|Heirloom tomato harvest, including 'Anna Russian', 'Oxheart Pink', 'Black Brandywine', 'Yellow Brandywine', 'Crimson Cushion', 'Black Prince'|
|Kozy Coats with tomato plants inside, late April|
|Tomato growing inside Kozy Koat, late April|
|Tomato plants in June|
Things that can/will go wrong:
- Disease and death - Light is transmitted through the colored plastic, and air does circulate a little through the top, but both air circulation and light transmission are diminished. If you hit a long stretch of particularly gray, damp weather, your tomatoes may get diseased, grow poorly (resulting in no earlier harvest), or even die. In six years of growing tomatoes using Kozy Coats I've lost only one plant. But success is definitely better in years when spring days are bright and sunny. Cold nights, however, really do not seem to be an issue at all, nor does snow.
- Sunburn - When temps warm up, you need to remove the Kozy Coats, or the tomatoes can actually fry in there. This needs to be handled delicately, and you have the same potential problems you do with hardening plants off. Just popping the protection off suddenly, especially on a bright day, will cause the leaves to get sunburned and perhaps fall off. Ideally you want to take them off for a few hours each day, putting them back on at night, and extending the fresh-air time gradually. (I am much too lazy to follow my own advice here, and no plant has ever died of sunburn for me, but they look pretty awful when they first come out.)
- Cold wet gardener - Filling the tubes with water is probably a 3-person job at least (which I always do by myself, since my husband and daughter magically disappear when non-fun tasks arise). The Kozy Coats stand up well once all the tubes are filled, but it's like trying to hold up a heavy mass of drunken jello until then. It's not physically possible to hold open the tube for filling without getting extremely wet, even if you miraculously manage not to topple any onto your feet. And remember, it's now 4-6 weeks before you're tomatoes want to be outside, so prepare to be very, VERY cold.
- Limited choice - If you buy your tomato transplants, you will find at best limited availability of varieties so early in the season. In early days before I got into seed starting, I ended up buying varieties I was not particularly interested in (even - shudder - HYBRIDS!) because that was all I could find for sale in April. So the bad news is you'll just have to begin your heirloom tomato seed starting mania, if you've somehow managed to escape it so far :-)
- Your neighbors will look at you real funny. But we're all used to that, right?