Tulle fabric as row covers: will it block out light?

spaghetina(SF Bay Area)October 5, 2009

I was just about to order a 50 yard bolt of tulle in a hunter green color to use as row covers, but I started to wonder whether or not ordering in such a dark color would block out light to my plants. It's very airy, and see-through, but at the same time, my brain keeps telling me that white will be a better choice because it won't absorb the light like something darker will.

I know many of you use tulle to cover your plants also, so do you think the darker color will cause any appreciable loss of light to the plants vs. using plain white?

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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I wouldn't waste money on tulle, when you can buy row cover. The tulle will probably break down in the sun as it is not UV resistant. Agribon 19 is a really good product. If you take care of it, it will last several seasons. There are different weights. That is just my two cents.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article about Row Cover

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:11PM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

I seem to hear differing opinions on the benefit of row covers. I've heard that some of them don't let much in the way of rain or moisture penetrate through the small holes, and that they seem to accumulate more dirt than tulle.

I really don't need the tulle for more than to deter squirrels from burying their nuts in my dirt, so spending a lot on row covers doesn't seem like an expense I want to put much money towards, so even though the tulle isn't cheap, it's still much cheaper than the covers, and won't be used for terribly long.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:24PM
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My wife uses a non-woven garden cover to keep the bunnies from chewing up bean and chard seedlings. It only takes two weeks for the seedlings to get large enough so they are not so attractive to the rabbits. This material is more or less white in color, I think we have about 20 square feet of it. We purchased it so long ago I don't remember the price. I think it was cheap.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:52PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I have been using it for a year now. I currently am growing spinach and lettuce under Agribon 19. I water it through the fabric and it is keeping out the bugs. Are you using in over the plants or just on the ground?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 12:14AM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

I'll be using it over the plants. Right now I have a large piece over some small lettuce and over an area that was just planted. I'm not sure how long the squirrels will be a problem, since it seems that they left everything alone all summer, and are just now starting to wreak havoc, but I really only need it to stop them from digging, at this point in time. When the weather warms again, I'll need something that'll keep the cabbage moths from laying, rather than going the BT route, but I don't plan on having the tulle up all winter long.

Granted, that's just what I'm thinking will happen at this point in time. I've never tried to grow anything in winter, and I don't know what sorts of pests show their faces in the cooler weather, so I may need to keep them up for longer than I anticipated. I have it worked out with pvc hoops and rebar, should the need arise, but $80 for the Agribon vs. under $40 for 50 yards of tulle... it just seems like I'm not going to need anything "heavy duty".

I guess I still just kind of need to know if the darker color is going to be an issue, or if white would be the way to go to maximize the amount of sunlight the plants will be getting during the shorter fall days. I imagine the darker color will act almost like shade cloth, but it being tulle with tons of small holes and thin, thin fibers, I'm not really sure.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 1:29AM
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Fabric exposed to sunlight will last longer if it is white. More sunlight is reflected away from lighter colors. That's why sails are usually white.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 10:48AM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I am not sure where you are seeing Agribon for $80. 50 yards of tulle is 150 feet. How wide is it? 3 feet? Here is 9 feet 10 inches wide by 250 feet long for $45. That is more than the tulle, but it is also more material.

I would also think that the added heat factor would really help your plants. I am not sure where you are growing in the Bay Area, but I am sure you could benefit from some heat retention.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 12:07PM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

Is yours from a retail store? If so, which one? I was looking on ebay because I have absolutely no idea where to buy Agribon. I think it started at $29.99, but shipping was over $50. I hadn't heard of it until yesterday, when you posted about it, lol.

The tulle I'm looking into is 9' wide x 150' long. Plenty wide and long for me, but I definitely think wider and longer is better. ...err... yeah.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 1:48PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Google Agribon 15 or 19 and there are a ton of places that sell it.

Greenhouse Megastore.com

Morgan County Seeds



to name a few.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 2:44PM
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I think they have similar nylon mesh sold at HD or other nurseries. It prevents only deers and rabbits (maybe squirrels too) from munching on your plants. I have not used it myself bu have seen it. It is pretty much invisible until you get very close.
But tulle should also prevent buggs like flies and flees.
I wonder if you can buy tulle from fabric stores?!
I will check into HD and fabric store (like hobby lobby).

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 5:34PM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

Fabric stores definitely carry tulle. I was looking into buying it from Jo-Ann Fabrics, but it's $2.69 for a yard of the 108" width. On ebay, I can get a 50 yard bolt of the same thing, in any color I need, for just under $50 shipped, but I also have a $20 gift card I need to use up, so that makes it around $30+tax for 108" x 150 ft.

