Row Cover Flop

by Daisy

IMG_1412I installed row covers over several beds because the seedlings of my fall/winter crops were getting eaten by bugs, dug up by cats, and stolen by fairies.

I pounded 12″ segments of rebar into the ground and curved 1″ pvc plumbing pipe over them. Then I sewed rod pockets on either side of floating row cover fabric, put more pvc pipe in the rod pockets, and draped the fabric over the pvc hoops.

It was just right.

I thought.

The mustard, for example, which I planted under the fabric grew so well and stayed so free of cabbage moths. I kept looking at the fresh, pristine leaves and laughing smugly at the cabbage moths as they hunted in vain for the source of that tantalizing chemical signature that told them a feast was nearby.

Well, I shouldn’t have gotten cocky.


Sure, I’d seen a few moth holes in the leaves along the periphery where the cover didn’t reach all the way. But I was unprepared for what would happen, and happen quickly, once they figured out they could get in. Nor was I prepared for the fact that the row cover, once breached, provided ideal conditions for the eggs to hatch and the larvae to operate unmolested and protected from predators.

It was ugly.


Seemingly overnight, they et everything practically down to the nub.

There was nothing to do but pull everything up and start over.

I did get a measure of satisfaction by feeding the wretched things to the hens. If Pixar made a movie about cabbage moth larvae this part would not be in the final script.


Lessons learned:

  • Make sure the cover is truly covering all fly-in locations. Close is not good enough. If one can get it, they all can get in.
  • Monitor daily. Nip any invaders early or the problem will get out of control fast under row cover conditions.
  • Don’t get complacent. A row cover is no guarantee.

They were everywhere, folks. It was truly an epic cabbage moth larvae invasion.


At first I did not succeed, but I will try again, fastening the cover down securely.  Then it will just be down to the voles and the fairies.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie @ Growing Days October 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

Oh, I feel for you! I’ve had a similar experience, and it’s so frustrating. However, you definitely had some happy chickens, getting their protein treats! (My fall frustration involved starting 10 trays of crops from seed. Everything was gorgeous, growing beautifully–and then we had a torrential rain. Poor things were pounded into mush. I thought I was being smart, starting them outside, because the greenhouse was still too hot in SC. Oh well, time to try again.)

Daisy October 4, 2013 at 5:40 am

Julie–Ouch. Ten trays! Not fun. Thanks for the support!

Lindsay October 4, 2013 at 7:25 am

Good advice. I’m hoping to do my first fall garden this year with little greenhouse covers over my raised beds (raised beds with chicken wire in the bottom for the voles).
I think bugs were bad this year, at least where we were. And it didn’t help that we unbalanced the universe by not planting squash. The squash bugs were very upset by this change and proceeded to ravage everything else in the caucus it family. I think I will plant dummy crops of squash by the chickens so they can all feast. Hehe.

Lindsay October 4, 2013 at 7:25 am

*cucurbit family

Amy October 4, 2013 at 10:01 am

That last picture is enough to give a person nightmares! That is, unless you’re a chicken. Yummy:)

Mark October 5, 2013 at 3:44 am

I can sort-of-relate. We are in southern hemisphere so heading into mid-spring. I have been judiciously and even zealously hunting down green vegetable bugs (stink bugs) on my fava beans (they sun themselves on the top leaves), and i have been very happy that i have been keeping the damage done to a minimum. I noticed today that there is a little bit of growth dying off, so i started to pull apart the closely tied together forest (about 3ft square) to see if i could see why… and all the plants on the inside were gone, destroyed by gigantic snails! The growth that I was seeing at the top was actually just branches off the outer plants that grew to the gap at the top of the column.

Nadine Roberts October 5, 2013 at 5:12 am

All I can say is wow! What happy chickens you must have had. I bet they gorged themselves for days!

julie October 5, 2013 at 6:40 am

I hate those buggers! But I like you also find great satistfaction in watching the chickens go worm wild when toss them over the fence!
My whole garden was just baddddd this summer….I am over-run with chipmunks…anything that was reachable(have you seen them stretch???)they ate it…or just took a bite-I started a beehive in the spring…although I am not taking their honey this year…I look forward to next spring…and believe me…over-winter I will be reading up and heading into spring prepared….next season the veggies belong to ME!!! love stopping in here!!!

Janice Redinger October 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I use containers for what I am able to grow. I found that covering them allows them to get sun without the bugs. I just cover them using a tall “bridge” to hold the cover up and tape them down along the pots with duct tape. I have been pretty successful with that and am now drying my herbs. I replaced the herbs with a lot of compost and some baby well eyed potatoes.

guesthouse dweller October 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm

OMG – WOW – you didnt show me or tell me! At least The Momma’s had some good eatin’!

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