How to make a row cover….in the middle of the night!


Years ago, before I found passion in the dirt, I managed a specialty knife store in Burnaby’s Metrotown Centre. We sold mostly kitchen knives, but also a dizzying array of sporting knives. With a few decorative swords for good measure. What can I say? From this job I gained a deep appreciation for quality tools.

My kitchen knives are stunning. Sure, when I first moved away from home I could only cook Mac & Cheese. I might have had to emergency call a friend in the first week to learn how to make mashed potatoes, but that didn’t mean I didn’t cut that potato with a seriously badass blade. A full set of impressive, single piece, forged steel blades. WÜSTHOF knives to be particular.

Fear not, even back then I had my handy Husband near by with his ever accumulating bag of things-he’s-really-good-at. Cooking has always been one of them. Being a tool guy is another.

On his end, a good tool was something that fixed thing. His Grandfather used to say: “You never borrow a tool, you buy one. If you needed it once, you will need it again.”  Keeping with that philosophy he handed down a wide range of fantastic, unique, well built, old hand and table top tools to my husband when he passed. An impressive collection with just about every funky and useful tool you can imagine.

Like this.

Old Leather Punch

So where is this going? Oh WHERE is this going Laura?

Well, in a circular tangent, clearly! If there is a point, (which is questionable) It has to be that a good tool is a great asset to have, and doesn’t go bad. So keep them, and scoop them up when you see them! Garage sales make a great place to find old tools in need of some love, and a new home!

The fallout of this lesson? We are endlessly storing tools and supplies. We regularly add more and more to the “someday” pile.  We will get to it “when we have time”. My husbands recent desire to organize the madness caused him to happen upon some left overs that fit my needs for a garden project.

We now had the supplies to make row covers!!!!!

So look at that! Time was found! Sure it was 11 o’clock at night, but that’s normal, right?

Handy dandy scrap chicken wire

How to make row covers

  • Taking the sheet of chicken wire we used metal snips to cut it in half. Creating two rectangular shapes for double the row cover action!  You can use any size of the material. Row covers can be quite small or large depending on your needs. The ones we were making were quite large. Just over 3 feet long, each!
  • Next lay out a sheet of clear poly or vinyl.  Cut to slightly larger than the metal mesh. An inch or two on all sides. It is always easier to work and handle a supply that is slightly too large. Allows a little more room for mistakes, or corrections.
  • We made our holes with the leather punch. It would have been a wasted opportunity if we hadn’t. That bad boy needed to get out and stretch it’s legs! It worked perfectly to poke little holes in the plastic covering. A pen knife, or a punch from a swiss army knife, or scissors would work just as well if you don’t happen to have any antique tools lying around.
  • Once the holes are made slip some small zap straps through and tightened them up!
  • Almost finished now! The row cover just need to be trimmed and cleaned up. Excess zap strap cut, ect.
  • The final step is a simple one. Follow the natural curve of the chicken wire and create a semi circle. Voila!

Wrap the poly over the chicken wire.

Who knew a row cover could make me so happy?!

I’m looking forward to setting these up in the back veggie beds. They will allow me to get a head start on some crops that could use the extra growing time, but don’t like all that cold spring rain. The perfect solution to my desperate need to get into the veggie bed early in the year!

Here they will grow! Safe and sound!

A roof to keep those young plants strong through our rainy spring!


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8 comments on “How to make a row cover….in the middle of the night!

  1. Marguerite on said:

    I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention before but it seems like I’m hearing a lot about row covers lately and how great they are. Given how short the summers are here I’m thinking this might be something to look into. and if I can make it myself then so much the better!

    • Laura on said:

      I’ve heard a lot about them recently, mostly through my master gardener class. One of the speakers brought his small one and passed it around. It really made me realize how easy they are to make, and how useful they can be in the garden. I think he called it a cloche. I’ve also heard floating row cover. Whatever they are called, they rock!

      • Kristin on said:

        These row covers are awesome. Thanks for sharing. This looks like a cheap way to extend the season without trying to get a “hoop” set up going. These look like mini greenhouses. Thanks for sharing.

        I saw someone else commented about floating row covers and cloches. This wouldn’t work like a floating row cover since those are intended for normal growing season use as they let in rain and keep the plants from getting overheated. These row covers look like they would shelter the plants and could actually be used for winter growing. Cloches also help extend the growing season. You can make cheap cloches by cutting off the bottom of a clear 2 liter bottle and putting that on your seedling.

        • Laura on said:

          Lol! That was me talking about them in the comments! Yes they are different, I really didn’t make that distinction clear. I am planning on using my row covers soon to give some of my plants a head start outside, but they will be great come winter too! If your using these during the growing season, then you certainly want to keep an eye on the crops to make sure they are getting enough water. I’m planning on using floating rows for carrots and the like this year, as they do allow water to penetrate.

  2. heathersurbangarden on said:

    If someone was looking for the “Chicken Wire” in your post I think they would have a better chance at the hardware store if they were looking for “Hardware Cloth” 1/4 ” squares. I like your handy little row cover.

  3. When I was a boy, my grandfather made something similar to put over his strawberry rows in Northern California, to keep the deer out. (BTW –I don’t know if it’s a Canadian-U.S. thing or not but we always called what you show in your photo “hardware cloth”. “Chicken wire” for us is much less stiff, and has pentagonal-shaped holes rather than little square ones.) Anyway, he’d cut a piece of chicken wire about 24 inches wide by three feet long, which he’d bend lengthwise into an upside-down “U” shape, with the “legs” being about 6″ high and the middle, or “roof”, being about 12″ wide. Then he’d cut pieces of heavy gauge wire about 36″ long, and bend them into a matching -U-shape with the legs being 12″ long. He’d place the chicken wire tunnel over the strawberries and then push one of the wire “anchors” down into the soil over it every foot or so, kind of like a big staple. They really kept the deer out of the berries, and since they were only three feet long they were easy to pick up and move when the time came.

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