What Can You Use To Cover Plants? (11 Plant Cover Ideas)


Sometimes you need to cover plants protect them from garden hazards like cold, wind, and pests.  If you are drawing a blank on what to use for plant protection, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

So, what can you use to cover plants?  Some items you can use to cover plants include a cloche, bucket, grow bag, wooden crate, cardboard box, tomato cage, wire mesh, bubble wrap, row cover, blanket, or tarp.  Each item has its own strengths and weaknesses, so you will have to choose based on the situation in your garden.

Of course, you can combine these ideas to provide added protection for plants.  You can even come up with your own unique ideas to use whatever old junk you have in the garage, basement, or attic.

In this article, we’ll talk about 11 things you can use to cover plants.  We’ll also look at when and how to use each one for best results.

Let’s begin – we have a lot to cover.

What Can You Use To Cover Plants?

Once you start looking, you can find all kinds of stuff lying around the house that you can use to cover your plants.

clay pots
Turning a pot upside down is just one way to cover plants.

Here are 11 plant cover ideas:

  • Cloche
  • Bucket or Pot
  • Grow Bag
  • Cardboard Box
  • Wooden Crate
  • Tomato Cage
  • Wire Mesh
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Row Cover
  • Blanket
  • Tarp

Let’s start off with the garden cloche – a simple but effective way to cover plants.

Cloche

A cloche is a clear cover, made of plastic or glass.  It is used to protect plants from cold, wind, and pests.

A cloche can also act as a mini greenhouse by helping to retain heat in the air and soil below it.

A cloche that is sealed shut can act as a humidity dome to help retain moisture in the air and soil.

Most cloches are small, and will only cover a single young plant.  They don’t work for tall plants (such as fully grown peppers or tomatoes).

However, you can find row cloches that are long enough to cover several plants at once.

You have two options for cloches: you can buy them or build them yourself.

You can learn more about cloches (and other plant protection resources) on this page.

If you want to build your own cloche, it is easy to do.

water bottles
Cut out the bottom of a clear plastic bottle to make a cloche.

Here are the steps to make a homemade garden cloche:

  • First, take an empty plastic bottle.  A gallon jug of water or milk (clean it out first!) will work just fine.
  • Next, carefully cut out the bottom of the plastic bottle.  You don’t need to cut away much – just enough to leave an opening.
  • Then, put the cloche over the plant you want to protect.  You might want to mound up soil around the lower part of the cloche on the outside (this will keep it from blowing away in the wind).
  • Finally, you can remove the cap on top of the bottle on a hot day.  This will act as a vent to let in cool air on a hot day.

A cloche is great for protecting young plants from a cold or frosty night early in the season.  You can add extra protection by wrapping the cloche with a piece of bubble wrap, row cover, or blanket.

If you wish, you can leave a cloche on during a cool day.  Since it is a clear cover, it will allow sunlight to get through to your plant.

Just remember to remove a cloche from a plant on a hot and sunny day.  Otherwise, it will get too hot inside and the plant will succumb to the heat!

Bucket Or Pot

The idea here is similar to a cloche.  Take a clean bucket (such as a 5 gallon bucket) or a pot (clay or plastic) and turn it upside down to cover the plant.

metal bucket
Turn over a bucket to trap heat and protect plants from cold.

This cover is not clear, so you need to remove it from the plant during the day.  This will give the plant the light it needs to grow.

A bucket or pot with no holes will keep pests out (they could still get in by digging through the soil, though).  This idea will also protect plants against wind (which can break delicate branches on young plants.)

A small pot is good for small plants.  A 5-gallon bucket or larger pot is good for medium-size plants that are a little taller.

plastic pots
Turn over small plastic pots to cover younger plants.

Do you need to add extra cold protection?  Just wrap a piece of bubble wrap, row cover, or blanket over the bucket or pot.

In case of strong winds, pile up soil or mulch against the sides of the bucket, or put stones on top.  That should prevent it from blowing away.

Buckets and pots will not let light through, so you will need to remove them during the day.

