While you are perusing seed catalogs for next summer’s garden, consider using floating row covers, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“Floating row covers are spun-bonded polyester or polypropylene blankets of very lightweight material,” said Nancy Pollard. “They allow varying amounts of sunlight, rain, and air to penetrate, but not pesky insects. Floating row covers can protect tender plants from late-season frost, allowing you to plant a little early without worrying so much about frost damage or loss.
“One or two degrees can make a big difference. Covers can increase soil and air temperature, speeding up growth. They also reduce wind damage. Hoops should be used to raise the covers above the plants if you expect winds.”
For an effective, non-toxic form of insect control, row covers can be a real help. They are especially useful to keep wilt disease-carrying insects away from cucumbers and squash until they flower.
Securely and loosely cover plants immediately after planting to exclude cucumber beetles that vector the disease. Hold down the edges with soil or row cover tacks. Plants will lift the cover as they grow. Remove the covers as the plant begins to flower so pollination can occur.
Floating row covers range from about 1/2 ounce to about 3 ounces in weight. For frost protection and capturing warmth, sometimes a double layer of lightweight materials will work better than a single heavier layer. Light transmission is usually reduced to 80 or 90 percent, Pollard explained.
“Durability is more closely related to the structure of the fabric than thickness,” she said. “If the vendor tells how many seasons it will last, that helps because a more expensive cover that will last multiple seasons may be more cost effective than a less expensive cover that lasts only a year or so.
“Some lightweight fabrics are more durable than heavy ones and vice versa, so read the details. Think about these things as you plan your next garden.”
(Source – http://www.farms.com/news/floating-row-covers-offer-plant-protection-70613.aspx)