From December through March, I expect to be awakened in the night at least once a week by howling winter winds. Gusts above 40 mph (64 kph) will blow from time to time, but thanks to the use of the right hardware, the plastic and fabrics I use as covers for vegetable beds don’t go flying off into the trees.
Securing Plastic with Wiggle Wire
Wind regards sheet plastic as a toy, and my efforts to secure plastic to frames using staples or weights always ended badly. Three years ago, Roger built frames for four of our permanent beds by bending conduit pipe from the building supply store. Then he outfitted them with metal U channels for wiggle wire. Also called spring wire or zigzag wire, wiggle wire was invented in Japan 20 years ago, and there is nothing like it for holding plastic. Widely used to attach plastic to small greenhouses and high tunnels, wiggle wire also can be used on a small scale to make covers for vegetable beds. Kits to equip beds or tunnels of any size with wiggle wire and matching channels are widely available on the internet.
Wiggle wire holds plastic by pressing it into metal channels that are mounted on boards. After screwing the channels into boards, you install wiggle wire by rocking the wire up and down in the U channel while catching the edge of the plastic, a move that’s quickly mastered with a little practice. On a still day, I can turn a resting bed into a greenhouse in fifteen minutes by securing three sides with wiggle wire at the bottom and the top. The I add a few snap clamps to tighten down the front, the only side that opens.
The first salad garden of the season gets planted under such a cover in February, with some space allotted to cold-tolerant seedlings that are ready to get adjusted to life outdoors. We start eating lettuce from the greenhouse bed three weeks before our last frost arrives. When the weather warms, I take off the plastic and wiggle wire and store them until they are needed the following winter.
Snap Clamps for Row Cover
Cold-hardy crops like spinach and kale don’t need to be covered with plastic in winter, but they do benefit from mid-weight row cover (garden fleece) to tame the wind and hide the plants from deer. Some wind passes through row cover, which makes it less likely to lift off compared to plastic. Rather than attach row cover with wiggle wire (which is completely doable), I’ve found that it stays put just fine attached to the pipe frame with plastic snap clamps.
If you have bed frames structured with metal or PVC pipe, you can make your own snap clamps from pieces of old garden hose, slit down the side. Or, buy snap clamps that fit the diameter of your pipe. We bought two different kinds, and I like the brightly colored ones because they are easy to find when dropped in the grass. In addition to using snap clamps to install row cover over vegetable beds, they are useful for securing shade covers or bird netting when needed during the growing season.
Weight Tunnel Edges with Boards
When winter starts winding down, about six weeks before my last frost, I fill a row with lettuce, cabbage, parsley and other cool-season crops, and cover it with a row cover tunnel held aloft with wire hoops. The tunnel protects the veggies from hail and varmints, and long boards used as weights for the edges keep it from blowing off in gusty spring storms. In my experience, weights made from bricks or water-filled plastic jugs are fine for securing the ends of row cover tunnels, but not the long edges. Between the weights, wind finds places to lift the fabric and set it free. Burying the edges is messy and makes the tunnels hard to open. Long boards make much more dependable weights that require minimal monitoring. Lifting the cover for weeding, and then putting it back in place, is fast and easy.
Windproof covers for vegetable beds require good planning, but with the help of wiggle wire and snap clamps, it can be done.