You Got Rocks in Your Head! No, Just Protecting Tomatoes Against The Cold (yet another Gardening Interlude)


Moving into May – and my isn’t this 2013 slipping by fast – the danger of frost is gone for most gardeners, but it’s been a wacky enough spring.

Last average frost date for our zone 6 area is about April 15th.  As usual, we were a little ambitious and set out tomato and pepper seedlings a week before, and got whacked for it.  We’ve had three days of near freezing overnight temps since then.  Besides shuttling young plants in and out of the house and covering young plants with black trash bags, there’s a couple of low-maintenance ways for protecting tomatoes from the frost.

First up, just simple rocks.

Get you some flagstones...

Get you some flagstones… Also starring in the photo: garlic, thyme, french marigolds, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, kale, and Bonnie Green peppers


Stones provide good thermal mass. If you’ve got the time and inclination, it’s a very good idea to build raised beds with brick or stone borders.  The stones (or bricks) absorb heat during the day, and release it slowly at night.  The Juliet tomato seedling shown above has come through the last three weeks with flying colors.

Not that this is a guaranteed method. Out of ten plants ringed with rocks and bricks, eight have had some form of leaf damage, and two have given up the ghost entirely.

Another way is to get a Wall O’ Water, or Wall-O-Water
(however the hell it is you write it).


Rocks and a Wall O Water

Rocks and a Wall O Water

A Wall-O-Water is a round cylindrical array of water columns. Fill them in at the top, and then place it over the seedling. Water acts the same way as masonry, absorbing heat during the daylight hours, and releasing it at night. Come to think of it, you could take used water bottles, and arrange them in a circle around the plants, bet that would work fine as well. Anyway, get you a three-pack of Wally Waters, they work just fine. Follow the link above, get ‘em through Amazon, and this blog will be enriched by the princely sum of $0.15 per sale (or thereabouts… who’s counting?).

The red leaf lettuce isn't bothered at all by the cold...

The red leaf lettuce isn’t bothered at all by the cold…

This tidbit might not be at all useful for folks in planting zones 6 to 9 (for North American readers), but anyone gardening north of us in zones 5 down to 1a, take heed. Sudden snap frosts might persist through the month of May.

Bonus photo!  The creeping phlox is showing off.  On second thought, that's a terrible name for a pretty flowering ground cover. Sounds like something you might from a Macau sailor dive.

Bonus photo! The creeping phlox is showing off. Roses and wisteria warming up on deck. On second thought, that’s a terrible name for a pretty flowering ground cover. Sounds like something you might pick up from a wild night in a Macau sailor dive.

This has been another gardening interlude with your host, marginally competent tomato grower 101 Centavos. Thanks for dropping in. And click on the banner below, it’s good for the site.

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  1. Thanks for the great ideas. Our community garden is in a concrete bed and they are doing pretty well. Our balcony plants are doing ok too. It’s been warmer than average this year.
    Retire By 40 recently posted..Can you beat an early retiree’s credit score?

  2. Thanks for the mention and the reference link! Believe it or not, that one post has gotten more google hits than almost all my other posts combined. I guess raised beds are a popular hit! I like the water wall concept. I usually don’t have to protect our plants since we are in a pretty temperate climate but they would be great if I wanted to get some maters and peppers in early in the season, which I might do next year.
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  3. I was walking through our quaint little downtown and I noticed an awesome raided bed that the city put in made out of granite curbstone. It looked really good and now your telling me its good for the plants too. Actually I was more wondering how much that little garden bed must have cost to build.

    I had to reroute the chickens with new fencing before babci could plant her garden so we are behind schedule this year. The chickens were eating every new shoot.
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  4. I can’t believe you’re STILL getting frosts! How frustrating. These are great ideas… The flagstones around my yard are too heavy for me to lift. But yeah…they sure do soak up heat and hold it. And the water “wall” — interesting idea!

    I’ve found a shop light under a covering such as an old sheet seems to do the trick, but we don’t get temperatures as cold as yours. If you get some of that cheap wire border fencing from HD, a foot or two high, and punch it into the ground around the vulnerable plants, it will hold a cover above the plants so it doesn’t smush them and also keep it high enough above the shop light to eliminate any risk of fire. This should work if the temps don’t drop below about 28 degrees.
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  5. With the constant change in the weather, the flora around where I live are as confused as the fauna – not to mention us humans! Should I keep this sweater or stove it away…?
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  6. It’s a great pity that gardening has never grabbed me! Because your post makes it seem all so enjoyable!

  7. We are very late getting our garden in this year. My husband had the NERVE to take me to Europe for 10 days and we were getting frosts up until we left. Then miraculously we came home to summer weather.

    OK…so the trip was worth it. :) We have a long growing season, but I’m going to miss having tomatoes in July. They won’t be mature until late August more than likely.
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  8. I am not into DIY gardening , But I really enjoyed reading your post, It inspires me to take up some time for gardening at our community garden
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