Jan 262012

Cold Zone Gardening

Cold Zone Gardening

Thanks to the recession, my sister and I no longer have the option of not growing our own food. Unfortunately, we live in the high desert region of Central Oregon where the hardiness zone is technically 5, but where you have to be prepared year-round for the possibility of frost at night.
Last summer we invested a good deal of labor and some money in creating a protected area for vegetable gardening. A policarbonate wall was erected to protect our plants from the constant drying wind, but the garden’s vertical clearance still allowed for the most damaging of factors: frost. How to cover plants in a 30-foot by 40-foot area with relatively little money? Make a ripstop nylon bungy cover!

How to Make a Nylon Frost Protection Cover

Here is how I made my frost cover: I bought 25 yards of ripstop nylon (the kind that weighs 2 oz/yard) and cut it into two 12.5 yard pieces. I sewed the two pieces together lengthwise to give me a frost cover that was 12.5 yards by a little over 3 yards. That was enough to cover the two biggest beds in the garden. Any bigger than that, and the cover would have been too bulky to put up and take down.
Instead of sewing a hem all around the perimeter of the frost cover, I glued the edges over using contact cement (the video shows how I did that). Then I punched large grommets in the four corners and in a couple other places along the length of the cover for bungie cord hooks.
For installation, I screwed large eye hooks directly into the posts around the garden. One set of eye hooks went in at a three-foot level, and another set about five feet above the ground. This way we could move the frost cover up as the plants grew.
The pictures shown here are of the first day we used the frost cover. We had a medium frost (not so light), which made the cover sag. As soon as the sun melted the frost, the cover bounced back up, but from then on we used the higher hooks and pinned remay around the perimeter of the cover (a better solution anyway).
    Nylon cover for plants     Hardi Zone Gardening     Reemay frost protection
Notice the black milk jugs around the garden? These are for extra warmth. I spray-painted them black, filled them with water and set them in the sun all day. Then at night, we tucked them under the frost cover to hold off the cold a little longer.



  5 Responses to “Cold Zone Gardening: Frost Protection”

  1. Marta, what do you think about that rolled black felt like fabric you can buy at Home Depot? It’s for covering the ground to keep weeds out before you lay down your mulch or wood chips. Or is that too light weight ?

    • Linda, I like that you’re thinking out of the box. I would say the lightweightness of it is the best thing in favor of the felt. However, the reason I chose nylon is that the fabric needs to be strong enough not to pull apart sideways when it’s hanging. Dew and frost can add a lot of weight to fabric (notice the picture of our nylon cover first thing in the morning), and felt would soak up a lot of it. I say, try a smallish piece of it (10′ x 10′) and see if it works. Happy gardening!

      • Thanks Marta, This stuff I have is super strong, I’ll try it and tell you if it works! ūüôā

  2. Marty, where did you purchase the fabric for your gardening cover? Do you remember what you paid per yard? I’m not sure I can get fabric like that here in my area, but it sure would be worth it if I could! I’d also like to see your raised beds up close. I’m about to have tons of dirt, literally and I need something to do wit it all lol.

    • I got the fabric onlinefrabicstore.com for about $5/yard (the more you buy, the less it is). It says it’s not for outdoor use, but I figured that meant it couldn’t take a lot of sun, and since we put it away during the day… So far it’s holding up great. It’s soooo lightweight!