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Growing Tomatoes in Containers
April 05, 2016
"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land."
The Song Of Solomon 2: 11,12
The Late Ernie Harwell , for decades was the radio, and Hall of Fame voice for the Detroit Tigers (Baseball).
Every year, on opening day he would start his broadcast with the with those two verses from the book of Solomon.
Baseball is finally here.
(I'm sorry for the delay, there are some issues with my server.)
Thank you once again everyone for all of your prayer and support.
For all of us over here.
I say this from time to time, yet from my heart I say again.
You are the best bunch of people.
We start a new month with many high expectations.
After all, spring does bring hope, and promises.
Nature's concerts are heard throughout the lands.
Birds of all kinds are wooing, and singing.
nests are being built, and eggs laid.
Bees are buzzing (when it isn't snowing).
Wind chimes are ringing, and the winds blow through the trees.
The warmth of the sun can be felt.
A new month also means it is time to give your feeders and water sources a good, and thorough cleaning.
Yes, temperatures are now to where you can deep clean.
No more quick spray with rubbing alcohol.
Be careful as you walk around and clean up your yard.
Compacting wet soil does more harm than you picking up the winter debris.
It is best to allow your yard and gardens to dry some before you go to work.
This week's topic is not on wildlife or wildlife gardening.
It is however a form of gardening.
Container gardening is growing more and more popular.
I want to share with you my success with containers and tomato plants.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it isn't, really.
I am sharing with you now, because some of our friends in the south and west are already planting and preparing gardens.
Tomatoes in Containers.
First of all, let me start with this.
I don't have pictures to share with these instructions, I never thought of it.
I do have a couple from a few years back, however.
If you can't keep your plants watered at least once a day in the heat of summer, you might as well forget even trying.
Whether it's you watering, a neighbor, irrigation system, wicking, or some other means, tomato plants need lots of water once plants get growing, and summer heat kicks in.
A healthy plant one day, wilting the next day, repeat the cycle.
This is the biggest cause/and effect of 'Blossom End Rot' on tomatoes
True, a lack of calcium is the culprit.
However, when plants begin to wilt and beg for moisture, it is only natural to sap vital moisture (and nutrients) from the fruits, for the survival of the plant itself.
This needs to happen just once for you to lose several tomatoes to 'Blossom End Rot'.
Okay, let's get down to business.
What you will need.
Large container: a pot, or any container used for growing (make sure there is a drain hole)
Soil-less Potting Mix:.
Plant Food: I use Espoma's Tomato Tone (Espoma plant foods are also Organic.)
Other Vegetable Garbage:
Shredded Leaves: where available, is good organic material and leaves also help to hold in moisture.
Vermiculite & Perlite: for aeration and moisture retention (not required but it helps).
Both are natural products and used in potting mixes and planting.
Stakes, Cages and Other Support:
SAP Super Absorbent Polymers found in diapers are plastic/oil based.
They may be safe, however the idea of oil base products in my plants (that I eat) doesn't sound appealing to me.
Your container(s) should be 10 to 20 gallon (roughly 40 to 80 liters), the bigger the better.
10 gallon container works for determinate plants (limited growth), and indeterminate plants but with limited success as you will need to feed and water more often.
5/6 gallon for patio tomatoes will work.
Larger containers work for indeterminate plants (continuous growth).
There is a saying.........
"More Roots, More Fruits".
This holds true for tomatoes, and that is a prime reason for the large containers.
Let's get started.
You have hardened off your new plants, and give them one last good drink and feeding.
The risk of killing frost has past and temperatures grow warmer, you have assembled what you need.
If you have some shredded leaves doing nothing, line the bottom of your pot with a few inches of leaves.
Now you take some of your soil-less potting soil, mix in a handfuls of perlite, or vermiculite.
Some mixes already include these jewels.
Again, not required.
Never and I mean Never use garden soil.
Garden soil is too heavy and compacts tight, not allowing proper aeration and root growth.
Make a hole in the new mix.
Remove the plant from its growing container, fluff the roots, and plant as you would.
plant some crushed eggshells and a banana peel or two and cover with more potting mix.
