Using garden fleece

Using garden fleece

Using garden fleece (so that it actually works)

This Spring has been particularly challenging in the garden with a very wet start so that planting was delayed , followed by warm dry days with plummeting night time temperatures.

I live in a notorious frost pocket when the weather forecast gives minimum night time temperatures of 5 or 6 degrees Centigrade in local towns I can guarantee a frost in the garden, this often means a frost in the first week in June. I try to grow as much as possible such as my dahlias in containers that I can move in and out of my greenhouses when the weather allows but crops such as potatoes have to be protected in situ.

Over the years I have used various methods to protect the potatoes, which are a bit of an obsession for me.

Well over half my veg plot is given over to potatoes, I just can’t grow enough of them. As you can imagine this makes it impossible to maintain a sensible rotation system but I have managed to cope for a long time now.

I always earth up the crop in the early stages to protect the foliage but as they grow it gets to the point where you can’t cover with soil anymore gravity just won’t allow it. At this point external protection is required, I have tried up turned flower pots , the frost goes straight through them, I have even got up at first light and tried hosing the frost off the haulm, another myth from the gardening books.

The advent of garden fleece some years ago seemed to be the answer to my prayer but this does have its problems as well. You can’t just lay it over the foliage as the frost seems to go through the fleece where it touches any plant material. Another problem is that fleece is very light and the slightest breath of wind will blow it away from the crop you are trying to protect, fortunately frost is unlikely to occur on windy nights.

The difficulty happens when it is still windy as the evening falls but you can feel the wind is easing, this means a frost is likely by dawn entailing a mid night visit to the veg plot with a head torch.

What I now do is set up a frame work of bamboo canes which can be raised as the crop grows which I can drape the fleece over, making sure that there is at gap of at least a foot or about 30cm a bit more would probably be better. The fleece can be hooked over the canes and this does secure them against a light breeze. This provides a cushion of warmer air which protects potatoes and results in an earlier and heavier crop.

The main thing is to ensure that the fleece is not in contact with the foliage and this applies to anything you need to protect.

Geoff Peach