Planting out early tomatoes in Wall-of-waters

Planting out Early Tomatoes

The average last frost date around Stoney Acres is roughly May 15th.  But some years we can have frost as late as June 1st.  So an important part of season extension for us planting out early tomatoes in “walls-of-water”.  We always like to get a few tomato plants in early every year.  Conditions in the summer are really pretty good for tomatoes but we usually don’t get our first ripe tomato until around August 1st when the tomatoes are planted on the last frost date.  So planting a couple of plants early with the protection of wall of waters gets us a few tomatoes in July (or even June) for fresh eating.

For those of you unfamiliar with wall-o-waters, they are simply a heavy piece of plastic sectioned off into cells that you fill with water.  They create a green house like environment that gives the plants plenty of heat in the cool spring and they also protect against very heavy freezes.  The protection they offer your tomatoes is far superior to any other method I know of.  In fact I know people who use wall-o-waters in the garden as early as February and they keep the tomatoes warm and happy.

Wall of waters can be a bit of a pain to fill, but I have found an easy solution.  Simply put them around a 5 gallon bucket.  The bucket helps hold them up and then you can fill them easily with a hose.

Our goal is just to have some tomatoes before August so we also choose some early ripening varieties to plant.  This year we are trying two new cultivars.  First Early Girl which is a hybrid that will have its first medium sized fruit ready only 60 days after transplant.  Second is Sunsugar, which is also a hybrid cherry type tomato, whose orange fruit will be ready in about 62 days.  We planted these on April 21st, so our target date will be right around the end of June.  This is my first time with both these tomatoes so we’ll see if they actually get some fruit by that time!!

We always plant our tomatoes deep.  I strip off any of the lower leaves and plant the tomatoes in a deep hole.  Roots will then form all along the buried portion of the stem.  The science is still out on whether this helps the tomatoes produce more fruit, but I have found that it helps the plants during our dry hot summers.  It also makes the plants more stable to help deal with the strong winds we have in our area.

Once they are planted I water them good with a liquid fertilizer.  We use fish emulsion to keep things organic but if you aren’t worried about organic you can just use any complete liquid fertilizer.

Then we put the wall-o-waters over the top and we are off to the races for the earliest tomato of the year.

I usually keep the tops open like this unless we are expecting really cold weather.  When the weather is really cold we will close those tops up and maybe even clamp them shut.

 

The wall –o-waters usually stay on until roughly the 1st of June when all chance of frost is gone.  Usually by then the tomato plants have grown out the tops anyway.  You don’t have to remove the wall-o-water.  I know of some gardeners that just leave them on all year, but I think they are a little unsightly in the garden so I like to put them away in June.

7 Comments

  1. Jody May 4, 2012 8:12 pm Reply

    Thanks for the very timely post we bought “Cozy Coats” this year. They are some other companies version of “Wall of Waters”. We’ve been a bit frustrated with the whole filling-them-with-water thing. Your method has solved our dilemma. Thanks again, and here’s to tomatoes in June!

    http://springgardenacre.blogspot.com/

  2. Andrea May 10, 2012 3:43 am Reply

    I have seen these Wall of Waters but never actually used them myself, they do sound like a great idea ………..
    Very interested in the way you plant your tomatoes we have very hot summers and wind too so it makes sense to plant them deeper. thanks for sharing.

  3. April May 21, 2013 5:59 pm Reply

    Hey Rick. So I think I got my tomatoes out in the WOWs about a month ago? This is my first year trying them out. I did an early girl just bc I want a June tomato! And a couple Russian something that are heirlooms. Today I put out a few Romas and some cherry-types. I’m thinking I will put the WOWs on those as well to give them a head start since it’s just still not HOT and tomatoes love heat to really get growing. My early girl is peeking out the top. I’m having my baby Monday!! and trying to figure out timing to take them off. Remove Sunday night before I go to the hospital or wait until the end of next week when I’m home from the hospital? Are there any tricks to removing the WOWs? Any kind of hardening off? I also put them on 4 pepper plants and 2 basil plants a month ago. I also put out a couple of cucumber plants today and am considering putting some WOWs on those as well. I love cucumbers! I’m mostly curious when you got your first tomato last year?

    http://www.ourfoodstorage.com

    • Rick May 21, 2013 6:16 pm Reply

      April, It looks like the weather in our area is going to be pretty good for the next week so I would say you are okay to take them off now. The forecast is showing 80’s for the next 7 days, that’s good tomato weather. But if you don’t get time before the baby then they will be fine, some people leave them on all year and let the plants grow out the top. Be sure to water them good before you head to the hospital.

      Last year we had our first ripe early girl on July 4th. If I remember correctly it was ready a few days earlier but we left it for our 4th barbecue.

      Good luck with the new baby!!

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