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Tufbell Isolation Cages

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Here are more details of the tufbell isolation chambers devised by Jeff Nekola.

Tufbell is a row-cover material made of PVA (poly-vinyl alcohol) that is a bit heavier than most row cover material, and has certain additional characteristics. Among them, while it has good light and moisture transparancy, it also absorbs moisture, and the whole thing serves as a temperature control shield---like a low-effective wall of waters.

To make them, sew the tufbell into tubes that will slip over your cage. Jeff uses standard tomato cages. I don't like them (too flimsy), so use shorter versions of my re-inforcing wire tomato cages. Whatever you use, there should be enough material in the tube so that you can close the top with a drawstring, and seal the bottom with soil.

For my 3' tall towers, 2' in diameter, this is a tube five feet long and slightly more than the tower's circumference.

Erect the cages when you transplant the peppers (or other stuff---it works good for any erect plant). Several weeks after planting, introduce a handful of ladybugs into each cage. You may have to do this a second time later in the season as well.

Sewing should be done with nylon thread---which is a [deleted] to work with.

The Tufbell itself is very tough. Jeff is now in his fourth year with the same tubes, and figures they will last about ten years. Plus, unlike Remay and the like, Tufbell is repairable if it gets torn. Just sew up the rip.

The only downside is that there's only one distributor of Tufbell---Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Nothing against Peaceful Valley. I've always found them to be reputable people, easy to deal with. But I'm never comfortable when there's only one supplier of something.

Santa Barbara, CA

Thanks for the detail, Brooke.

Instead of sewing, can one find a glue (glue gun perhaps) to form the tube? Has anyone tried the material Agri-[number varying with weight]?


New Paris, OH


I was hoping you had found another supplier of Tufbell. We got our first box of it about a month ago and haven't used it yet though we have done all sorts of things to a reminant of it (burning, freezing, drenching etc).

Marsh, Tufbell is a lot longer lasting than agrifab, from what folks tell me, and it is transparent, unlike agrifab and you don't have to remove it even in very hot conditions. remember agrifab (even a light weight like ag-17) can cook plants in conditions exceeding 90F but tufbell because it is full of tiny holes (it is a weave, not spunbond) releases heat.
The other downside is initial expense-it is about 7 times more expensive than spunbond row covers. But it should last 10 to 15 years so in the end Tufbell comes out cheaper and with MUCH less trash to landfill

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Marsh: I don't know about glues. I'm sure there is some kind of adhesive that would work, but I don't have a clue what it would be. I would be leary of a heat gun, though, because you could easily melt the stuff.

Somebody suggested using an iron to heat-weld it. But I don't know anyone who's actually tried it.

Ohiorganic: I was hoping the same thing, but no such luck. I would really hate it if I fell in love with the stuff, and then they dropped it.

My concern is the initial cost. I think a lot of people look at that, get a glazed expression, and move on. And, of course, if it doesn't sell they will drop it. I'm giving serious thought to getting a full roll of it, and just storing it in the barn

15 years may be pushing things. But ten is certainly a realistic figure. When designing my cages, I worked on the premise that they would only last five years, and that I would have to replace the wire as well as the Tufbell (obviously not true). Based on that, they only cost $1/year. If I really get ten years out of them, that would drop it to .50 cents (actually less, because there's no reason for the wire to be discarded even after that long). I can't think of a less expensive way to build isolation cages.

BTW, Tuffbell is not fully transparent. It cuts light transmission by 5-8%. In practical terms, not enough to matter.

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