Keep your tomatoes warm and happy
I’ve written before about protecting tomatoes and peppers from cold weather. I even did an experiment a couple years ago that showed using these tomato protectors gave me bigger plants that produced a whole two weeks ahead of plants that didn’t have protection.
I started off using Wall-o-Water. That’s the brand name for this kind of plant protector. When I bought them, they were made of red plastic and cost about $18 for a three-pack. I got eight seasons of good use out of them before some started springing leaks, so that’s not too bad a price.
I bought four packages, but one of the Wall-o-Waters had been slashed or cut in the packaging process. I contacted the company and they immediately sent me a new (undamaged) 3-pack.
How it works
The Wall-o-Water is a bunch of plastic tubes or chambers that form a circle. When you fill each chamber with water it stands upright. Water is a great insulator. It slowly releases heat all night long,
ensuring your tomatoes stay nice and warm, even when temperatures go below 32°. They also protect young plants from wind, allowing them to develop strong roots before being buffeted by our prairie winds.
I am serious about tomatoes…
…so twelve Wall-o-Waters for my tomato plants just weren’t going to do it for me. So a couple years ago, I went on Amazon and bought a different brand. It came in a 10-pack for $43. That made these about $2 cheaper for each one. These knock-off protectors are green. In fact all brands of tomato protectors these days are some shade of green. Something to do with increased blossom production, I think.
But that’s still not enough
After the success of my tomato experiment two summers ago, I decided I wanted to give the same head start to my pepper plants. Every fall, I make a big batch of sriracha and I want to make sure I have plenty of red ripe peppers to make
this year’s batch. Like tomatoes, peppers are in the nightshade family and they really like to be warm. What’s good for tomatoes is good for peppers.
So when I found these protectors on clearance at the local hardware store at the end of the summer, I bought everything they had—five packages of three.
They sat on my gardening shelf unopened till last month, when I went to plant my tomatoes.
When I opened them and saw how they worked…I was gob-smacked. I had no idea the original Wall-o-Water design could be improved upon, but these are pure genius.
Here’s what makes them so different
The chamber divisions of the first Wall-o-Waters I bought stop about two inches from the top. It makes the top of the wall a little saggy. But it also makes it a bit easier to fill. Just put a five-gallon plastic bucket over the plant and put the Wall-o-Water around the bucket. Then pull the two layers of plastic apart and it’s fairly easy to put the hose into each chamber and fill them up.
But with the cheaper knock-off, the chamber partitions come all the way to to the top. That doesn’t sound like too big a deal, does it? It means water protection all the way to the top and no saggy top.
But trust me. It is a royal pain to try to separate the plastic at the top of each chamber. Seriously, it takes at least twice as long and two people to fill these. I use my sharp finger nails (or a butter knife) to pry
apart the two layers of plastic while a trusty partner inserts the hose once I’ve got the tube open. My trusty partner then fills that chamber while I hold it open. It takes more than five minutes to fill each of these knock-off Wall-o-Waters. So do the math: it took over two man-hours to fill those 10 protectors.
Here’s where the Guardian shines
But the Guardian Plant Protectors have a horizontal chamber that runs around the top edge of the protector. You insert the hose into the hole and it fills all the chambers at once. I single-handedly filled it up in less than two minutes! And if some of the chambers don’t all fill up, no problem, you can easily insert the hose into each chamber from the top.
Price and Customer Service
It’s not just the design that I love. It’s also the customer service and the price. Like the Wall-o-Waters that I first ordered, these also had a small defect. Two pin
prick holes in one of the chambers had water leaking all over. The customer service was great. I emailed them and had a response within 30 minutes. They sent me a package to replace the defective one.
The original price on these was $13 for a package of three, making them cheaper than the 10-pack knock-offs I got on Amazon. On clearance, they were $7, which was a steal.
This product is not found on Amazon. That’s a shame, because I think they’d get a lot of new customers once people saw a side-by-side comparison of price and performance.
Hopefully you have a local garden center that carries them. If you can’t find them locally, you can always try contacting the company directly through their website.
There are lots of ways to extend your tomato and pepper growing season, but the Guardian Plant Protector is now my favorite by a country mile.