How to Protect Plants from Frost - Low Tunnels

December 5, 2014 - GrowOrganic
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Row covers have been used by farmers for years to extend the season of summer crops and to get their Fall/Winter crops off to a good start. In the video, Protecting Plants From Frost, Tricia demonstrates how to build a low tunnel using PVC pipe covered with the row cover, Agribon. Another product that can be used for a low tunnel or as a floating row cover, is the very durable, Dio-Betalon (similar to Tuffbell). Durable and Long-lasting Dio-Betalon is a high-tech material made out of polyvinyl alcohol…
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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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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.

Nancy

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

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

Jan Says:
Oct 28th, 2014 at 10:05 am

This was perfect—thanks.

Also: we love the bobbing toucan—where to find?

Joseph Miller Says:
Dec 7th, 2014 at 4:28 am

The video actually said use 1/2” rebar and 3/4” pvc. The 10’ length is also important to know for the optimum arch height, for the 4’ raised bed.

Note 1/2” pvc can not handle as much snow load. Plus finding smaller rebar than 1/2”  may be difficult.

mimi Says:
Feb 8th, 2015 at 6:57 am

I am ready to build myself a vegetable garden that will provide yield even during winter
what wood do u use as side panels?

also are those metal bars that lay flat on the ground that I see in your video?

Mimi

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