Montana has a short growing season. Getting a head start on your gardens is a challenge. The weather can get below freezing quickly after a week or so of perfect planting. When this happens, you can lose your garden.
Walls of Water is the secret way to start and protect early season vegetable plants. Years ago, I was trying to get fresh tomatoes by July 4th. I started with a tomato called “Stupice”, which is a smaller sized tomato from Czechoslovakia. A local greenhouse carried them.
The seedlings were small but garden ready. I placed them a few feet apart int the sunny side of my garden. Raised beds work well and heat up during the day. We can get frost almost every month but normally the window of no frost is the first week of June until the first week of September.
Most people plant their gardens where they want them but not where they belong. Since Montana is higher on the horizon, we get limited sun. Farmers prefer maximum sun, without shade. This means the north side of your yard. The sun will arc from the south horizon.
After you place the seedlings, normally tomatoes, squash, cucs, and peppers, place the Wall of Water around the plant. I use short smooth sticks to support and spread the flexible plastic walls. These walls are made of plastic and can get a hole easily, so be careful.
Filling each chamber takes some patience. A low flow garden hose will work. Fill each chamber and go the next. I go opposite sides like changing lugs on a truck tire. A long-necked watering can or water jug will also work. Once filled, the Walls will support themselves.
During the day, the water warms and the unit expands. At night it cools, and the Walls collapse shut to keep the plant warm.
You can leave the Walls on all season, but I normally pull them once the plant begins to top out of it. This is usually mid-June for my area. Cabbages, lettuce, radishes, onions, and potatoes do not need extra protection. They are cold weather crops. If you do get a hard frost, cover them overnight with a sheet or tarp.
Once you remove the Walls, shove a Jobe’s fertilizer stake into the plant’s roots. I find that my tomatoes do not get split or cracked when I use this product. A self-watering funnel works well. You can cut the bottom off a liter or booze plastic bottle and shove into the ground. A stick, shoved into the drain opening will hold it in place nicely. If the water flows too fast, add some pebbles to slow the drip.
Water is key to getting juicy fruit. Soaker hoses and other techniques work well. Keep the plants wet. Place a cage around the plants to help support them. It the vines fold or pinch, fruit production will decline. Try using a systemic fruit product once the plant is established. This liquid is absorbed through the roots and protects the plant from bugs, disease, and promotes yield.
Enjoy your garden crops with your fresh fish and wild game, on the 4th of July!