover. First, watch Tricia build a low tunnel (also called a low hoop house) over one of her raised beds. Quick review of floating row cover for frost protection Row covers are made of lightweight fabrics (that “float” on the…
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When it comes to protecting your plants from frosts and freezes it’s important to understand where the heat is coming from. Soil absorbs heat during the day and radiates it back at night. Our Agribon floating row covers work by trapping the heat that rises from the soil. That’s why you need to drape row cover to the ground, to keep the heat from seeping out. In our new video and article we teach you how to make low tunnels to protect your crops from frosts. Did you know frosts and freezes…
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Video Transcript
Hi I'm Tricia an organic gardener. I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Growing vegetables year round or extending your season doesn't have to be difficult or expensive I'll show you how. When it comes to protecting your plants from frost it's important to know where the heat will come from. Soil absorbs heat during the day and radiates it back at night. When you cover your plants you're trying to trap some of the heat radiating from the soil. A simple way to take advantage of this radiant heat to grow veggies in the winter is to make it a low tunnel. For every three to six feet of tunnel you need two pieces of rebar or some sort of stakes, one seven foot lengths of pvc and two recover clamps. Space your hoops a little bit closer if you expect the snow load and wider if you don't have to worry about any snow. You also need a piece of pvc the same length is your bed. To go on top of the hoops I like this Agribon floating row cover. This eighty three inch by fifty foot piece is perfect for the low tunnels and it's cost effective for the home gardener.

The three basic ways of Agribon are the AG-50 which provides eight degrees of protection and fifty percent light transmittance AG-30 which provides six degrees of protection and seventy percent light transmittance and lastly the AG-19 that provides four degrees of frost protection and eighty five percent light transmittance. Start with a three to four foot wide bed Pound the rebar into the garden bed. This stake is gonna hold the pvc pipe which would be the frame for your low tunnel. You want it anchored into the ground deep enough that it will hold the pipe with enough above the ground to make sure that the pipe can't move. My low tunnel is going over my garden bed If your doing yours directly in the ground and they're going to leave the stakes all year long after you take the low tunnel off paint them a fluorescent color or flag and so nobody falls over them. Well all the pounding and bending is done and now i'm ready to put the Agribon on. I've cut this Agribon about seven feet longer than the length of my bed and that way it can drape over the hoops and close at the end. At one end of the tunnel and on one side secure the Agribon with snap clamps. Pull it tight and secure it at the other end. Now just clamp the middle and you're ready for the other side. Gather and secure the fabric at the ends with a rock or sandbag. To vent my low tunnel and to make it easier to harvest my greens I've sewn a simple sleeve into the edge of the Agribon. To sew your sleeve take six inches of the fabric along the long edge fold it over then sew it in place. Nylon thread is gonna work better than cotton thread. Now simply insert the pvc pipe into the sleeve if you don't have a sewing machine you can just wrap the Agribon around the pipe and use a snap clamp to adhere it. Now when it's time to vent or harvest your greens you can just lift up one side of the fabric. Did you know frosts and freezes are two different things? A radiation frost happens when the weather is clear and the wind is still. The sun warms the soil during the day and there's no cloud cover to stop the heat that's gathered in the soil and in the plants from escaping into the atmosphere at nighttime. An advective freeze happens when its windy and a mass of cold air comes in bringing freezing temperatures. The type of tunnel that we've built does very well protecting from the frost but if a freeze is coming you might need a little bit more help. Water is a great heat reservoir even better than soil.

If a freeze is in the forecast fill milk jugs or five-gallon buckets with water and place in the tunnel near your plants. Another way to add a little warmth is to add some decorations C7 or C9 standard not LED christmas lights can be strung under the fabric to heat the low tunnel. Make sure that the lights don't touch any plants. You can also put down some plastic mulch underneath the tunnel to warm the soil even more. Grow a garden in the winter and grow organic for life!

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Categories: Organic Weed Control, Mulch Plastic, Frost Protection, Garden Fabric, Row Covers, Greenhouse plastic, Snap Fittings

Nancy Lewis Says:
Oct 19th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

What kind of PVC piping did you use to form the arch?  When I went to the hardware store, they told me that PVC piping does not bend.

Thank you.


michelle Says:
Dec 3rd, 2013 at 4:15 pm

we used schedule 40 1/2 inch pvc, 10 ft lengths bent just fine.

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