I often write about my grow beds, and how I cover them to extend my growing season or as a way to provide shelter and shade for my plants in the hot humid and horrendous weather we often have here in Georgia, or even as a trellis for my runners.
On this page, I’m going to be talking about my version of a row cover that I use specifically for, and built to fit, my grow beds. I will give a ‘show and tell’ description (a how to with pics) of how I built mine, so that you can build your own, if you like.
I choose to re-purpose whenever and wherever possible. While my system may not be very pretty, it is pretty effective. Keeping that that in mind, I built my system using PVC piping and fittings. (I was a commercial Plumber once upon a time) I made an initial structure using DWV fittings, but turns out while they are less expensive, they are not very sturdy, especially at the joints, which is where the strongest points should be. For this reason, and others, I now use Schedule 40 pipe and fittings. The fitting sockets are tighter, making the structure sturdier. As an added bonus, since the pressure fittings are deeper and tighter, I don’t need to glue my structures together, saving money and allowing me to re-use the various parts and pieces over and over and over again. (Like a Dave Clack 5 Tune) Not using glue is especially important for the water delivery system, but that’s another subject for another day.
As a material list, I used: 50 feet of Schedule 40 PVC pipe (pressure pipe and fittings)
(16) 2″ Tee’s (2) 2″ 90 ells (4) 2″ 45 ells,
Tools: A Hack Saw and Tape Measure
Measure and cut: (6) pieces of 2″ pipe 91″ (2) pieces of 2″ pipe 45″
(12) pieces of 2″ pipe 8-1/2″ (8) ‘Jam’ pieces of 2″ pipe 3″
If you have never cut PVC, and even if you cut it every day, cutting this stuff square with a hacksaw is something of an adventure. Thankfully, it’s pretty hard to get so far off track that the pipe doesn’t fill the fitting. (Unless you use DWV fittings) Seriously though, watch the line.
Beginning with the (2) 90* ells, take (4) of the 8-1/2″ long pieces of pipe, inserting one into each opening of the (2) 90* ells. Using one of the 45″ long pieces as a hammer, and the dirt ground as a brace, knock ’em together. No need to Bash it, the plastic will break, but a good whack sure won’t hurt anything. Peek inside the ends of pipe to make sure the other end ‘made-up’. if not, hit it again, until the pipe is in as far as it will go.
Next, connect a Tee to each end of the pipes, using (4) total. Visualize these (2) sets of Tees running the length of the bed, connecting to its’ mirror, for approximate rotation. It makes a bit of difference at the end, when you’re trying to connect it all together.
To these, add (4) pieces of pipe 8-1/2″ long, and then another set of Tees (4), and the last (4) pieces of pipe 8-1/2″ long. So you should have 2 sets of what looks like an “/\” or a “V”, depending on your perspective. Face the set, so the Tee openings are looking at one another, like in a mirror.
At each of the (4) ends, connect a 45* ell, so that when looking like /\, the opening of the 45* ell faces flush with the ground. Into each end of the 45* ell, knock a 3″ jam piece, and then a Tee, this time facing to complete an “A” frame.
Use the (2) 45″ long pieces as the cross bar in the letter “A”. Again, make sure to give it a good whack when driving the pieces together, and don’t be surprised if a few things ‘pop’ apart on occasion. Just hammer it all back together, it will hold.
Finally, use the (4) 91″ long pieces to connect the “A” frames together. This is where it gets a little tricky, and things tend to pop apart. An extra set of hands, of any kind, can make all the difference. But really, it isn’t that hard for one person to assemble, using the ground as the helping hand. It just a few extra minutes and several more steps.
With the Top of the “A” formed, it becomes very easy to hoist the ‘canopy’ to any height. Simply cut additional pieces to fit and insert at the bottom of the Tees. In this way, you can easily overcome uneven terrain. Use some sports netting, or repurpose some plastic lattice, as seen in the picture, to add additional shade.
A recent trip to one of the bigbox home improvement stores, using nothing more than my coconut as a calculator (they always said I was coo-coo and nuts), to purchase the pipe and fittings you would need, it would cost between $125 and $150. (obviously prices may differ where you are)
How much could you save by re-purposing?? I had to buy a few things, but by re-purposing, I was able to cut that number by more than half. Admittedly, not pretty, but effective and at a low cost.