Grow Bag

A grow bag is normally filled with soil so that you can plant something in it.  However, an empty grow bag could just as easily be turned upside down to cover a plant.

A grow bag is breathable, since it is often made of a fabric material, canvas, or burlap.  This can help to keep insects away from plants, but it might not provide enough cold protection.

burlap canvas
Grow bags are made of a breathable material like burlap or canvas.

However, you could wrap a piece of bubble wrap, row cover, or blanket over the top and sides of the grow bag to add extra cold protection.

Grow bags will not let much (if any) light through.  So, you will need to remove them during the day.

Grow bags come in all shapes and sizes.  You can almost certainly find one large enough to cover a medium sized plant, such as this 100-gallon grow bag from Bootstrap Farmer.

You can learn more about grow bags (and why to use them) in my article here.

Cardboard Box

Cardboard boxes are common and easy to find.  Even better, they come in all shapes and sizes, so you can probably find one that fits your plant.

cardboard boxes
You can probably find a cardboard box of the right size to cover your plant.

One drawback of a cardboard box is that it will not last long in the rain without some type of cover.  Of course, you can wrap bubble wrap or a plastic tarp over the top of the box to make it waterproof.

If you need extra cold protection, wrap a piece of blanket or row cover over top and sides of the box.

Cardboard boxes are light, so they might blow away in the wind.  Use soil or stones to weigh down the cardboard flaps to keep the box in place.

A cardboard box will not let much light through, so you will need to remove it during the day.

You can also use cardboard for other purposes in the garden, including:

  • Compost (once you are done with cardboard as a plant cover, put it in the compost pile!).
  • Mulch (you can also use cardboard as mulch to smother or prevent weeds).
  • Plant Collar (cut and glue cardboard sheets to make tubes for plant collars).
  • Plant Container (use a wide shallow box as a seed tray, or a small one as a plant pot).

You can learn all about ways to use cardboard in the garden in this article.

Wooden Crate

A wooden crate is sturdier than cardboard.  It will hold up better when exposed to soil and rain.

These wooden crates can act as support for a blanket to cover plants.

Most wooden crates are short, but they are still useful for covering plant such as:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Young Plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc. before they get too tall).

A wooden crate does not let much light in, so you will need to remove it during the day.

Add extra protection by covering the top and sides of the crate with a piece of bubble wrap, row cover, or blanket.

When the wood rots, you can compost it or burn it (as long as it does not contain chemicals found in certain types of treated wood.)

Tomato Cage

A tomato cage is another way to cover plants.  However, this is one method that won’t really work on its own.

pepper in cage
A tomato cage makes a good support for a blanket or other plant cover.

After setting up a tomato cage around a plant, it is time to get creative.  You can use anything you have available to wrap over and around the tomato cage, including:

  • Bed Sheet
  • Blanket
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Row Cover
  • Small Tarp

The tomato cage will prevent the cover from touching the plant.  This is important because the leaves that come in contact with a cloth or plastic cover can get burned by frost on a cold night.

You will need to remove the cover during the day to let in sunlight.  However, the cage itself can stay in place.

There are several ways to secure the covering over the tomato cage, including:

  • Binder Clips
  • Twine
  • Wire Ties
  • Zip Ties

This list is just for starters – you can find 10 ideas on what to use for tomato ties in my article here.

twine
You can use twine to tie a blanket or other cover to a tomato cage.

Tomato cages can come in all shapes and sizes (round, square, short, or tall).  You can probably find some that are 4, 5, or even 6 feet tall (such as this tomato cage from Gardener’s Supply Company).

These bigger cages would allow you to cover all but the tallest plants.

You can learn more about tomato cages (and why to use them) in my article here.

Wire Mesh

This is a good alternative to tomato cages if you have extra chicken wire or rabbit wire lying around.

Bend wire mesh into the right shape and put a blanket over it to cover plants.

First, bend the wire into the shape you want (round, square, or even long enough for a row).

Next, secure the wire.  One way is to dig a little into the soil, put the wire in place, and fill in the soil.  Another way is to use stakes to support the wire and tie it to the stakes with twine.

