|Tomato plants protected by Wall o' Water|
I never seem to time it right – some years, I’m way early, some years way late starting my tomatoes. I like to push the season – having your own tomatoes by 4th of July is an undeclared but fierce competition over here in the upper Eastern Shore’s farm country. But the increasingly unpredictable seasons have made the calculation about when you start seeds and when you can actually put plants in the ground more complicated. Normally, our last frost date here is about April 15 or so. Clearly, we're in a new normal, hard enough for gardeners, but the farmers and the CSA growers, who plant out in the fields, have it way harder; with our smaller scale, gardeners can do all kinds of things to protect our tender plants even if we've miscalculated the timing or if the season's unkind. To help deal with the vagaries of climate change, ingenious gardeners and commercial enterprises have developed a host of strategies to cope. Like Walls o Water (a trademark, though I think there are similar kinds of things now with different names).
|Tomatoes in garden after a frost|
|Filled protector around 5-gallon bucket for stability|
My tomato plants were desperate to get into the ground, but I knew – thank you, Marty Bass -- that we were potentially in line for frosts. While the soil thermometer indicated that the soil was borderline OK to plant some of my overgrown Solanaceae babies, the air temps were iffy and what was up ahead was potentially destructive. But the tomatoes either needed repotting or planting. So, bit by bit over several days last week, my husband, Gary, cleared some beds (bless his heart), and I planted ten tomato plants – Big Mama, Supersauce, Big Rainbow, Mandarin, Sungold, Green Envy, grape, Sunchocula, Gold Medal and Super Beefsteak – inside Walls o' Water.
|Tomato sticking out of top of protector|
Spent yesterday evening weeding the tiny spinach, carrots, and radishes as well as and the space around the tomatoes; everything was still thriving. So far so good. Most of them have about 6 inches of top also sticking out of the plastic protections, so we’ll see as the day wears on whether last night was too much for their bare little arms. If so, I’ll clip off the frost-burnt bits and keep going; tomatoes can be amazingly resilient if you give them a little encouragement. More tender plants will go in next week when the weather (presumably) settles down a bit. Can’t wait to bring in the first tomatoes in town!