Raised bed Covers

Raised bed Covers

Raised vegetable beds have a number of benefits, including protecting crops from foot traffic and creating a more comfortable working height. Another benefit is how versatile and adaptable they are. The raised bed framework can be combined with crop protection covers, effectively creating a covered growing structure.

Adding a protection cover to your raised bed will increase its practical uses, and ensure greater success rates when growing vegetables. There are four main types of cover you can add, and which can be held securely in place by a support frame:

  • Plastic
  • Mesh netting
  • Bird & Butterfly netting
  • Garden Fleece

A good raised vegetable bed cover should be dome-shaped to resemble a mini polytunnel. This shape allows extra headroom for plants as they grow. Large cloche hoops or our mini polytunnel frame are perfect for achieving this shape.

Here at Quickcrop we supply simple kits to build raised bed covers which can be either ordered as a full kit or as individual components.

A mini polytunnel

Should I Cover My Raised Beds?

The advantages of raised bed covers include:

- Frost Protection: A fleece covering can trap warmth and insulate your crops when the temperature drops. Horticultural fleece can insulate seedlings from temperatures down to -3 or -4 degrees. At the same time it allows light and water to penetrate, and is light enough that it won't damage or interfere with the growth of young seedlings. 

Fleece can also be used to ease the transition when moving plants from the polytunnel or indoors to outside in the garden.

Weather Conditions: Raised bed covers can provide protection against the elements. Weather can be unpredictable, even during the traditional gardening months - whether it's hailstones, heavy rain, or strong winds.

- Pest Protection: Plastic and fleece covers will discourage garden pests from interfering with crops. Micromesh covers can protect against smaller insects like aphids, carrot flies or cabbage root flies.

- Extending the Growing Season: With a polythene raised bed cover, you can create a small microclimate for your raised bed: it's effectively a mini-polytunnel and (as below) has the same overall structure and design. This will allow you to get a head start on the growing season in early spring, as well as to grow later in the year.

What Can You Cover Raised Beds With?
Plastic covers are generally made from high quality clear polythene, the same kind used in larger polytunnels. This provides a complete barrier between your plants and pests, harsh weather or animals, while still retaining heat and humidity. Using a clear plastic cover on your raised bed will increase the soil's temperature and create a humid atmosphere, enabling you to start growing earlier in the year (and extend the growing season later on too). 

To create a mini polytunnel, just attach the poly cover to a mini tunnel frame or cloche hoops and attach to a raised bed. The mini polytunnel can also be used on beds inside of an actual polytunnel; this way you can benefit from a double glazing heating effect.

a mini mesh polytunnel

When the weather heats up a plastic cover may no longer be required; replace with a good micro mesh cover to keep pests away and prevent scorching if the weather really takes off.

Micromesh is an ultra fine garden mesh netting that offers the best insect protection for plants. It effectively keeps garden pests like carrot flies, flea beetles, and aphids out while allowing air and water in. A micromesh cover doesn't have to be removed for watering or applying a liquid plant feed. 

Cabbage white caterpillar

By way of example, cabbage white caterpillars (the larval stage of the cabbage white butterfly) can destroy your cabbage family crops incredibly quickly if you don't spot and remove them; I have been away for a couple of days and returned to the horror story above on one of my sprout plants. 

The best way to deal with cabbage white caterpillar damage is to prevent them reaching your plants in the first place and this means protecting your crop with Enviromesh insect protection mesh or a larger gauge butterfly netting. Also, more and more chemical pest control products are being withdrawn from from the market as regulations tighten (not a bad thing) so it makes sense to future-proof your garden with organic pest control in mind.

Rolling fleece over seedlings

Fleece covers for raised beds protect plants from pests, animals and the elements. Most importantly fleece insulates them from frost and colder conditions down to -5 degrees, while still allowing light, air and moisture in to circulate. It is especially good for getting an early start for vegetable plants or for overwintering. It can also be used year round to protect against heavy rain, biting winds and strong sunlight, insects, animals and pests. 

Garden or horticultural fleece is very popular among UK vegetable gardeners, as it is reusable and can be set up in a matter of minutes to keep you ahead of our changeable climate. The fleece can be placed over seed beds without damaging tender young seedlings. The lightweight spun bonded material is easily pushed up by emerging plants.

Polytunnel kit frame

Making Crop Protection Tunnels for Raised Beds

Our 'hoop bed' is a raised bed system that features sturdy injection-moulded corner pieces to join the boards instead of the traditional wooden corner posts.

The system uses heavy duty plastic brackets, which are not just a method of joining boards to create wooden planters but also a support bracket for inserting plastic tubes. These tubes fix into the base, which can then be attached to a raised bed via a hinge for easy opening.

These support brackets can also be added to an existing raised bed; simply screw to the side of your planter as shown and slot in the tubing.

The reason we use this particular blue pipe design is that it holds its shape better when bent, making it easier to work with. This is especially handy if your are adding a spine along the back of your mini raised bed polytunnel and need to make straight sections as in the photo. We also supply x-piece joint sections which neatly fit inside the tube for this purpose.

Raised Bed netting cover weighed down at the edges with large stones.

The hoops can be covered with your choice of protection which can be fixed permanently or simply weighed down with stones or bricks as in the main photo. The hoops can be easily moved from bed to bed as you rotate your crops around the garden, which gives you an incredibly versatile pest control system.

Cloche hoops can be pushed into the soil of the raised bed or fastened to the sides. 

Any cover can be used with either method. Use:

  • plastic for a mini greenhouse effect
  • netting for a pest protected vegetable bed, and
  • fleece for the ultimate season extender.