clear tarpaulin

How Can We Use a Clear Tarpaulin for the Garden?

5 minutes, 15 seconds Read

What is a Clear Tarpaulin Cover?

A clear tarpaulin cover is a thick, plastic sheeting material that is completely transparent when installed. It is often made of polyethylene plastic that is UV-stabilized to withstand outdoor environments without degrading from sun exposure. Clear Tarpaulin covers are very versatile and can be used to protect gardens and plants from various weather threats like rain, hail, snow, and wind throughout the changing seasons.

Their transparent material allows sunlight to penetrate down to plants and soils below while still providing an effective weather-proof barrier. This makes clear tarpaulin a highly suitable option for extending a garden’s growing season on both ends – allowing earlier planting and later harvesting by preventing frost and freeze damage.

Benefits of Using a Clear Tarpaulin Cover in the Garden:

Protect plants from rain, sleet, snow, and wind: Heavy precipitation or strong winds can damage delicate flowers and foliage. A tarp provides coverage to prevent water damage or wind whipping.

Help retain heat and protect from frost: By trapping radiant heat near plants at night, a tarpaulin cover acts as a lightweight hoop house. On frosty evenings, it raises the ambient temperature by a few crucial degrees to avoid frost damage to tender varieties.

Control weeds and pests without chemicals: With their transparent barrier, tarps make it difficult for weeds to establish or for pests like slugs to gain access. This organic method of exclusion helps repel unwelcome garden intruders.

Extend the growing season: By covering crops earlier in spring or removing coverings later in fall, the cultivation window can be expanded by several weeks. Tarps enable growing seasons up to two months longer than leaving plants uncovered.

Clear tarpaulin covers have multiple applications for gardening sustainability as well as environmental and economic benefits. Their low-cost effectiveness makes them a worthwhile investment for any gardener looking to maximize yields.

One of the most significant advantages of a clear tarpaulin cover is its ability to extend the growing season. By offering protection from frost and cold weather, tarpaulin barriers allow gardeners to start seedlings and plant crops much earlier in spring. Roots are less likely to face freezing damage even if an unexpected cold snap occurs.

Come fall, tarpaulins make it possible to harvest later into the season as well. Plants are sheltered from the first frosts so fruiting vegetables and ornamentals produce abundantly for weeks more than without barrier protection. Even a modest two to three-week extension at both ends of the season can yield significant extra harvests.

Beyond season-lengthening perks, Tarpaulin covers shield against rainfall and storms. Hard driving rains can batter tender sprouts, and strong wind wreaks havoc on leafy growth. Tarps create a natural barrier from these weather assaults, preventing damage that would otherwise set plants back significantly.

The moisture-barrier feature also discourages weeds. Without light, weeds are unable to germinate underneath tarp coverings. Established weeds have trouble accessing nutrients and photosynthesis breaks down, eventually causing them to die off. With less weed pressure, valuable time and resources aren’t sapped from the main crops.

Likewise, certain harmful insects and disease organisms struggle to penetrate the clear plastic barrier. Slugs, snails, and other pests are thwarted from munching on leaves and stalks under protective tarp layers. Diseases spread less readily absent ambient moisture or direct plant contact. Natural pest and pathogen exclusion cuts down on the use of chemical interventions.

All these protective functions together offer reliable gardening results. Clear tarp sheeting allows for harvesting higher yields more sustainably through non-GMO methods. The convenient, low-cost material produces bountiful environmental and economic returns on investment for passionate growers.

Inspect Frequently After Storms

It’s important to carefully examine tarps following heavy rain or wind to check for leaks, tears, or places where moisture may be entering. Catching small issues quickly prevents further damage underneath from prolonged exposure.

Anchor Edges Securely

Tarps can billow and blow away in strong gusts if not adequately anchored. Burying the edges with soil or weighting them down with stones, boards or sandbags helps maintain a tight seal even in rough weather.

Ventilate on Sunny Days

While tarps trap heat at night, they can also overheat enclosed areas during prolonged sunshine. Be sure to lift tarps or roll up edges during sunny, mild daytime conditions to allow ventilation and prevent over-warming of soil.

Rotate Crops Grown Underneath

Just as with any intensively farmed space, rotating types of plants grown under the tarp each season help the depletion of certain nutrients and reduce disease/pest pressures on the same families of crops.

Add Insulation for Colder Nights

An extra layer of floating row cover or old blanket placed over cooling tarps on very cold evenings provides a bit more insulation to push protection that much further into the season.

Consider Shading in Summer

A lightweight tarp draped but not sealed can provide shade to heat-intolerant crops on scorching afternoons without risking overheating trapped underneath.

Cold Frames

Cold frames are wooden or rigid plastic structures with a bottom, sides, and top covering of glass or clear plastic. They trap more heat than tarps as they have insulation properties. However, they are more permanent installations requiring construction and cannot be moved easily.

Low Tunnels

Low tunnels are similar to cold frames but use a lightweight hoop material instead of rigid walls. Plastic or fabric is draped over hoops to form a low arch over crops. Tunnels provide insulation like cold frames but are lighter and less expensive to set up.


Individual plant cloches are transparent bell jar structures that sit over individual plants. They effectively boost soil temperature but only cover a small area. Properly venting multiple cloches takes more management versus a single tarp.

Fleece Blankets

Fleece blankets are thin, breathable fabric rolls that protect plants from light frosts. They are inexpensive but less durable than tarps or plastic sheeting. Fleece also does not insulate as effectively for severe frosts.

Hoop Houses

Larger semi-permanent hoop house structures use PVC piping or wood bent into a roof shape and covered with plastic. They offer season extension possibilities comparable to a greenhouse but require more substantial construction.

On balance, clear tarpaulin covers provide an optimal balance of protection, cost-effectiveness, portability, and versatility compared to these frost mitigation alternatives for home gardeners. Their simple use delivers great rewards.

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