Cody represents WeCycle Consulting, a firm that aims to save businesses money through composting. As you might expect for someone in his role, he’s got a lot of top notch compost available to him. There’s no doubt that compost is a huge factor in growing great tomatoes, but it was the use of Walls-O-Water that got my attention.
For those of you who are not familiar with Walls-O-Water, it’s one of many brands of “water teepees” that are used as mini greenhouses with warm weather vegetable plants like tomato, pepper, cucumber, melon and eggplant. The primary reason why people use them is to transplant vegetable plants outside earlier for a longer growing season.
Extending the season
I’ve used a number of methods for extending the season for tomatoes, including low tunnels and cold frames. I know that if you can start your tomato plants in the ground sooner, you’ll get better yields because the plants grow larger both above the ground and below. Last year I planted my Brandywine and Caspian Pink tomatoes early using a portable cold frame. It was amazing how much better the Brandywine did than in years past. The tomatoes were larger and they ripened a little earlier in the summer. Plus the plant stayed healthy and giving well into the fall.
This year I plan to start my tomatoes in Walls-O-Water inside a low tunnel. Depending on the weather, I probably won’t need to keep the low tunnel cover on very much. The temperature at night frequently drops down into the 50s and 40s Fahrenheit in early May in southern New Hampshire. But it can be much worse. Sometimes it is cold and rainy in May, June and even July for weeks at a time, so I’m not taking any chances. I’ll “put the top up” if we get a string of bad weather.
Using this double layer, I’ll have to be very careful I don’t fry the tomato plants. It would be easy to do if we get a relatively warm day and I still have the plastic on the tunnel. I’ll prevent this from happening by leaving the top off except for during the night – unless it’s really cold or overly rainy.
Tomatoes only a few days sooner
Strangely enough, the consensus is that you don’t get tomatoes much sooner using this method. This is probably because the tomatoes can’t set fruit until the night temperatures warm up above 60 degrees F. But Walls-O-Water do protect against frost, which in my part of the country is a very real possibility in early May. It also allows you to grow much bigger plants.
Here’s a Wall-O-Water advertising video showing you how they work.
Here are a couple of other alternatives to Wall-O-Water that are available from Amazon:
The most difficult part
Maybe the most difficult part of using a Wall-O-Water is getting it off without damaging the plant. Cody leaves his WOWs on throughout the growing season. If you live in a warmer climate, you can’t leave them on because the plants will fry.
Getting them off gets even more complicated when you take into account the tomato cages. You have to be careful that the cages don’t puncture the plastic cells. The other thing to consider is the tomato plant stems are pretty weak after the Wall-O-Water is taken off, so cages are even more necessary than normal.
How do you get a jump on the season with your tomatoes? Let us know by commenting below.
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