Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Garden Fleece and How to Use It. Grow More Vegies and Do Less Weeding With Garden Fleece – Here’s How
Winter is coming, and just like humans, the average garden plant doesn’t do too well in the cold or frost without some level of protection. Horticultural garden fleece featuring high UV stabilisation and weed control helps keep plants warm and protects against frost, pests, hail, and other damaging weather conditions. However, while garden fleece is essential for providing your winter plants protection, there are also situations when it will come in handy during summer as well.
What is Garden Fleece?
Garden fleece or horticultural fleece is a sheet of material gardeners can lay over plants to provide an extra level of protection. It has many similarities to plastic sheeting, but there are important differences that make it more versatile in the garden.
Synthetic materials like non-woven propylene are used to make garden fleece, which means it shares a lot of properties with fabrics but is much less bulky than the average winter jacket.
Does Garden Fleece Work?
Garden fleece has a few different uses in the garden. In a newly sown garden, fleece adds a protective layer against insects, birds, and windy weather. The material is also effective for providing winter plants protection to guard against frost damage.
While garden fleece is useful as a barrier against frost, in the hotter months, it can also insulate new plants against extreme heat. Gardeners have been using it for decades in all seasons to improve their harvests and protect delicate plants from damage.
Garden fleece receives a hydrophilic treatment during manufacture, which means it can insulate and protect the plants underneath, while also letting through air and moisture. In cold weather, heat is trapped around the plants to create microclimates that are optimum for growth and protect them from frost. A 2- or 3-degrees variation in temperature can mean the difference between a plant surviving or perishing during an icy cold winter’s morning.
Essentially, the garden fleece provides a level of climate control that can extend the growing season for many crops while also ensuring earlier harvests and higher yields.
High UV Stabilisation with Weed Control
Because it’s used extensively outdoors, garden fleece features high UV stabilisation with weed control to reduce a gardener’s workload while also providing protection for plants. If care is taken, garden fleece is reusable over several seasons, but it can also be reclaimed for recycling. No harmful toxins or heavy metals are released after it breaks down.
Protection from Insects
Garden fleece will keep most pests like aphids, grasshoppers, root maggots, and potato beetles at bay. However, you may still have pest problems if the insects were able to lay their eggs before you put the fabric down.
Keep an eye on pest activity by regularly checking under leaves. If you notice infestation signs, use the appropriate measures to control it, or remove the infected plants.
How do You Use Garden Fleece?
While garden fleece is thin and lightweight, the non-woven polypropylene style of manufacture affords it excellent strength and resistance against tearing and stretching. Most often, the fleece is laid directly over crops as a floating row cover.
Depending on the type and size of plants grown, it can also be used to create mini-tunnels, garden cloches, or hoops of various heights on greenhouse structures.
The product is useful for large scale operations but can provide balcony and backyard gardeners with the same benefits. It’s lightweight, making it just as easy to use over small areas, as it is over more sizeable crops. After distributing the fleece, it will be necessary to anchor it down, as a light breeze will be sufficient to carry it away.
Using Garden Fleece in Spring
Prepare the soil to get it ready for seeds or transplants, drape your garden fleece directly over the plants, or use hoops to create a tunnel. If your crop consists of larger plants like peppers or tomatoes, larger support hoops are recommended.
You mustn’t pull the material tight when layering directly over the ground as the plants will need some room for growth. The fabric will be pushed upwards as the plants mature, so make sure you leave enough slack in the middle to account for the size of more mature plants. You can use rocks or mound soil over the edges of the garden fleece to keep it in place.
If you are using hoops, make sure you pull the fleece tightly over the hoops and ensure the edges are adequately buried to keep the fabric in place during windy weather. Clothes pegs are also useful for securing the material to the framework.
In some climates, fleece is often used to keep an entire crop alive over winter, so the young plants are ready to go in spring and deliver an early harvest.
What About Pollination?
Quite a few crops like strawberries, peas, and pumpkins will require pollination before you can get a harvest. You will need to temporarily remove the garden fleece during the day so nature can take its course.
Tomatoes and other self-pollinating crops won’t need this level of attention. You will still need to monitor the temperature under the fabric carefully and watch for wilting and other signs of overheating. If you suspect the heat is too much for the plants, lift the covers during the day to reduce heat retention.
Using Garden Fleece in Summer
Hot weather can be a problem for germination, seedlings, and transplants. Cool-weather crops can bolt and taste bitter when the days start to warm up. Garden fleece makes an excellent shade netting to help control the soil’s temperature, keep leaf temperatures slightly cooler, and limit moisture loss. The fleece will work better as shading in warm weather if you raise it above the ground with hoops to increase air circulation.
What Can I Use Instead of Garden Fleece?
If you have a lot of container plants, frost can penetrate the sides and kill the roots. In extreme circumstances, a cold snap can even crack a terracotta pot. You can prevent cracking and protect delicate roots from frost by wrapping the pot with bubble wrap. Keep the wrap in place with garden twine but leave the top open for easy watering.
Bubble wrap may be convenient in some situations, but it’s not practical for outdoor gardens. Fortunately, there are other organic materials you can use to protect your plants from unfavourable weather.
Many gardeners will lay straw or shredded newspaper over plants to protect them from frost. Plastic bottles with the tops cut off are an excellent make-do cloche for smaller plants. Other gardeners have had good results with old curtains, buckets, pillow covers, plastic sheeting, and compost sacks. Just be sure to carefully monitor your plants’ progress, regardless of the material you are using.