As I’ve said before, this is my first year trying wall-o-waters. But, before I get to my experience, I noticed that some guy name John Delaney had a few words on Wall O Waters. Too expensive? Yes, most certainly. Almost everyone I’ve asked about wall-o-waters has said “I’ve never tried them, they’re too expensive. Overrated and unhelpful? Too early for me to say yet. But the line that really got to me was “They might semi protect plants put in the ground too early but compost volunteers will be bigger by early June.” Ahem. How shall I put this? Without wall-o-waters, it is impossible around here for any tomato, volunteer or otherwise, to be outdoors in early June without protection. They will be killed in short order by cold weather. Isn’t the whole point of wall-o-waters to put your plants out “too early”? I suppose if you count keeping tomato seedlings alive in 20 degree weather as only “semi-protecting”, then you are right about that one. (Furthermore, if I had a compost pile that could be used for growing things in, instead of being constantly raided in hopes of amending my horrible clay soil, I would be very much happier indeed.)
That said, I’ve a few disapproving things to say about Wall-O-Water’s myself.
Mostly I think we have a problem with false advertisement, or at least the part that says “Easy to Use.” Maybe “Easy to Use under Ideal Conditions.” Some people said “They really work!”, but I think maybe that should be changed to “They’re really work!” Let’s read the directions:
“On clear, level ground place your Wallo’ Water around a five gallon bucket.”
Hahahahahah!! Ah. . .anyone else have level ground? I’ve yet to see square inch around here that didn’t have a downhill. And water goes downhill. I only skimmed the directions the first time around (how hard could it be, anyway?). The nagging, brilliant voice in my head attempted to tell me that it wasn’t going to sit nicely like a tepee when I pulled the five gallon bucket out, but I ignored the advice. Needless to say, my whole Wallo’ Water nearly went downhill as soon as I removed the bucket. So for every one of my nine wall o waters, I had to first level the ground.
“Fill each tube two-thirds full of water, allowing the protector to come together at the top forming a ‘tepee’.” And they have a picture showing you using a hose to fill the tubes all up to the exact right level. (You’d think that, for the price, they could at least have a line marking where two-thirds is. When I take mine down this year, I’m going to mark them all at the same place, so I can get “even” tepees, instead of lop-sided ones.)
The hysterical part of this sentence is the “fill each tube with water” part. I suppose if you actually set them up within hose distance, maybe this part would be easier. I’m setting my wall o’ waters up about 200 feet away from my hose. 200 feet uphill. (It’s one of the more sort of a little bit flatter places on our land.) The only way you get water to the garden is by hauling it, either in the two gallon watering can or in five gallon buckets. That’s why it’s sooo much more preferable to mulch rather than water. Now, I am five feet tall, and only five feet tall. The distance from my clenched hand to the bumpy and uneven ground is very, very close to height of 5 gallon bucket. I have about 2 inches clearance from the ground. Did I mention the ground is bumpy and uneven? If I’m hauling any serious amount of water, I generally wind up wet from the mid-thighs down. It helps if I carry a five gallon bucket of water in one hand and the two gallon watering can in the other–it helps keep me balanced out, so I can lean away from the five gallon bucket and get a bit more clearance. Carrying two five gallon buckets is usually a disaster–it’s twice as easy to get wet, and I basically have to keep my shoulders in a “shrugging” postition just to keep the buckets off the ground. I’ll do it in a pinch, if I’m really short on time and patience, but I usually do one bucket a time.
Perhaps you’re wondering how I get the water from five gallon bucket to inside these inconvenient tubes. Obviously I need a funnel of some sort. That part is easy–I cut the top off of a milk carton. Then you get down on your knees, and hold the funnel in place with one hand. Next, you lift the two gallon watering can with your other hand, and proceed with filling the tubes. When your watering can is empty, you have to stop and pour water from the five gallon buckets into the watering can. Repeat as needed.
Let’s just say that my pouring shoulder was sore for a couple of days, and it took me about two and a half hours to set up my nine wall o’ waters. It wasn’t a picnic.
Here’s another easier-said-than-done line in the instructions:
“Plant transplants 6 to 8 weeks before the last normal frost date in your area.” And they have a picture of someone wearing gardening gloves holding a seedling in their hands and a trowel on the ground.
Well, yes. Very simple. How do you dig the hole to put your transplant in? You’re not supposed to move the wall o’ water. Are you supposed to have such a tiny transplant you only need a hole the size of a teacup? My transplants were big transplants. Healthy transplants. Transplants that need a HOLE! The tomato seedlings were growing in gallon milk jugs, for crying out loud, not teacups. That part wasn’t a picnic either. (I’ve only put out three seedlings, all about 4 days ago.) Also, did I mention that I have a problem with clay soil? And that I try to amend it with compost? And isn’t the reason why you set the wall o’ waters up a week in advance is so that it can warm the soil? So which is worse. . .not amending your clay soil, or amending your tomato soil with compost that has ice crystals in it? I amended the soil.
Then there is the fickle weather. I think it was only a couple of weeks ago that it was down to -20F. At any rate, I know I had already set up the wall o’ waters, but not planted anything out, and it got cold enough to freeze them all solid. Eeek. The night after I stuck them in the ground, it got down to 25 degrees. The packaging said they were good down to 16 degrees, but I was doubtful. But the plants were still alive. So the next night it got even COLDER. When I woke up, it was 20 degrees! They’re still alive, but for all I know it might get too cold for them yet. Do you remember how I was saying a week could make all the difference? Today it got up to 72 degrees. And it hailed. March, April and May are roller-coaster months. You never know what’s going to happen, but it usually winds up being nasty. Warm weather coaxes blooms out, and then as soon as everything is at it’s peak–wham, cold weather!! One of the most obnoxious, drastic, extreme examples of this that I’ve seen was about two years ago. We had 90 degree weather in April, and then a hard freeze in late May—or was it even in the first week of June?
Anyway, I never had any ideas of gardening being easy or predictable, and I’m not afraid of a bit of hard work. I just don’t think Wall o’ Waters make life any easier–they might let you get tomatoes out sooner, but they don’t make life any easier.