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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old March 9, 2018   #16
bower
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I use peat/compost mix as the basis for my containers (yes I admit some perlite can help but it is imported from far off lands and is really expensive for a puffed rock. )
Last year I made a fresh mix using 2/3 peat and 1/3 compost (plus various ferts including coarse kelp) I added lime but IMO it was not enough, should have used more to neutralize the peat. Also the compost was not enough. The ratio of peat to compost is what my supplier told me, they used for the potting mix they no longer sell. I used to add compost to that every year and yes it got better and better. I am aiming for a 50-50 mix this year.
I believe 50-50 peat-compost is what Tania uses as well. So may be about right for organic, and for simple watering from the top vs. drip fertigation or 'sip' type containers which I haven't tried.
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Old March 10, 2018   #17
Tiny Tim
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I'm not as advanced as the rest of you here. Last year was my first try with 3 gallon fabric pots. One I had a Celebrity tomato in using Black gold organic potting soil. I got 3 ripe tomato's. I know your all laughing. The second 3 gallon fabric pot I grew a Super tasty hybrid using compost I made. I only got 4 ripe tomato's. My point is, even with crappy soil you'll still get something. This year I did more research and will be going with 2 parts compost 2 parts coco coir/20% perlite mix and 1 part Black kow manure. The reason for the coco coir with 20% perlite is because that's what my indoor grows use. I'll wash it to 50ppm or less and recycle.
Happy gardening.
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Old March 10, 2018   #18
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When my sister related the story to me I recall thinking she could have easily died. She was working inside and breathed some dust from the potting soil. She is not asthmatic but must have had some type of allergic reaction and after a few hours was having a lot of trouble breathing. She was fine the next day.

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I sure hope your sister recovered quickly.

When I was younger, I was a mason. I often wondered about the effects of breathing mortar dust while mixing a batch of mortar.
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Old March 10, 2018   #19
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Hey Tiny Tim... no laughing, honest! Just about everybody is still learning and tweaking our methods and every year throws up a new challenge or an opportunity to try something else.
The big issue with containers and container mix is how quickly they dry out and run out of ferts. It's amazing the results that people get with fertigation no matter the container size (thinking of AKMark for example, who gets simply over the top results with his setup) but for anyone without the automated drip gear and 'dialed in' liquid fertilizers, bigger containers can really help to get the production you wanted. 3 gal is pretty small for anything but a micro tomato, although you can get something out of it as you pointed out. Even with 5 gal, you can run out of root space before your season is over. (and what a mess I've made trying to add ferts by top dressing, then the surface fills up with new roots in a matter of days. ).
Meanwhile, here I am encouraging you to try some larger pots, but I'm planning to do the opposite this year myself for the sake of a growout. Actually I'm undecided still, whether to use small pots for individual plants or use the biggest containers I have for multiple plants. I plan to prune them hard either way, keep them small on purpose. Small pots have the advantage of mobility, and keeping the option of potting up if there's one I really like. Large container will be stuck where it is, but I think there will be less of watering chores, less stress on me as well as the plants....
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Old March 10, 2018   #20
Tiny Tim
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Bower, I would stay smaller like your going to try if I had a auto drip system set up. I'm going with 15 gallon fabric pots for my two indeterminate tomato varieties,mini water melons and mini cantaloupe. And 8 gallon fabric pots for my one determinate tomato variety. 8 gallon size for eggplants 2 each variety per pot. 8 gallon also for my cucumbers. 5 gallon for each of my 4 pepper varieties. I'll be hand watering and fertilizing by top dressing with 5-5-5, dolomite lime and Epsom salt as needed. No calcium issues last year or early blight. Fingers cross. Happy gardening.
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Old March 11, 2018   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
Hey Tiny Tim... no laughing, honest! Just about everybody is still learning and tweaking our methods and every year throws up a new challenge or an opportunity to try something else.
The big issue with containers and container mix is how quickly they dry out and run out of ferts. It's amazing the results that people get with fertigation no matter the container size (thinking of AKMark for example, who gets simply over the top results with his setup) but for anyone without the automated drip gear and 'dialed in' liquid fertilizers, bigger containers can really help to get the production you wanted. 3 gal is pretty small for anything but a micro tomato, although you can get something out of it as you pointed out. Even with 5 gal, you can run out of root space before your season is over. (and what a mess I've made trying to add ferts by top dressing, then the surface fills up with new roots in a matter of days. ).
Meanwhile, here I am encouraging you to try some larger pots, but I'm planning to do the opposite this year myself for the sake of a growout. Actually I'm undecided still, whether to use small pots for individual plants or use the biggest containers I have for multiple plants. I plan to prune them hard either way, keep them small on purpose. Small pots have the advantage of mobility, and keeping the option of potting up if there's one I really like. Large container will be stuck where it is, but I think there will be less of watering chores, less stress on me as well as the plants....
Bower, you can get cheap drip systems for under 50.00, but you will have to add ferts manually.
We plant two plants in a four gallon container, any variety, and will pull out 20 foot vines by the end of the season. The root bound root systems makes no difference because we feed every time we water.

