Posted by Irene Shonle, CSU Extension in Gilpin County
As a mountain gardener, I believe that floating row covers are my vegetable garden’s best friend. I wrote an “ode” to them in the Mountain gardening blog: http://coloradomountaingardener.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-ode-to-floating-row-covers-by-irene.html
This year, I have a new reason to love them: hail. We got a spectacular hail storm in July, with about an inch of graupel and a couple inches of rain falling in less than an hour. We still had a pile of hail under our downspout three days later.
The weight of the hail pulled the row cover off a corner of my row cover, and where the tender spinach and lettuce was exposed, it turned to mush:
The spinach underneath was untouched (which, thankfully, was most of the bed). Hooray for floating row covers!
I had tried an experiment this year where I planted red mustard and squash in the same bed. I figured I’d be harvesting the mustard as the squash grew larger, so it was a good use of space. Just as the squash was starting to flower, I took the row cover off to allow for pollination. I was planning on cooking up a mess of greens for dinner, but the hail hit before I harvested. Bad timing! Shredded mustard. I tried salvaging a few of the leaves to cook, but the rain had been so intense, it was impossible to wash all of the imbedded grit off. The squash leaves were skeletonized as well. Fortunately, almost everything recovered pretty well within a couple of weeks.
This is probably one of the only downsides to floating row covers – the need to remove them for plants that require pollination. Okay, and the cute factor goes down a bit, too – but I’d rather have nice greens than cute.