Row Covers to the Rescue for A Changing Climate

Row covers are the desert gardener's secret weapon for growing in a harsh climate with minimal water.

A changing climate challenges every gardener to rethink the way we grow vegetable gardens.  Everywhere the extremes of the growing season are hotter, colder, wetter, drier, and nature is responding in ways we never anticipated.  Bugs don’t die and their eggs or pupae live into a second year to infest plants.  Abnormal cold late in spring or early in fall shorten the growing seasons so some crops can’t mature fully.  Drought stresses plants so much their normal resistance to heat, pests and disease is diminished.  Only one thing is for sure: unpredictability is the new normal. Organic market gardeners who can’t afford to lose their crops drove development of problem solving fabrics called row-covers.  These materials allow rain and air to pass through, but keep everything else out.  They sit upon hoops over vegetable rows to create temporary Quonset hut-shaped affordable greenhouses that both protect the plants and enhance their yields. The basic row cover set-up is about four feet wide and is of infinite length. It’s composed of support hoops made of wire, PVC plastic or metal grids sold for reinforcing concrete.  Row cover fabric is laid over the tops of the hoops, the long sides anchored to the ground with rocks or earth or a long piece of salvaged lumber.  The ends are gathered like a pony tail, tied closed and secured with a stake.  Inside this Quonset hut the plants are protected from weather and pests and cold.  When they grow older and less vulnerable or too large, row covers may be partly or completely removed to allow pollinators to reach the flowers.  The same or different covers can be replaced at any time of the season depending on the crop’s unique needs, or to solve both expected and unexpected challenges. Row cover fabrics vary in purpose and weight.  The most valuable to home gardeners is the super lightweight “floating” row covers made of spun polypropylene designed to keep seedlings protected from insect pests.  Preventing the start of these problem bugs early in the season using a row cover shelter allows plants to thrive and grow more quickly to a size better able to protect itself naturally. Row cover material increases in weight and density with each increment of frost protection.  Using row covers to plant earlier in spring reduces the amount of time you must tend small seedlings indoors.  The row cover can be removed after temperatures warm, or you can replace it with the light weight floating covers for insect protection.  During the depths of summer a row cover can provide ideal shading in very hot southern regions. Then in the fall as temperatures fall, frost-preventing row covers go back on the garden to keep plants productive long after the rest of the garden is lost.  In mild climate regions row covers can mean fresh produce throughout the winter months. Row covers also help to maintain humidity around plants and to reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil.  This is a big help for areas
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The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening Without Wasting Water

Turn A Desert Dry Wash into A Vegetable Garden


This year I’ve moved to a new desert home! Biggest problem is soil that’s largely sand and lacks organic matter and is not bio-active so I need a POWERFUL amendment. So I’m testing out Black Gold Soil Conditioner to see if it will turn a dry wash into a productive vegetable garden.
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Dot Ponders Nature and Creation


Dot found this beautiful statement from a 17th century English laborer who spent his life in the woods and fields close to the Creator…  I like to think of God in the music of the winds among the trees, in the delicate blossoms of the sweet wild rose, and in all other creations of His hands; this is the only explanation I can give as to how I became a lover of nature.   Dot and I both agree Nature touches us in a most tangible way.  We love to dwell among its flowers or wander in the woods as it quiets the continual voice of the mind and brings us nearer to God.  Often these places are far more holy than churches, their quiet filled with rustling leaves, the hum of the bees, and the twittering of birds overhead.  These are the sounds and feelings we experience when we work in our gardens.  God is manifest in the music of the wind and the purity of a petal and in every other created thing on earth.   

Dot and van Gough and Meteor Showers of Fall


Dot has been watching the meteor showers every night and recalled her favorite words on the relationship of spirit to art by Vincent van Gough.  She thinks he may have seen meteors and the night sky more vividly than we ever will and was so inspired to write these lines: I have…a terrible need…shall I say the word?…of religion.  Then I go out at night and paint the stars.  Starry Night by Vincent van Gough What Impressionist painter Vincent van Gough sought was his own sense of spirituality, which he celebrated through his art.  We, too, may express our spirituality in our gardens and the plants that dwell within them.  For no one who knows the deep truths of horticulture can help but feel a divine presence, a force that orders the never-ending cycle of the seasons, the microscopic soil flora, and the monumental trees.  Whether our religious rites are best expressed by turning the earth, arranging beautiful flowers, or composing the essential palette of a living botanical painting, our creative endeavors touch the very soul of our being.    A humble Starry Night garden mosaic by Mo  

Dot Says Find Yourself Again In Nature

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 Again Dot has been reading Emerson in between Frizbee sessions and swims in the pool.  She really likes his 1836 work on Nature where he articulates the recuperative value of wild places.   The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again.  In their eternal calm, he finds himself. Every time we trudge to the office, we lose a bit of ourselves somewhere in the chaos of commuting and the workplace.  Schedules, traffic, and daily conflict and stress combine to separate us from the things of the spirit.  We need not venture far to reclaim some of this lost calm, for if we cultivate a garden of our own, we may rest there awhile and discover the self.  Emerson knew a hundred years ago that, while commerce threatens the soul, nature offers a simple remedy. Click here for ideas on spiritual garden themes at  Click here for Rooted In The Spirit: Exploring Inspirational Gardens by Maureen Gilmer

Desert Garden Corn Songs

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 Dot’s ancestry among the wild dingoes of dry Australia and her life here in Palm Springs gives her a special affinity for the arid landscape.  She is enamored with the poetic language of Pueblo harvest songs of the American Southwest… Great is a ripe sunflower, and great was the sun above my corn-fields.  His fingers lifted up the corn-ears, his hands fashioned my melons, and set my beans full in the pods.  Therefore my heart is happy, and I will lay many blue prayer sticks at the shrine of Ta-wa.  Until you have tried to garden in a desert, you can’t come close to understanding the great sense of accomplishment people must have felt when they had a good crop ready to harvest there.  The Pueblo songs are among the most beautiful of all Native American prayers, and this one dedicates the successful harvest to Ta-wa, the Creator who makes things grow.  There is also an example of how the gods are honored at harvest time with a thousand different ceremonies around the world.  The blue prayer sticks represent through color the spiritual qualities of sky, water, and plants.  Click here to find our link to Native Seed/SEARCH, the best online source of heirloom Pueblo corn strains: