Even though we’re in the thick of summer, it’s time to start planting cooler weather fall crops in your raised garden bed. It’s also the time when every vegetable gardener is battling heat and pests. Wondering how to handle all of this at once? We have some garden protection ideas below, with many of them being inexpensive and DIY.
Why Protect Your Garden?
Of course, vegetables need the sun to thrive. Plants turn sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. But they can get too much of a good thing—overwhelming sunshine slows down photosynthesis and stops growth. On hot, muggy days with temperatures in the 90s or 100s, veggies are begging for moisture because the sun is drying out the soil and heating it too rapidly. Several days in this excessive heat, and your vegetables may never recover. And if that’s not enough, when it gets hot, the bad bugs like to come out and enjoy the garden. Squirrels and birds may eat up your tomatoes and berries, too, desperate for a water source.
How to Protect Your Garden
Protect Your Garden With Cloth
There are many options for protection from heat and pests, from purchased shade cloth to old bed sheets. Shade cloth comes in multiple weights; a summer weight will allow more sunlight through, while a quilted weight is best for late fall gardening to prolong crops. Be sure to give some air to your plants and allow pollinators to do their work. The best way to do this is by constructing or purchasing garden hoops (see the videos below). You can also shade just the south side of plants if you don’t have enough cloth to cover the entire garden.
DIY Protection for Raised Gardens Beds: We tried a couple iterations of this on the Eco Garden raised garden bed system:
1. The first option uses muslin cloth and old broom handles. It’s important to keep the shade cloth above the plants for good air circulation.
2. The second garden protection option was introduced to us by Trig’s, a grocery chain in Wisconsin that sells the Eco Garden Systems Original Garden. In this version, flexible piping is bent into hoops over the elevated garden bed. You can put shade cloth or bird netting over the top. This keeps the cloth from directly touching the plants, which could trap heat.
We created the same DIY design on one of our gardener’s Eco Garden. Her main concern was squirrel protection. Draping bird netting over the hoops worked perfect for this. She plans to use a thicker shade cloth for the fall to create a warmer environment to extend her growing season. And next year, she will use a summer weight shade cloth to avoid the bitter lettuce she experienced this summer.
Protect Your Garden With Tall Plants
Sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, or other tall sun-loving plants can act as shade for shorter plants that are more delicate, like lettuce. This is great not only for garden protection, but also to give height variety in your elevated garden.
Other Garden Protection Ideas
Other options include building a polytunnel, popping up a plant tent, using found objects like old window screens and narrow panels of wood lattice, or installing shade screens alongside plants.
Check out our post on tips to keep your garden watered properly, which is very important in the warm summer months. Happy fall planting, and don’t forget to protect your homegrown vegetables from the elements and the pests for a bountiful harvest every season.
Tell us: What have you used to shade plants and protect them from pests?