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How to Use Row Covers For Vegetables

A row cover or low tunnel can extend the growing season in your vegetable garden by providing frost protection for crops.
In the spring, it can be used to start greens, peas, and other cool season crops earlier.
In the fall it can be used to protect tender late crops from early frosts.
We’ll go over how to use row covers for vegetables.
how to use row covers for vegetables

Why Use Row Covers for Vegetables?

For years I’ve wanted a cold frame or some other covering so I could start lettuce and spinach earlier in the year.  This year, I finally did it!  I designed and built this row cover, sometimes also referred to as a low tunnel, so I could start lettuce in March.

The advantage to building a low tunnel versus something like a cold frame is that a low tunnel does not need to be vented when temps rise.  The Agribon-19 is breathable and allows plenty of airflow.  It provides only a few degrees of insulation, to prevent frost damage to tender plants in moderate winter weather. 

If you cover the tunnel with plastic rather than Agribon-19, or a heavier Agribon product, you can potentially grow year round! However, this will likely require winter irrigation as rain will be unable to get to your covered winter crops.

Row Cover Supplies

For this row cover, I used a variety of supplies that you might find at a local nursery or hardware store.  I found it easier to get them all on Amazon.


Agribon-19 is a breathable fabric that offers a few degrees of frost protection.  It is similar to Reemay.  Reemay is a bit heavier and rougher while Agribon-19 is drapes better.  As a result, Agribon-19 allows for 85% light penetration whereas Reemay is only 75%.  Either one will work for this type of cover.  Another way to use this is for shading greens in the heat of summer; it will help to keep them from bolting. 


For the hoops, I use 3/4″ schedule 40 electrical conduit in 10-foot lengths.  I have used PVC pipe for this type of thing, but it just doesn’t hold up under UV and becomes very brittle.  Schedule 40 is designed for outdoor applications and will last much longer.


Snap Clamps are these fantastic plastic clips that come in varying sizes, specifically to clamp plastic and fabric to the pipe.  For the row cover, I used 3/4″ (because that is the size of the conduit) and started with about 10 of them.


Rebar holds the conduit on the ground.  If you are installing a cover over a raised bed, you can attach the pipe directly to the outside of the bed frame.  I used a mix of 3/8″ and 5/8″ for this project because I had it on hand.  It is most economical to buy a 10-foot piece and cut it into 2-foot sections, but you can usually buy them pre-cut at your local hardware or big box store.

Season Extender

How to build a season extender for the garden
Project time1 hour
Keyword: low tunnel, row cover, season extender


  • Hammer
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure


  • 2 2-foot rebar pieces for each hoop
  • 6+ feet ¾"schedule 40 conduit length to suit desired height of hoop
  • 1 piece Agribon-19 enough to cover
  • 2-3 snap clamps per hoop


  • First, use the hammer to drive rebar pieces into the ground on either side of your bed, spaced about 2’ apart. In the video below I used 6 pieces, 3 on each side of the bed.
  • Then, slip one end of the ¾” pipe over the rebar, bend the pipe and carefully slip the other end over the rebar opposite the first.
  • Repeat for as many hoops as desired.
  • Plant starts or sow seeds into the soil under the hoops.
  • Cut Agribon-19 to length for your bed and secure with the snap clamps.

These row covers are an inexpensive way to extend your growing season.  In the video below, I walk you through the process step by step.  They are easily customizable to your bed size, the crop your growing, and more.  Growing lettuce?  Cut a couple feet off the pipe so you have a lower cover.  Have a wider bed?  Your cover will be lower with the 10′ pipe, or you can try to get longer pipe for a taller tunnel.  There are so many possibilities when using row covers for the vegetable garden.

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