Then, wrap use something to wrap around the top and sides of the wire, such as:

  • Bed Sheet
  • Blanket
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Row Cover
  • Small Tarp

As with a tomato cage, the wire will prevent the cover from touching the plant.

You will need to remove the cover during the day to let in sunlight.  However, the cage itself can stay in place.

Bubble Wrap

A piece of bubble wrap works great to cover plants.  It provides a layer of plastic and also a layer of air to help insulate plants from cold.

bubble wrap
Bubble wrap is a good choice for a plant cover, since it lets sunlight through.

It will also keep pests away from plants.  Bubble wrap is also clear, so it will let sunlight though on a cold day (but you should remove it on a hot day to avoid cooking your plants!)

This method will need some type of support to avoid damaging plants.  A plant can get burned by frost on a cold night wherever it touches a plastic cover.

One option is to use a tomato cage or wire mesh to hold up a piece of bubble wrap.  Another option is to use stakes and twine to create a structure for bubble wrap to rest on.

Either way, bubble wrap is light and will blow away on a light wind.  Pile up soil or stones around the edge of the bubble wrap on the ground to secure it.

Row Cover

A row cover is a lightweight sheet of flexible fabric (often polyethylene, polyester, or polypropylene).  It is used to cover plants to protect them from cold, wind, and pests.

row cover
A row cover protects several plants at once.

You can buy a large roll of row cover material and cut it into individual pieces, one for each plant.  You can also use a long piece to cover an entire row of plants all at once.

Row covers come in various thicknesses.  The thicker ones provide more cold protection, but allow less sunlight to get through.

There are two basic types of row covers:

  • Lightweight – sometimes called insect barriers or summerweight, these row covers provide 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit of cold protection and allow 85% to 95% of sunlight through.  It weighs around 0.5 ounces per square yard.
  • Heavyweight – these row covers provide 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit of cold protection and allow 50% to 70% of sunlight through.  It weighs 1 to 2 ounces per yard.

Since they let some sunlight through, you won’t need to remove them every night.  One of the best things about row covers is that you can also water plants right through them!

Row covers will need some type of support.

One option is to use a tomato cage or wire mesh to hold up a piece of row cover.  Another option is to use stakes and twine to create a structure for row cover to rest on.

Either way, a row cover can blow away in the breeze.  Use stones or soil around the edges of the row cover to keep it in place.

You can learn more about row covers (along with why and how to use them) in my article here.

Blanket

This method also includes towels, bed sheets, and frost blankets.  The size of the blanket will depend on the size of plant you need to cover.

bed sheet
Use blankets, sheets, or towels to cover plants.

You can cut up old blankets or sheets into smaller pieces to cover smaller plants.  A good frost blanket can provide several degrees of frost protection for plants on a cold night.

As with bubble wrap, this method will need some type of support to avoid damaging plants.

One option is to hold up the blanket using one of the methods mentioned earlier, such as:

  • Bucket
  • Pot
  • Grow Bag
  • Cardboard Box
  • Wooden Crate
  • Tomato Cage
  • Wire Mesh

Another option is to use stakes and twine to create a structure for blanket to rest on.

A heavy blanket can still blow away in a strong wind.  An animal pest could also move it to get to your plants.

So, put stones or soil around the edges of the blanket to keep it in place.

Tarp

A tarpaulin (tarp) is a large sheet used for protection of objects, including plants.  A tarp is made of material such canvas, polyester, or plastic.

tarp
A tarp is another option for covering plants.

As with a blanket, this method will need some type of support to avoid damaging plants.  You can use any of the methods mentioned above to help hold up a tarp.

A tarp can act like a sail and may blow around violently in a strong wind.  So, use stones or soil to weigh down the edges of the tarp and secure it in place.

Conclusion

Now you have 11 ideas to cover your plants and protect them cold, wind, and pests.  You also know when and how to use each method.

Maybe inspiration will strike and you will come up with some creative ways to use household items to cover plants.

You might also want to read my article on when you can leave plants covered all day (and when you should not).

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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