How to add a row cover to an existing raised bed.

How to add a row cover to an existing raised bed.

Adding a row cover to an existing raised bed doesn’t need to be complicated.  The hardest part is probably bending the hoops but we’ll do a post on that later.  We used Johnny’s Seeds QuickHoop Bender for 4’ wide raised beds and it made the job a lot easier.

Assuming you’ve already got your hoops, whether purchased or DIY, adding them to your beds is easy. Keep in mind, there is no right way to do this. You could honestly just shove your hoops into the dirt and be fine but we wanted something a little more secure with the ability to remove and store the hoops if we don’t need them.  Here’s what worked for us.

Our beds are approximately 4’ x 8’ x 15” deep. 

SUPPLIES.

  • 1” 2-hole straps. How many you need will vary depending on how many hoops you are using.  Assume four straps per hoop.

  • One foot sections of 1” SCH 40 PVC.  Use a PVC pipe and tubing cutter or hacksaw.  Some hardware stores may also cut it for you, just ask.  Assume two per hoop.

  • Nails or screws to secure straps. We used some old 1” screws.

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Start by measuring the inside length of your raised bed/box. We built our boxes 4’ x 8’ but yours may be different.  If you have corner posts in your beds like ours, make sure to measure between posts.  You’re basically looking for the distance between end hoops.

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Next, decide how many hoops you want to use per bed. I decided on four for no particular reason; my mom uses five and three sounded like too few to prevent sagging.

Now it’s time for some math. Divide your measurement from above by ONE LESS THAN the number of hoops you plan to use. For example, for ours we divided 86” by 3 (one less than the number of hoops we wanted to use) and it gave us about 28.5” which is approximately the distance I should have between hoops.  I say, “about” and “approximtely” because, again, this project isn’t about the details; it’s about getting a row cover over your raised bed.

If you’re a perfectionist like me, however, and you care that two of your hoops are one inch farther apart than two others, you’ll also want to account for the offset created by the metal straps in the corners (which could also be alleviated by using one hole straps) but, for all intents and purposes, simply dividing the length of your bed into equal parts will work just fine. Remember, you’re trying to position some metal hoops, not build a rocket ship.

Starting at one end of your raised bed, measure along the inside, making a mark every X number of inches, where X is the number you calculated earlier. Do the same on the other side.

After some inner turmoil, torn between form and function, I settled on approximately 28” between hoops.

After some inner turmoil, torn between form and function, I settled on approximately 28” between hoops.

Dig out the dirt in the corners of your box as well as wherever you made a mark. Don’t make it hard on yourself by moving the dirt very far; just pile it in the center of the box/bed or dump it in a wheelbarrow. You’ll be shoveling it back into the holes in less than thirty minutes.

For this next part, it might help to have an extra set of hands; one to hold the hoop guide (PVC pipe) in position and one to secure the metal straps. I managed by myself but it wasn’t easy.

Using two of the metal straps and whatever hardware you can find (I used some old screws), secure the PVC pipes, vertically, as close to the corners as you can get and centered on your marks.

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I decided to raise the PVC pipe above the top edge of the garden bed, using a strap as a guide, in an attempt to keep dirt from filling the pipe. We had a similar setup on our old beds where the PVC pipes were too close to the soil line and quickly filled with dirt.

I decided to raise the PVC pipe above the top edge of the garden bed, using a strap as a guide, in an attempt to keep dirt from filling the pipe. We had a similar setup on our old beds where the PVC pipes were too close to the soil line and quickly filled with dirt.

Now, just fill the holes back in, drop your hoops into the hoop guides, and secure whatever row cover material you’re using to protect your plants from weather and pests!

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You’re one step closer to being ready for Spring.

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