Wall 'o Waters and hardening off

Ohiofem(6a Ohio)April 12, 2013

I'm planning to use Wall 'o Waters for the first time this year. I'm growing mostly long season beefsteak type heirlooms in large smart pots. In the past, I usually waited until the third or fourth week of May to plant outside. Although our last frost date is around May 1, it is not unusual to have frost after that, and I didn't begin hardening off until the 10-day forecast predicted night temps no lower than 45F. Last year my late plant out date meant my plants hadn't started setting fruit by time a heat wave started in late June, and I didn't get any ripe tomatoes until late July.

Our 10-day forecast includes many nights in the 30s, lots of rain and day temps lower than normal. I am wondering if I need to follow the same hardening off procedure I have in the past (taking 7-10 days) or if I can speed that up. I will be putting the WoWs out soon to hopefully warm up the soil. I do have at least one or two extra plants for each one I plan to put outside, so I do have back ups. But I want to get outside soon since some of my plants are getting close to 10 inches tall and the growing area is getting crowded.

I'd appreciate advice from anyone who has used WoWs or other methods for pushing the start of the season. If our weather this year were anything like it has been in the past few years, I'd be more confident about starting so early.

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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

I use WOWs every year and I really like them. No need to do any hardening off. The WOWs will do that for you. I usually put out my tomatoes around May 1. No need to do it any earlier as the cold keeps them from growing anyway. They really protect the plants great. I even put a little extra water in them from the beginning so the top stays open a bit for a chimney effect. They can get really hot inside. You can prewarm the soil if you want but I've never done that and they work just fine. I usually plant the seedling, then turn a 5 gal bucket upside down over on top of the plant and put the WOW over/around the bucket and fill 2/3 of the way or so, then SLOWLY lift out and remove the bucket, and fill the rest of the way as needed.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 2:24PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Thanks, Ed. I've been reading old threads on this and saw you make this comment before. I think my zone is a couple weeks ahead of yours, so I probably could get started soon.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 2:44PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I use them a couple of weeks early on a few plants - say April 5th instead of waiting until April 20 my normal plant date for all the rest - and I do pre-warm the soil. I wouldn't push it any more than that as I tried Mar. 25th one year and lost all of them to a late really hard freeze that lasted 24 hours.

As long as you have some back up plants to use as replacements I wouldn't worry about it.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 3:37PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Yeah, I thought about that later. Yes, I think you are a couple of weeks ahead of me and you started your seedlings a couple of weeks before me too. My last frost date is about 5/15. The only reason I don't warm the soil in my containers with the WOW's persay, is because of the diurnal variation in temperature. Any sun and the container soil warms, cold night, they cool. If I wanted to plant in warmer container soil there are many ways to get warmer soil other than setting up the WOW's ahead of time. That's just too inconvenient for me.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:07PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

One of the things I really like about my large, black smart pots is that they do warm the soil enough to plant a little earlier. Of course, that becomes a bit of a draw back in July. Thanks to both of you for all the advice. I can't wait to get started.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:19PM
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