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.