wallowater3.jpgYou all know about Wall o’Waters (which I will refer to as WOW’s from this point on), don’t you? They’re those nifty green teepees made of water tubes that protect plants from cold temperatures. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them. One early May, I was driving across town when I crested a hill, and on the way down I glanced over at the large community garden in a local park and saw hundreds of these aqua-green teepees. I had no idea what they were, but they sure grabbed my attention.

Once I started taking classes on vegetable gardening, I was quickly introduced to the WOW’s as well as other techniques and tools for helping warm season plants survive early in the growing season when temperatures can still drop unexpectedly. The water-filled tubes absorb daytime heat and then slowly release it at night, keeping the soil warm and protecting the plant inside. I picked up a set, and I’ve used them every year around my tomato plants. Supposedly you can add a full month to the beginning of the growing season, setting your plants out weeks before the last frost. I did this once or twice but I’ve now settled into the routine of planting around the last frost date (May 15ish here) and leaving the WOW’s on until mid-June.

This year I actually considered not setting up the WOW’s. Early May had been quite warm and night time temps were staying around 50 degrees (I strive to keep my tomatoes protected until night time temps are consistently above 50). But I used them anyway, and am I ever glad I did! Not only did temperatures fluctuate wildly in the next few weeks, but a week after planting, we had….dunh, dunh, DUNH……..HAIL. Big hail. Lots of hail. Roof and plant destroying hail. Get-out-the-snow-shovel-after-it’s-done hail. You get the idea. For about fifteen minutes, we were pummeled by hail that grew from pea to ping pong ball size. It came in at an angle from the south and tore screens off our windows. Pieces of our blue spruce were torn off and rained down and covered the ground. When it was over we had foot-high piles along the south foundation that took a few days to melt.

Looking over at my tomato bed, I could see the hail piled up around the WOWs and though I was surprised they were still standing, I figured the plants had been shredded. When I finally got up the nerve, I wandered over and took a look inside of one. And I saw this…..

Absolutely amazing. Every plant was fine. I consider these the luckiest tomato plants in town. (The onions and lettuce in the next bed weren’t so lucky.) I never thought of Wall O’Waters as hail protection, but they did an incredible job protecting my tomato plants. Who knew? Even though they can be a bit of a pain to get set up in the spring, I’m never going to even consider not using them again.