Improvising: Masonry Ladders for Plant Protection

Today was a day.

It involved a rediscovery of termites, which are slowly eating away at our dear old house.  (Almost one hundred years this house has been here, and these darn termites choose NOW to start their destruction!?)

It also involved taking kids to the doctor and having to get the kids in and out of the car more times that one person should have to do in a single day. Needless to say, everyone is pooped!

All of this to say, that today’s post is a quick and easy one.  However, we think it is a nifty little use of the material we have on hand and it is definitely thrifty.

You see, in the southwest, we are blessed to not have to worry too much about the cold (though it DID get down into the 20s for a week or so and it DID snow in the valley this year).  We can pretty much grow through the winter, especially with proper protection for the plants.  However, it is the summer that kills us (and the plants).  It is the never-ending days of 110-115 degree days that exhausts even the most inspired and hardworking gardener.  And sadly, those days of temperatures in the 100s are not far away.

This past week has really seen an increase in temperatures, and it is well over 100 in the sun.  As a result, every time we’ve peered out the kitchen window to look at our new, beautiful herb garden, we’ve seen a bunch of droopy, sad-looking plants.  We water and they perk a little but they’re right back to droopy the next afternoon.  We realized that it had come time to give them a little protection from the sun.

Around here, we make great use of masonry ladders  to create hoop houses – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytunnel  for our tender plants.  Masonry ladders are incredibly inexpensive (less than $3) and readily available at any local hardware store.

Here is an example of a ‘hoop house’ on a large scale. Ours does not have to be this big, but the picture will give you an idea of what a ‘hoop house’ is if you’ve never seen one.

The only adjustment you might need to make is cutting the length to fit your application.  Masonry ladders generally come in 8”x10’ lengths. If you’re planting directly in the ground, or if you have a low raised bed, then you’ll need to trim the ladder up a bit. We were having some trouble finding a tool (short of bolt cutters, which we do not own) that would do the job.  Luckily, we thought to pull out our handy dandy Dremel – and it did the job perfectly.

Here are a few options for Dremel tools that can be used to cut the masonry ladder as well as many other things:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Dremel 200-1/15 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit
Dremel 3000-1/24 1 Attachment/24 Accessories Rotary Tool
Dremel 4300-5/40 High Performance Rotary Tool Kit

 

1. Dremel 200-1/15 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit

The Dremel 200 Series rotary tool has two speed settings to allow you to use the lower speed for cleaning and the higher speed for cutting, routing, and sanding. The rotary tool comes with 15 accessories.

2. Dremel 3000-1/24 1 Attachment/24 Accessories Rotary Tool

This Dremel 3000 Series rotary tool has a variable speed from 5,000 to 35,000 rpm. There are 24 accessories which will allow you to carve/engrave, cut, clean/polish, and grind/sharpen/sand.

3. Dremel 4300-5/40 High Performance Rotary Tool Kit with LED Light-5 Attachments & 40 Accessories- Engraver, Sander, and Polisher- Perfect for Grinding, Cutting, Wood Carving, Sanding, and Engraving

The Dremel 4300 Series rotary tool has five attachments and 40 accessories as well as a plastic storage case. It has variable speeds from 5,000 to 35,000 rpm, giving you consistent performance and accurate tool controls.

We used a white fabric called Agribon to protect the plants.  You could also easily use burlap or a screen of some sort. It is important to let enough light in, so light is still getting through to keep the plants that you are trying to protect happy. Simply clamp, zip tie, or use string to connect the fabric to the masonry ladder so that it stays in place if the wind blows.

Here are some examples of the fabric you may want to use:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Plantonix Agribon AG-15 (9’10” x 50)
Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Crop Cover / Frost Blanket / Garden Fabric Plant Cover
Agfabric Standard Insect Screen & Garden Netting Against Bugs, Birds, Squirrels – Mesh Netting, White (10’x12’)

 

1. Plantonix Agribon AG-15 (9’10” x 50)

The Agribon AG-15 is a super lightweight fabric which allows 90% light transmission. It is also designed to protect fruits and vegetables from insects. The fabric also allows air and moisture to reach your plants.

2. Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Crop Cover / Frost Blanket / Garden Fabric Plant Cover

The Agribon AG-19 cover allows 85% light transmission and can be used to protect plants from frost, wind, and organic insect control.

3. Agfabric Standard Insect Screen & Garden Netting Against Bugs, Birds, Squirrels – Mesh Netting, White (10’x12’)

The Agfabric is an insect netting made of high-quality mesh cloth. It works to protect vegetables, flowers, plants, and fruit from birds, moths, and insects while allowing air, water, and sunshine to get through.

We tend to keep the ladders in place all the time.  It is easier than trying to store them and they can be used to grow vines on during the growing season. Depending upon your location, and whether you have climbing vines in your garden, you may not need to keep the ladders in place. Remember, though, that if you take the fabric off, you’ll want to fold it neatly to store it, so it is ready to use the next time you need it.

Alright, that’s all for tonight.  It’s time to eat some ice cream and sleep the day off.