The North Carolina State University’s “Growing Small Farms” initiative recently released an introduction and overview of basic principles for season extension that may be useful when selling fabrics to your customers in the hot summer months and throughout the year. According to NC State, “season extension refers to anything that allows a crop to be cultivated beyond its normal outdoor growing season.” Extending the season for crops has many advantages, including developing potential year-round income, higher yields and higher prices for crops.
The science behind crop extension is fascinating. The key is to take advantage of the ground’s natural heat reservoir (or use tools to reduce heating during the summer months), along with other natural processes found in elements like water, to protect crops from cooler temperatures and frost. The hardiness, or amount of variation in temperature change that a plant can withstand, is also a factor that must be considered when planting and preparing sites for growing.
Using Fabrics To Extend Seasons
Row covers made from either polyethylene or spunbonded polyester are useful for controlling temperatures throughout the year. These covers can lay directly over the crop and cover multiple rows, or be hoop-supported “low tunnels” that generally cover a single row.
- Floating Row Covers – are not very labor intensive, and they allow most crops to be grown without damage while under the cover. However, tomatoes and peppers will not grow in this configuration. Proper support is necessary to prevent wind flapping from damaging younger plants. Weed control issues can also be a significant problem under row covers unless they are paired with plastic or other types of mulch.
- Hoop-Supported Row Covers – often carry the name “low tunnels,” and offer many of the same benefits as floating covers, but are more labor-intensive to install. These are best used in northern areas and must be monitored very carefully to keep from overheating crops on bright days. According to NCSU, these are best for peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and other upright-grown crops.
Of course, each of your customers’ growing situations will be unique. Acadian Industrial Textiles can help you navigate customer questions about fabrics that facilitate crop growth and season extension. Reach out to your Acadian representative for more information and guidance.