Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fabrics in the Garden – Stylish Enhancements and Economical Solutions

Burlap & Cotton Print Scarecrows in Iowa
 Springtime is upon us,
and many people have already begun to plan their flower and vegetable gardens, and seed their Jiffy-7 Peat Pellets.  I am happy to share with you my favorite ways to use fabrics to enhance your landscape's curb appeal, aid in weed control, and protect your garden from pests, winds, and critters.  Please feel free to share your personal stories in the comments and share this post with others.

Burlap – Fantastic for Planting
You no doubt have seen the burlap wrapped around the base of trees at garden stores.  This fabric is rugged, and retains moisture exceptionally well.  You can use this very economical fabric to plant your vegetable garden in two ways.
If you are planting seeds, sow as normal and then lay burlap on top of the garden and secure it with some bricks, garden rocks, or decorative pots.  Then give your garden a good soak.  The burlap helps keep the soil moist, and prevents winds and rains from removing your seeds.  Gently lift off the burlap when germination has occurred and sprouts appear. You can cut the burlap into strips instead of using it as a sheet if you have plants that will germinate at different rates.  You can also leave the burlap on the ground and cut away enough of the fabric around the sprouts to allow growth.
Instead of using Gardening Fabric from a
Hardware Store, Try Burlap for Plants.
I prefer starting my seeds indoors or buying flats of plants from the garden store and transplanting them.  About a week or two before I plant, I till the soil and lay a ground cover of burlap down, securing the edges with decorative bricks and garden pots.  This helps to cut back on the weed growth.  When I am ready to transplant, I cut a large X in the burlap, dig my hole and insert my peat pot.  After giving the garden a good soak, it is nice to add a layer of mulch or wood chips to help cover the burlap and further eliminate the weed situation. In our photo we show a typical gardening fabric from a Home Improvement store, but burlap will blend better with the color of the soil, for a more attractive presentation.

Netting - Helping the Garden Grow
When growing veggies that tend to vine, like cucumbers and eggplants, build a trellis with sturdy netting, like Petticoat Netting, No-See-Um Mosquito Tent Netting or Fishnet.  The curling tendrils of climbing plants love to wrap themselves around the thin fabric filaments.  You can either staple or tie the netting to garden stakes or posts for support.  If you set the trellis on an angle, the fruit will grow downward through the holes while the leaves form a protective canopy above. 

Use Netting to Keep Rabbits out of the Garden
The netting also provide protection against those ravenous varmints who creep into the garden at night.  One of my favorite tricks is to secure netting around the parameter of the plot using PCV pipe.  Cut the PVC pipes to about 3 feet (1m). Then drive them into the ground 1 foot (30cm), spaced out about 4 feet apart (1.3m). Top them with PVC T-ends through which you can run a sturdy rope.  Drape the netting over the rope, making sure to leave enough netting laying on the ground to bury into the dirt.  For added protection against the bottom coming up, you can lay down some railroad ties or put bricks and decorative pots around the perimeter of the garden, on top of where you have buried the netting.  To secure the top, as well as decorate the netting, add a layer of bright craft netting, or tie ribbons through the holes, especially at the top near the rope to keep everything in place during rains.  I recommend planting your climbing veggies on the north end to let the foliage become a decoration without impeding the sunlight for the other veggies. Your netting will also act as a protective barrier against wind to help keep the plants undisturbed in blustery or stormy climates.

Plagued by Cicada? – Protect Plants with Netting
Are you in a zone that will be attacked by cicadas this year?  Protect small trees and shrubs with craft netting.  It is wide, inexpensive, comes in a variety of colors, and the holes are finer than petticoat netting but sturdier than tulle and bridal veiling.  You will want to make sure to drape any plants whose branches are between ½”-1.5”  (12cm - 36cm) – or between a pencil and a large marker thick.  Female cicadas tear slits in these branches and lay their eggs in the slits.  Don’t worry about the large trees – any damage to their smaller branches will be like natural pruning.  Use craft netting to cover your trees and shrubs, securing the netting at the base and making sure the entire plant is covered so the female cicada can’t lay her eggs and destroy your shrub. If you use green netting, your landscape will look lush.  Or you can have some fun by making every shrub a different, vibrant color for a wild rainbow effect.

Netting Protecting a Vineyard
Cotton Gauze Covering Tobacco
More Great Ideas
You can use other fabrics to protect your garden from birds, rabbits, and harsh sunlight.  Sunlight?  Yes, some plants prefer partial sun to full sun, but your garden might not offer this naturally.  For short veggies, like many salad greens, you can buy wire to arc over your rows and then secure fabric as a canopy over the wire. Light and rain can still get to the plants, but animals will be frustrated and find easier dining in the neighbor’s yard.  You can also create an arc with wood or rope, as in the photos here. Try Bridal Illusion for light tenting, Craft Netting for something more durable, or cotton Cheesecloth for an eco-friendly option.  You can also use Cotton Gauze to provide some shade in a sunny part of your garden or yard where you feel it is needed.  Gauze is light and airy, but opaque enough to help cool a hot spot.  If you enjoy having your baby in the yard with you while you garden, consider setting up a canopy of either Rip Stop Nylon or of Flag and Banner fabric to protect against the young one from the harsh sun.  These nylon fabrics have a UV inhibitor, are durable, and can be set with grommets for constructing a make-shift awning.

I hope you have enjoyed these tips and tricks.  You will see some photos from my garden as the season progresses, both on our blog and on our Facebook Page: facebook.com/voguefabrics

Cheers!  -- Rogie


Anonymous said...

Here is an example from my own garden. The two tomato plants are from the same flat, were planted at the same time and treated the same way - the only difference being the netting around the cage on the left. Some theories as to the dramatic difference in growth include: the netting protects against wind/animals; the netting provides shade on the ground to trap more moisture while allowing plenty of sunlight for growth; the jazzy netting gave the one plant more self confidence to grow big and strong (remember, there are no bad ideas in gardening!). -Rogie

Anonymous said...

PS - Yes, I did place netting around the plant on the right after this photo was taken and the tomato plant then began to thrive. I am now consulting with my mom about how to construct a tomato garden for her windy balcony in Florida that will cut down on the wind, shield the plants from scorching summer heat while allowing plenty of light and rain....we're thinking about going with Gauze, which is so successful on the tobacco plants in similar climates. -Rogie