For never was a story of more woe

… than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Otherwise known as: the weather is more and more unpredictable; pay attention!  I planted tomatoes and peppers in my community garden plot on Friday 5/10, thinking “surely this is late enough to be safe.”  And yes, I’d looked at the weather forecast and saw it would get cold again, but we couldn’t possibly have a frost that late, could we now?  And then as the forecast firmed up, I went over Sunday and wrapped up all the plants in floating row cover.  And then Tuesday, after the frost (that didn’t even happen at my house) was over, I planted the tomatoes at the demo garden, and gave away all my extra plants.  Wednesday I unwrapped the community garden plants, sure that they’d be fine, and… well, you can see what happened.

They didn’t all die, actually, and thanks to the generosity of fellow gardeners I’ll still have plenty of tomatoes, but I won’t have the Shakespearean witticism that was putting these two next to each other.  Although I suppose it’s even more appropriate that they died young.  (I did plant a Juliet tomato at the demo garden and have an extra Romeo pepper to pair with it, though, so I’ll have the joke somewhere.  I hope those two get their happy ending.)

Thanks to the indoor bug problem, my plants were very well hardened-off.  I think the location of my plot had something to do with the lack of resistance: it’s in the “valley” of the decidedly-sloping community garden, where cold air tends to pool.  I wrapped the row of peppers (I’d only planted four so far, aside from the isolated Romeo) in row cover as a unit, and the middle two look fine while the outside ones have some damage but are alive.  The tomatoes were all wrapped individually, since I didn’t have enough row cover to do the whole area; more than half of them died.  Another lesson learned: the more warm air trapped, the better.

Although, like Nancy, I think I should invest in some Wall o’ Waters.  These weather oddities are going to get more common, so we all need to be prepared to protect our plants, or else plant even later than we’ve been used to doing (which is difficult when the temperatures soar early).

I am popping over to plant a couple of sweet banana peppers today.  There just better not be any more frosts.

7 Comments on “For never was a story of more woe

  1. Walls o Water now come in red (although all mine are translucent). Also you need to protect them during winter storage from mice. I have several with channels chewed thru at the bottom — why they couldn't eat at the top where it wouldn't matter, I can't think, but there you are).

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  2. Oh, good point. Mice will chew on anything. We just found evidence of something in our shed trying to scratch its way into a can of linseed oil.

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  3. I was reviewing my copy of “The New Victory Garden” published in 1987 by WGBH in Boston and found an interesting take on planting early season tomatoes. Like a lot of other people, they use black plastic mulch to warm the soil, concrete reinforcing wire tomato cages and suggest wrapping the cages with 6 mil clear plastic to create a cylindrical green house. I don't have any idea the degrees of frost protection this technique would provide, but for gardeners trying to get the earliest tomato, this sounds like a great technique.

    In addition to creating a cylindrical greenhouse, you could add water filled containers (two liter bottles or gallon milk jugs) inside the cylinder to absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

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  4. I have that book too!

    Seems to me this would work IF our weather started cold and got consistently warmer through the season, but in a situation where we can have frost one day and then zoom up to high 80s the next, a plastic greenhouse has the potential to fry plants. If you're able to run out and unwrap them when necessary, then sure, but that's harder if your plot's not in your back yard.

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  5. I went out of town overnight on 4 May and left two pepper plants in a little greenhouse on my deck, afraid it would get too cool for them, as the temps were supposed to get into the high thirties that night. I came home to limp, baked pepper plants. The temps may have gotten low at night but were high enough during the day to make the greenhouse a bad idea. Sigh. I cut off the limp, dead tops and they seem to be doing fine now….

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