How to make row covers on the cheap!

How to make a row cover
How to make row covers

With winter around the corner, and tender plants still in the garden, it is time to think about protecting them. In the past, I have waited until the last minute to cover my plants with bed sheets. It is no fun going out into the cold and wind to cover plants. This year, I made row covers ahead of time.

I will share in this post just how I did it.


Row covers materials
Some of the materials used in the row covers

My garden beds are roughly 4×8. Each bed required:

* six pieces of 24 x 3/8 inch rebar at $1.59 each ($9.54)
* two 10 foot pieces of 1/2″ PVC, at $2.00 each ($4.00)
* one 9×12 plastic dropcloth for $1.98

So, the row covers for each bed cost $15.52 in materials.

Step 1: Cut the PVC

The first thing I did was cut the ten foot PVC in half, making two 5 foot sections. Be careful when you are cutting–use eye protection from the PVC shavings, and gloves for protection from the saw blade.

Cut both pieces, but only use three for each bed.

Step 2: Put the rebar in the bed

Rebar in the bed
Rebar in the bed
Rebar placement detail
Rebar placement detail

Some of the rebars I bought were bent at one end where they had been cut. I pushed the bent end into the ground. My ground is pretty soft, so it wasn’t hard to push the rebar a foot into the ground. If your ground is hard, and you are using a hammer to pound the rebar in, be sure to be safe, and use eye protection and hand protection.

I placed the rebar angling inward on my four-foot wide beds because I knew the five-foot section of PVC would not make a complete half circle hoop. In the three-foot bed, I pushed the rebar in vertically. You can see in the photo how the rebar angles inward from the edges of the bed.

I placed a rebar at each corner of the bed, and the other two midway down the four-foot length of the bed.

Step 3: Put the PVC over the rebar

PVC on rebar
PVC on rebar
Final PVC frame for row covers
Final PVC frame for row covers

Next, I put the PVC on one piece of rebar and bent it over toward the opposite rebar. I had to work it down over the opposite rebar, and having them angling inward was helpful. I did this three times for each bed. The result was an arc of PVC over my large bed. The skinny bed had PVC perpendicular to the ground and arching over to the other side. This is the frame of the row covers.

Step 4: Put the covering on, and weigh it down

Final row cover
Final row cover

The covering is the 9×12 dropcloth. I really only needed an 8×12 piece, so if you have some leftover plastic, cut an 8×12 piece. I was only making temporary row covers, so the edges and ends were weighted down with rocks. I figured it would only be out protecting the plants for a few days at the most, then it would be back in the garden shed.


Now, set that up the night before the freeze. In the morning, you can open the ends of the tunnel to allow heat from the daytime sun to escape, and close it up again at night if the freeze continues. When the freeze is over, you can fold the dropcloth and put it away until the next cold snap.

Other Options:

This is also handy for the spring and summer months. In spring, you can put insect netting over the frame to protect against moths and other insects. In the summer, you can put shade cloth over the frame to protect against the hot sun. In the later summer, you can put bird netting over the frame to keep the birds from feasting on your ripening vegetables.

So, that is how I made my versatile row covers on the cheap, using materials from a lawn and garden supply company.

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