It does look like I can get a roll of Agribon AG-15 for around $45 + shipping, but that shipping kind of kills it for me.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 5:52PM
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corapegia(z5 NY)

I have effectively used charcoal grey, fiberglass screen cloth as a shade for lettuce during the summer. So it probably depends on what you're growing under the net. (I grew up in CT in the 50s when the major crop was shade tobacco. The gauze covering the tobacco was white and very hot to work under.) I suspended the screen cloth on stakes above the lettuce and it produced all summer without the usual bolting. I'm pretty sure it would not work as well with eggplant which I cover with "Remay" like row cover to get them past the flea beetle blues. Also use the same row cover, flat on newly seeded beds to keep birds out and moisture in. Get highly increased germination. A couple of different weights of row cover are offered (mostly mail order, few garden stores seem to carry it). The very light weight types don't hold up as well as the heavier ones.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 9:47AM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

When in Phoenix back in the 60s I found a remnant of Dacron mosquito netting and used as a a screening material over a lath house. I believe it effected appreciable benefit. I rather preferred it over sunscreen fabrics sold for this purpose.

Dacron lasted much longer in the sun than did other similar fabrics. I haven't seen Dacron in years. Perhaps the patent ran out and it is sold under some other name.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 10:35AM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

I used Hunter Green Tulle in the garden this year both as a row cover and a trellis cover (isolation of plants for seed saving/protection from SVB). I don't think the tulle blocked the light - the plants underneath grew very well. I really prefer the "breathability" (made up garden word) of tulle over traditional row covers. It definitely holds in less moisture. The squash plants with the tulle had much less powdery mildew that those covered with regular covers.

I like the look of the hunter green MUCH better than white. When I look out into the garden, I barely notice it. It has not degraded this year and seems pretty strong. The only trouble I had was with the white tulle. Mice/voles were under the row cover eating all my cowpeas. Either a cat or an owl landed on top of the row cover and split it in half. With traditional row covers, a predator would not be able to see the mice.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 12:28PM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

Shoot. I wish I'd waited one day. I ordered white yesterday, and I think it's being shipped out today. I'm going to see if I can stop the guy, and have him send me the green instead. When I saw it in the store, I thought, oh... that'll look SO much better than white. You won't even be able to see it. But then I got to thinking about the dark color, and well, this thread was born. But since there are so many holes in it, and since you've said you used the hunter green and it worked great, that's enough of a recommendation for me. I hope he didn't send out the white this morning. :( It's the first time ever, that I've hoped an ebay shipment went out slower than promised. Lol.

Oh well. If the white comes, I guess maybe I can try selling it off on Craigslist or something, and then buy the green. I only paid around $33 shipped for 50 yards, and 30 yards from the fabric store with a 50% off coupon costs more than that, so maybe someone will want to snatch it up.

Thanks for the input, Bellatrix. It was exactly what I was hoping to hear! :D

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 1:54PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I've used the Agribon floating row cover for years; since I buy it in bulk, it keeps the cost down. Spun-polyester fabric retains heat & moisture, so it is good for plants which thrive in those conditions. Peppers really do well, the ones I have covered (for seed saving) always ripen earlier & out-produce those grown in the open. I highly recommend Agribon for covering young squash plants, it has been 100% effective for me in preventing SVB infestation.

But not all veggies thrive in a humid environment - beans & tomatoes in particular. When I tried growing them under Agribon, they began to suffer from foliar diseases (which vanished when the cover was removed). For them, a more breathable fabric is best, either tulle, or the mosquito netting. Both are good for keeping out pests or insects, but have poor heat retention. Of the two, mosquito netting is the more durable.

If you live in the Bay Area & plan a winter garden, you might want some heat retention... but in Summer, a darker, more breathable fabric (as a sun screen) would be preferable.

Should you still be interested in Agribon, you might want to check out Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. They are located fairly close to you in Grass Valley, CA, so shipping shouldn't be cost prohibitive. You can get it as cheap as $20.00 for a 83" X 50' length.

Here is a link that might be useful: Peaceful Valley / row covers

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 2:44AM
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I went to HOBBY LOBBY crafts store. They also sell fabrics.
They sure have all kinds of tulle, width, color,mesh size.

I picked some white one, 72" wide, mesh size about 1/16th of an inch, at $1.19/linear yard. That is 60Cents per square yard. not bad. I am going to use this primarily to deter rabbits.
Next spring I will get finer grade to protect things like eggplant seedlings from fleas/flea beetle .
What I got is nylon, almost transparent. So it will not absorb heat from sunlight and hopefully will last longer.
Actually you can cover vegetables that do not need pollinators, and/or you do not want them to grow seeds, all year round and keep the birds, bugs, etc away. Good stuff.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 6:14PM
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spaghetina(SF Bay Area)

That's a good price for the 72". I went with the 108" because I wanted to be able to drape it over my hoops with room to be anchored to the ground without needing to sew anything. Thankfully, I caught the ebay seller in time, and he'll be sending me the hunter green. I suppose if I find that it, for some reason, doesn't work out, I can go with white later on down the line. I do really like the idea of how the green should blend in though. When I looked at it at the fabric store, I kept thinking how much less conspicuous it'd be. Fingers crossed that it all works out. It's all a matter of trial and error here at my house.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 9:32PM
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