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My garden is a small area of containers on a couple of roll carts. There are arching hoops over the top, and they're about 3 1/2' high. I want to cover the area to protect my plants from the cold and freezing weather that will soon come. The only solution I've ever heard of is to use plastic sheeting, which is handily transparent for visibility, lets the sunlight in, and retains the heat. There must be some alternative.
Glass. It's always been used in cold climates and I'm pretty sure most gardeners prefer it. The fact that it "might" smash far outweighs the fact that plastic doesn't last long before it goes yuk even if it doesn't get holes too soon.
This relates to any size space. A small area can be protected and improved by having a framed sheet of glass or 2 (salvaged window, unused picture frame without backing, etc) angled in the right spot when needed.
There is no denying the superiority of glass in its affect on protecting while allowing passive solar warmth.
What about using floating row cover material on the hoops? I do not not know what the material is made out of though. It maybe plastic as well.
Row covers are not plastic but nonwoven fabric. I'm not positive what kind. They will not provide enough protection from the cold during the winter (at least not in the Midwest -- not sure where the gardener lives). Glass is definitely your best bet if you don't want to use plastic, but heavy and perhaps not practical for container gardens. Maybe you can find some discarded plexiglass to reuse, or an old shower curtain or other plastic sheeting that you can upcycle.
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