Farmer Paul's Row: The Joys of Remay -
Paul Betz, Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm in Woodbury, VT
have this love hate thing going on with remay. I love what it can do
for the farm, and I end up using a lot of it. From the early spring to
the late fall, itís everywhere. Granted, itís a pain sometimes, like
when it blows away and thereís only one person around to reset the row.
Or when you are being really careful and you still manage to tear a new
hole in the piece. And the shudder I get when it sticks to my chapped
hands. But when you take a peak under the cover in early spring and see
this beautiful growth, or in the fall when you come to the field thatís
frozen in white and see undamaged plants underneath, thatís the love
those who donít know what Iím talking about, ďremayĒ is a spun-bonded
polyester fabric that has become indispensable on most farms. Itís
available in various widths and lengths as well as weights, and
different ďflavorsĒ have different applications. The higher the number,
the heavier the weight, and subsequently the more frost protection will
be offered. The flip side is that the increased protection reduces the
amount of light that gets through. I use the AG 19 as a good overall
grade. I also use hoops to keep the fabric off the plants. I use a 9
gauge smooth galvanized wire that I cut myself to around 72Ē. I place
them every 10 feet or so in the row and then use soil to hold the remay
in place. Quick and easy, and worth the extra work. I can get plants out
much sooner in the season, and they like growing under there. I keep my
basil covered all season, and it loves it. No bugs, no wind, and the
quality of the leaves is excellent.
I like to use a lot of it in the spring, when weather is
finicky and unpredictable. I also like to find parthenocarpic varieties
for my earliest plantings. These plants donít need to be pollinated to
make a viable fruit, so I can leave the covers on. Partenon zucchini and
Saber cucumber are two examples.
In the heat of the summer, the extra heat can be too much
for some plants, so I switch to a lighter cover. I farm near lots of
open fields, and when they are mowed all the Tarnished Plant Bugs (TPB)
come calling and can destroy the place pretty quickly. I throw the
lighter covers on and ride out the storm till the grass grows back and
the TPB goes home again. The lighter grade is good for keeping out all
kinds of insects, and is invaluable at keeping cabbage maggot out of
radishes and flea beetles off arugula, mibuna, and other brassicas. Be
sure to put it on as soon as you seed and bury the edge well.
Now that fall is here (soon any way) I am using the AG 19
again. When the temps get colder, I will put on two layers, extending
its frost protection. While itís rated at 4 degrees of frost protection,
different crops have different sensitivities, and I use those numbers
as a guide only. I figure each layer gives a few degrees, and I have
gotten peppers through a 26 degree night by having three layers on. As a
market grower, having certain crops later in the season translates into
more income. A little extra work pays off.
Right now I am planting lots of lettuce in the field. I am
covering it as I plant, in hopes that the extra heat from the remay
will push it a little faster. We are losing a lot of light each day, but
my plan is to get it to size and have it hold in the field. My favorite
variety, Magenta, is pretty rugged, and can freeze and then thaw a few
times without a loss of quality. A few years ago, I had a lot of it in
the field and some heavy snow was forecasted. I took a shovel and dug up
the heads, put them in a crate and took them to the greenhouse where
they held until my market day. It was extra work, but it saved the work I
already had in from being wasted.
Your row covers can last for three or more years if you
take care of them. I stuff mine into a grain sack once itís dry. If
things are going well, I even make notes about the length and condition
of the cover on the bag so I can know what I am getting next year. Itís
better to know about that hole while itís still in the bag.
Enjoy this procession to fall, and I hope things are going well for you and yours.