Plant update and how to protect plants from hail (maybe)

It is very hit or miss growing tomatoes up here at 6300 feet. Some years I’ve done it, no problem, other years, nothing. I am determined to get a system in place that will give me great tomatoes every year! One of the things we deal with here is is a really short growing season. Like 3 months. Crazy.  Another thing we deal with is insane hail. Like golf ball sized hail. I’m not kidding. That kind of thing will wipe plants out.

So, this year I started the seeds indoors under grow lights. You’ve seen my setup in previous posts. I started them in late February. I kinda thought they’d get a lot bigger by the time I wanted toplant them, but they didn’t. In fact, they were super little till about 3 weeks ago then they got a good growth spurt. Someone early on told me they probably weren’t warm enough. Maybe next year I’ll heat their little growing shelf.

I finally planted them a couple weeks ago, in mid May. To be on the safe side, you’re not really supposed to plant them outside till the end of May but I guess I got lucky because we didn’t have a frost or any snow.

Since I wanted to plant so many, I decided to do it in 5 gallon buckets. They’re cheap, a fun orange color, and will hold two plants each (just small cherry tomato types). Plus they form a 5×5 grid which is perfect for fitting under my hail shelter.
Tomato seedlings, Colorado Springs

Tomato seedlings, Colorado Springs

Tomato seedlings, Colorado Springs

Tomato seedlings, Colorado Springs

I also made a shelter for the hail out of 5 foot pieces of PVC piping, some fittings, and some plastic.  We got some hail last week and the shelter came apart. I guess that’s no surprise since we only had the plastic fastened to the poles with duct tape. I went out and got some cheap clamps at Home Depot that I think will hold the plastic to the frame better.

DIY hail shelter

DIY hail shelter

Next week I’ll take some pictures of the whole thing and describe it some more. I want to wait until I can see if this thing actually works before I go bragging all about it.

I’ve noticed that the deck is decently sheltered from the hail. There are some trees above it and while the hail does hit the plants, it doesn’t hit them so hard because I guess the trees slow it down somewhat. I’m going to try to let them be and not cover them this year, so we’ll see how that works out. Also, the tree shelter also keeps a lot of light out. Of course during the winter the deck gets lots of sun, so last year I planted lots of sun things there, including tomatoes, and didn’t really notice that it wasn’t as sunny as it needed to be as the trees got leafy. This year I planted some shade stuff. I think I may still have some sun stuff out there, but it does get some sun, so we’ll see.

I don’t know how the deck got so cluttered and messed up during the winter. It’s not like we spent a lot of time out there.

Messy deck with new baby seedlings waiting to be placed

Messy deck with new baby seedlings waiting to be placed

It took all day but we managed to organize the deck and make it kinda cute. it should look nice when things grow in.

Is the deck too shady? We'll see.
Is the deck too shady? We’ll see.
Cat garden

Cat garden

Sunny spot on the deck

Sunny spot on the deck

Sunflowers in a sunny spot on the deck

Sunflowers in a sunny spot on the deck

The mixed window box did really well inside under the lights

The mixed window box did really well inside under the lights

A bucket full of shade tolerant wildflowers.

A bucket full of shade tolerant wildflowers.

So, we’ll see how everything does out here!