I sprinkle on a light amount of Espoma's Tomato Tone (good stuff Maynard), and water.
Your pot should only be one quarter to one third filled at this stage.
Place in full sun (6 hours and more a day is considered full sun).
The more sun the better.
Tomatoes and peppers thrive in heat and need warm soil.
If you think you are going to get a jump and plant when conditions are still too cool, you will stunt the plant more than transplanting will.
Now pay attention.
As your plant grows, repeat the above steps, feel free to add other garbage like potato peels, etc. to the mix.
A few more shredded leaves mixed in for good measure.
You will repeat this a few times over the next month or so.
Burying the tomato stalk as you go, and the plant produces more new roots.
You may want to pull off leaves too.
Remember, "More Roots, More Fruits".
I've been known to toss in a few earthworms just because.
About now your plants should be really growing.
Once plants start to bloom and small fruits form, it is real important to keep watered.
Typically pots need to be fed more often than plants in the ground as nutrients leach out much faster.
Be very careful about how much you feed your plants.
Too much and you will have lovely green plants and very few fruits.
I use about one half the recommended dose and do that more frequently, or when my plants look like they need a boost.
Remember, you are feeding your plants garbage as well and this also feed them.
Continue this cycle until your pots are a couple inches from the top.
Now you keep feeding and water well. not just a tease, a good deep water, everyday by now.
I grow indeterminate plants in large containers (20-25 gallon).
They get big and top heavy., because they have a good, deep root system.
I have made cages and also have stakes pounded in the ground to keep pots from tipping over.
Bungee cords wrapped around the pot and stake to keep them from tipping over.
Large cages, deck rails or anything that you can use as support.
Lots of water by now as the heat of summer has set in.
As summer progresses, I water twice a day when needed. as the plants do drink a lot and pots evaporate more quickly than the ground.
Your plants should be strong, healthy and full of blooms and small to medium fruits.
Feed again as needed.
If bumble bees are lacking (one of the few bees that pollinate tomatoes), tap your plants with firm, yet gentle taps to stir around the pollen.
Miss a day of watering and a couple weeks later you will notice the ends of many tomatoes turning brown.
When we plan to be gone, I have neighbors to water for me.
Calcium from eggshells and in Espoma plant food will help with a strong healthy crop.
Banana peels help with a strong root system.
Other garbage adds much to the mix as well.
Remember now, this is from years of trials, I'm simply giving you what works for me.
Now you are beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Your tomatoes should be plump and juicy.
No sunburned shoulders or cracking as the lush foliage has protected them well.
As long as your plant is producing, keep watering and feeding them.
Around here, we can have growing seasons last into October, and I keep picking into October.
Some years are better than others, this is mostly due to how hot the summer is from one year to another.
A few years back (like many of you) I lost everything early as Late Blight wiped all the tomatoes out.
I have learned that regular spraying with 'Liquid Copper' (also organic or natural) will keep all blights at bay).
As your season grows near its end, you may notice a root mass on top of the pot.
After the growing season, when you empty the pot, you will notice one thick root mass from top to bottom.
"More Roots, More Fruits".
Planted in the ground and you have a small root ball.
Now this is where you will be glad you used a soil-less mix.
Moving the pot and emptying it is not a big chore.
If you had used regular dirt, you will be trying to move a couple hundred pounds.
Here is another very important matter.
Never, ever save your potting mix from one year to the next to grow tomatoes in.
Work the soil mix into your garden and flowerbeds, or use it to plant something different next year.
Buy fresh and start fresh the following year.
If you have room to collect two or three different piles, than you can rotate your crops, just like you do in the garden.
As I stated above, I've been growing tomatoes in pots for more than a decade, which possibly makes me an expert on this topic.
Feel free to tweak things and mess with stuff.
Perlite and Vermiculite are not prerequisites, however they do help retain moisture.
Same with old leaves.
Air, food, and lots of water.
If you have any questions, please let me know, I am happy to share what i can with you.
Well, it's time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
"The best portion of a good man's life is the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love."
The Good Book is full of wisdom and acts of kindness
"The generous person will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered."
"What is desirable in a person is kindness, and it is better to be poor than a liar."
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,
The grandson thought about it for a minute
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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