Larger containers will help those who have to manually water, but there is no substitute for a tailored fertilizer program. Remember Ricky Shaw, he paid attention, and got super results hand watering with the proper ferts.

These home made up media mixtures are never perfect, but we can be perfect with fertilizer. I grew tomatoes for 20 years before I quit doing it the way I wanted. The big change happened when I listened to the pros.
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Old March 11, 2018   #22
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With the right fertilizer and nutrients you can grow killer plants in sand and gravel.
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Old March 11, 2018   #23
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I remember Ricky Shaw! Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he had a flair for copying other's work and was above average for following instructions from people who grow tomatoes for a living.

Compost in containers is a dead end if you're looking for optimum results. Clean high porostity media and consistent fertilization at every watering is your best shot for the highest production and healthiest plants.
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Old March 11, 2018   #24
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Compost in my containers seemed to keep the soil too wet but 1/3 composted mushroom manure or old horse manure are just right for mine, mixed with Pro-mix HP.
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Old March 11, 2018   #25
bower
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKmark View Post
Bower, you can get cheap drip systems for under 50.00, but you will have to add ferts manually.
We plant two plants in a four gallon container, any variety, and will pull out 20 foot vines by the end of the season. The root bound root systems makes no difference because we feed every time we water.

Larger containers will help those who have to manually water, but there is no substitute for a tailored fertilizer program. Remember Ricky Shaw, he paid attention, and got super results hand watering with the proper ferts.

These home made up media mixtures are never perfect, but we can be perfect with fertilizer. I grew tomatoes for 20 years before I quit doing it the way I wanted. The big change happened when I listened to the pros.
@ Ricky Shaw: I remember Ricky Shaw! LOL
Mark, I'm paying attention too (and very impressed with both of you). I am strictly growing organic though so it's not as easy to just follow the instructions (never used chemicals, too old to change, no ambition to better living through chems). My budget is also very limited and totally spent as of now already. That part really was easy!
A chunk of that budget got spent on liquid ferts: a gallon of Alaska fish ferts 5-1-1. Maybe I can tweak the K+ sufficiently with my own kelp - I do have some at least that's broken down to a semi-soluble state. I don't mind to mix and fertilize every day if that's what it takes, as I water every day anyway. But I don't want to water more than once a day. phew.

