Plant Protectors

>> Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When I set out young plants into the garden I like to put some kind of protection around them. Young plants are quite tender and wind can break them off, cut worms can cut the tender stalks off, cold and frost can kill the plants. With protection around the plants all of the above things can be prevented.

My favorite plant protector has been a gallon milk (or water) jug with the bottom cut out and the cap removed. With this set over a young plant it is quite protected and has the benefit of a greenhouse.

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The photos above show a dozen young tomato plants covered with the plastic gallon jugs. Notice that the one plant is beginning to peek out of the top of the jug, an indication that the jug needs to be removed soon.

Although I haven’t use them, the clear 2 liter soda bottles can be used in the same way. Not as nice but workable is the 1/2 gallon cardboard milk cartons. Cut the bottom out, cut the four corners down on the top and put this over the plant upside-down. The “flaps” that have been created from cutting down the four corners are laid flat on the ground and dirt is raked onto each flap. This keeps the carton from blowing off.

When we used to buy canned goods at the supermarket I cut the bottoms out of the cans and placed them around plants. But, we seldom get cans now. However, I came up with a similar item. I use 3” PVC pipe cut into 5” to 6” lengths. These will last forever and the white color seems to help as well. Last Spring I set out tomato plants before Connie and I took a trip to Texas. I put the PVC protectors around several but didn’t have enough made to put around all of them. When we returned the ones with the protectors were growing out the top. The others had not grown, in fact some had died. It made a real believer out of me.

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Here you can see dozens of the PVC protectors which have been placed around chard, cabbage and tomato plants. In the photo on the right you can see the happy little tomato plant inside the protector.

I came across a small book put out by Rodale Press, Inc., copyright 1982, entitled “Secrets of Master Gardeners.” There is an interesting little section with the heading, “Cups save tomato crops.” They discuss a plant protection cup that was being manufactured by a company in South Carolina (I can not find the company on the internet or any of their products). They described the cups as looking like “16- or 20-ounce jumbo milkshake cups without bottoms.” Kind of like my PVC protectors!

They related a story that I found quite interesting. “February 1981 was mild in South Carolina, but March saw drops into the 20’s and 73-mph winds. Ninety to 100 percent of the tomato transplants were wiped out. Growers using the cups, however, lost less than 10 percent of their transplants.” They also stated that with these cups the plants matured faster and often resulted in higher yields.

If you have never used plant protectors of any kind I would encourage you to do so. The cost is virtually zero if you recycle your cans and jugs.


Genevieve May 22, 2009 at 6:18 AM  

My mother always used coffee cans with one end removed and one end still attached so the "lid" could be opened or closed, depending on the probability of frost. I also use coffee cans, but I cut both ends completely out. My garden is always planted late enough that I don't worry much about frost.

In answer to your question about cottonwood trees that you left on my blog, Tree Notes, I don't know why you haven't seen any in Metcalfe County. We certainly have some large cottonwoods in Christian County along creeks and rivers.

Anna May 26, 2009 at 11:23 AM  

Good ideas! I usually put off planting my tomato plants because we never know when we're gonna get frost. This would make a difference, and we always have milk cartons.

Unknown September 8, 2011 at 9:49 AM  

Have you tried the Grow it Now! Plant Protectors? It is an interesting story. A fabrication company in Idaho invented it because the owner needed a bigger and easier to use milk jug for his garden. Look it up online it really is neat. I used them in my garden this past season and they worked great. I was able to start my cold hardy vegetables as soon as the soil could be worked and then I moved them over to my warm weather vegetables around the avg. last frost. The Plant Growth was phenomenal. Check them out.

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