Great Weather! Time to Plant?


Wow! Great weather this weekend with no wind, warm temperatures and wonderful rain today. I hear tomorrow brings more rain. Today we had some great rain and boy is it welcomed. The native plants and trees and all of our plants are sucking it up. I can’t remember getting this much rain at this time of year in May. A great big plus is the night temperatures are starting to warm up too with the next 10 nights suppose to be from 35°F- mid 40’s. Pretty cold but above freezing.

So can we plant tomatoes? Is it time? Well that depends on whether the nighttime temperatures remain above freezing. Of course the first frost-free date is officially May 15th historically speaking, but back in 2011, we had a very warm May and many of us planted early as it never got below freezing that May. Is this one of those Mays? Who knows, unless you have a magic ball. By the way, I waited to plant my giant pumpkins till later in 2011 (as they are so frost tender) and my 2010 State Record got broken that year by someone who went for it early. I guess I should have put them in but I just didn’t want to chance it. You have to be a bit of a gambler to put your plants in now.

tomatoes in wall of waters 1

But if you are a gambler and want to plant your tomatoes early, be sure you plant using wall of waters (WOW) as shown above.  If you use them, and the temperatures dip below freezing, they will protect your new tender plants. I always use them even when the nighttime temps are in the 40’s as I feel they provide more heat at night and keep them from setbacks. The cells of water warm up all day and give back the warmth at night to the plants like little greenhouses or cloches. Once they outgrow the WOW’s  (like in the photo above), take them off  the tomatoes, which will probably be late May. Do not leave them on all summer.

Wall of Waters 101

I think Wall of Waters are one of the best early season aids for tomatoes and peppers in cooler areas of the country acting like little greenhouses keeping the plants warm at night, protecting them from our ferocious winds in spring and for getting a great head start for growth but they can be hard to put up around the plants especially if you are trying to do it yourself. I have another post addressing what amendments I use when planting  and how to plant tomatoes  but this primer is about wall of waters. You can still use wall of waters right now as the nights are still very cool for tomatoes and peppers.

1wow begin by watering

Here is the planted tomato with a big well around it. If the well isn’t big enough than the wall of water will sit lopsided. (I still had to put the drip line around the plant BEFORE I put the wall of water on it). Notice the green wall of water on the ground and the 5 gallon bucket. Some tomatoes are too tall for the bucket so I cut off the bottom of this 5 gallon bucket, first using a drill bit to drill a hole big enough so my sawzall tool could get inside and cut off the circular bottom. The bucket can go over the plant without smashing it over tall tomatoes.

2wow placing over bucketPut the bucket over the plant and then slide the wall of water (henceforth known as WOW) over the bucket.

3wow waterer

Another great tool for filling the WOWs is this watering wand. I like this one because it has an on-off switch and a lever for control of how fast the water comes out. Here I took off the end so it will fit easily inside each cell. (this is my favorite gardening shoe-can you tell-well worn?!!)

4wow-begin filling

Now put the wand into each ‘cell’ and fill with water. The 5 gallon bucket will keep the WOW from falling on the plant.

5fill cells each side

Fill a couple of cells, then go to the OPPOSITE side and fill a couple of cells and do this on all 4 sides instead of starting on one cell and going around where it will have a tendency to collapse. This will help the WOW to stand up better as you fill up the cells.

6wow finished

After filling all the cells, reach in a pull the 5 gallon bucket out and the WOW will now support itself. A perfect little greenhouse. But sometimes…


a cell will get a hole and leak after the WOW is a few years old. This is a problem as the WOW needs every cell  full to support itself, so…

8wow replacement cell

So you can buy replacement cells or make your own. Just take that leaky WOW and cut some good cells out of it for use as replacement cells for other leaky WOWs.

9wow installing rep cell

Take your replacement cell and fold it lengthwise in half as shown and slide it into the cell where the water leaked out.

10wow w replacement cell

Then fill up the replacement cell with water and it will hold up that cell. Now one last thing…

11wow finished with stakes

I put 3 bamboo stakes inside the WOW’s right next to the walls and make a tee-pee out of them and tie them together at the top in case the WOW wants to collapse from the wind, the tee-pee will hold the WOW up so it doesn’t crush the plant. These plants have been inside the WOWs for a while and I will take off the WOWs now. Just grab the WOW on opposite sides and pull them off the plant and dump the water back in the wells.

Started planting tomatoes May 11


I started transplanting tomatoes into the new garden section. My friend Tom, and I got 15 of them in the soil-all ready to go. We added to each hole: more compost, yum-yum mix, mycorrhizal fungi (for root growth), worm castings, epsom salts (for many blossoms), and dry milk (adds calcium to avoid blossom rend rot later). And this year to (hopefully) conserve on water usage, I’m trying silicon gel granules and some volcanic ash, both of which will keep water longer around the plant root zone.  All this stuff is mixed up with some of the existing soil in the hole.  Then we put the tomato plants in (and if they are rootbound, open the roots up a little), made a well around each one and water each hole several times to get the soil wet. Then I go back a third time and water in some Superthrive and seaweed fertilizer (helps with plant transplant shock). Afterwards I put a drip line around each plant and then put a wall-of-water around each of them to keep them warm at night because just when we think we are out of the woods weatherwise, it gets cold again.

To keep the wall-of-waters from collapsing when the wind gets blowing hard, I put some bamboo stakes inside the walls as shown in the second picture. Overkill? Maybe. But I will get some fantastic tomatoes during the season. I still need to put the main drip hose (1/2 inch size) around the perimeter of the patch and connect each individual drip line to it but I can hand water every other day for now till I get to it. Planting is the hands on intensive part-later it will be a breeze watching them grow..

Tomorrow-May 16, Amy Hetager, from Home Grown New Mexico, is coming with her students from Americorp to plant some more tomatoes. No shortage here-still got 55+ tomatoes to put in the ground!

Tomatoes are doing excellent in Wall of Waters

tomatoes coming out of wall of waters

All of my tomatoes that are in Wall of Waters are kicking ass right now, many of them outgrowing the Wall of Waters  (WOW) and needing me to take the WOW off. The 2 tomatoes that didn’t have Wall of Waters (I ran out) are struggling, even under row cover for protection. It is amazing to me how good the tomatoes do inside those wall of waters and how poorly they do without them. The Wall of Waters act like little greenhouses and are worth every dollar they cost. As a result almost all of my tomatoes have a great head start on the season. I know I’ve talked about them before, but they are worth a mention again. If you want to be really successful with tomatoes, I think you must get these and use them when you first transplant.