I'm only aiming to get 3 clusters apiece from my trial plants before I top them. I don't want or need lots of tomatoes per plant, but I do need to stop them from blocking each other's light so there is enough of that for all. It's a challenge for me, I'm not a pruner by nature, so will be pushing the limits there for sure. But still, I want to make sure they had the ferts to make quality tomatoes. Otherwise there's no point.
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Old March 11, 2018   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKmark View Post
Hey brother, consider this. Use something like Pro Mix, coco, or other media for container growing, then use a fertilizer formula that is tailored for tomatoes. Your results will blow you away if you follow the directions, the taste will be exceptional, yields will be the best you can get too. Professionals do it this way for a reason.
"fertilizer formula that is tailored for tomatoes" That is what I am looking up today. One thing that the sites I have read agreed on is the P and K need to be higher numbers than the N.
Examples:
Organic 3-9-4
Inorganic 6-24-24

I don't care if it's organic or not - I just want it to work.
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Old March 11, 2018   #27
AKmark
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Quote:
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"fertilizer formula that is tailored for tomatoes" That is what I am looking up today. One thing that the sites I have read agreed on is the P and K need to be higher numbers than the N.
Examples:
Organic 3-9-4
Inorganic 6-24-24

I don't care if it's organic or not - I just want it to work.
Look up the Haifa tomato guide, they list the correct amount of each element needed, they have charts for each stage of the plants life too. People way overuse P, and under use K, they use the wrong N, not enough Ca, or MgSO4. Take a look. How do we know their numbers are correct? We send in leaf samples to labs, they dry them and weigh each element, it is a precise science now.
There are organic fertilizers that you can use too, that you can mimic these numbers. I will add though, organic , or not, everything breaks down to elements before the plant can use it.
I use HG 4-18-38, but this is the same order, I pulled this up for you guys to look at.

http://www.haifa-group.com/files/Gui...ato/Tomato.pdf
Good luck

Last edited by AKmark; March 11, 2018 at 03:15 PM.
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Old March 11, 2018   #28
AlittleSalt
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I looked up HG 4-18-38. A 5 lb. bag is $25.95 + Shipping. A 25 lb. bag is $58.50 + Shipping. https://hydro-gardens.com/product/to...s-bag-4-18-38/

The search result below that one was for a different brand Masterblend Tomato Fertilizer 4-18-38 https://www.morgancountyseeds.com/pr...lizer-4-18-38/

I also found this site along the way http://www.tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=37818
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Last edited by AlittleSalt; March 11, 2018 at 04:05 PM.
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Old March 11, 2018   #29
AKmark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlittleSalt View Post
I looked up HG 4-18-38. A 5 lb. bag is $25.95 + Shipping. A 25 lb. bag is $58.50 + Shipping. https://hydro-gardens.com/product/to...s-bag-4-18-38/

The search result below that one was for a different brand Masterblend Tomato Fertilizer 4-18-38 https://www.morgancountyseeds.com/pr...lizer-4-18-38/

I also found this site along the way http://www.tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=37818
HG is the most popular commercial growers blend I have found, the formula is precise. If you ship a 25 pound bag ship it in a flat rate box, I have shipped many that way clear to AK. One bag will do about 2500 gallons of water, you must also add CaNO3 and MgSO4, just follow the directions. If that is too much, check out their Hobby Blend, you only have to add MgSO4. We use injectors, but a two tank system for hand mixing works too. I have tried one tank, mixing one at a time, but I still got P precipitation.
If you learn this method of fertilizer programs, you will never look back. I used to grow in dirt, raised beds, this and that, and will never look back. I do this to make money, so I want results, taste, yield, efficiency.
Good luck Robert
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Old March 12, 2018   #30
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Quote:
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I looked up HG 4-18-38. A 5 lb. bag is $25.95 + Shipping. A 25 lb. bag is $58.50 + Shipping. https://hydro-gardens.com/product/to...s-bag-4-18-38/
If you get 5lb, you also need 5 lb of calcium nitrate and 2.5 of magnesium sulfate (as a general fertilizer for mature tomatoes). So you need to consider also those for price. There are bundles on ebay and so, better to take those that are not premixed. If moisture got into a premix it could partly react to make unusable stuff. (you can't make concentrated mixture either because of that).
Here in Europe there is kristalon from Yara, as premix ready to use (for example 'kristalon red calcium') which is a good formula, and ok priced (11 lb for 20) which is just good for amateurs container gardeners (care must still be had with moisture), not sure about USA. Haifa might also have something.
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