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

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Old July 27, 2016   #31
My Foot Smells
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capricious is an accurate descriptive, nice.

I also "think," there is something to be said for the new age containers coming out. The SWC with a feed pipe for bottom watering is innovative.

The age old 5 gallon plastic bucket has it's limitations, imo. Those things just hold in the heat and if over watered can make a sloppy mess of the soil comp. Anything more than a cherry in those, has been unsuccessful for me. They do well for peppers, etc... but for an adult full size tom., the effort is weak regardless of desired intervention.

..........but then again, I see some ppl doing the gutter system (pics here on t-ville) with success w/ the 5 gallon pail, so if there is a will, there is a way.

A mama plant here gets 8'-10' tall stuffed in the ground, more sunshine than you can shake a stick at makes them go wild. Can't see that happening in a 5 gallon bucket, and if so, you would have to anchor strongly to the ground to keep from getting tipsy and you would have to be unemployed or retired to keep up with watering demands.

1c worth
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Old July 27, 2016   #32
greenthumbomaha
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Lowe's sells a food grade 5 gal bucket for just a dollar more via special order. Personally, I go to a large grocery that sells their used frosting buckets and lids for a dollar upon request. The handle has degraded but the bucket itself has held up over 3 years now. I add compost and cover the bucket over the winter and reuse the soil the following year. Eggplant does great, peppers and tomatoes do better inground for me, which is most likely a result of my spotty fertilization routine. I'm giving up on container broccoli, they never get big heads for me and I do nuke em with blue stuff. Just get large leaves and small heads.

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Old July 27, 2016   #33
greenthumbomaha
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricky Shaw View Post
Moskvich is troublesome on the higher clusters, I suspect too much water goes to supporting a very lush leaf set. A water hog for it's size and yield.

Moskvich is producing higher than average for me. Its smaller size means I can get to it before bugs/birds. It is lush, no doubt. Its inground and gets the same amount of water as the others. I'll keep an eye on it over the next few weeks. It was one of the earlier producers too.

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Old July 27, 2016   #34
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Originally Posted by nniemiec View Post
There's been discussion in the past about what experienced growers believe to be the "minimum" size container for growing toms.

Currently I have (2) plants per 18 gal. tote, however, the totes are aging & I'm looking to rebuild for next year. Can I do well w. (5) gal. buckets or do I really need at least 10 gal. per plant? what is the min. size for maximizing yield in a container?

Thanks in advance for sharing your expertise.
I have a Bush Early Girl (Bonnie Plants) growing in a small ceramic pot that is producing very well this year. I cut off the top in the hope that they would ripen earlier and they are. I'm not an expert, but next time I plan to go with a bigger container.
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Old July 27, 2016   #35
garyc1234
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From my experience this year, I think it's easier to maintain plants in a 10 gallon container or larger, especially if you do top down watering. (saying that, I believe bottom up is definitely better.) In my small containers, the mix dries out a lot faster, so I have to continuously water it. More watering means more of your fertilizer gets flushed out faster. Plants also like to have a continuous consistent level of moisture in the mix, rather than too dry/too wet, which can stress the plant. Therefore, it follows that if you have bottom up watering, where the wicking provides the consistent level of moisture in the mix, that should be better for the plants.
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Old July 27, 2016   #36
BajaMitch
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My theory is that the principle factor with regard to plants doing betting in larger containers (hence, more potting mix per plant) is not the size of the container (volume quantity of mix)but the chemical concentration level of nutrients in the potting mix.

Since hydroponically grown plants can become very big with a very small root ball in a very small container with virtually no long roots. Why, because the nutrients are efficiently supplied to the roots as the plant needs it. So, logically, if you could keep the nutrient concentration in your potting mix at the right level, the plant will get all the nutrients it needs without the nutrients having to necessarily be dispersed in a large container. If the plant gets the nutrients it needs when it needs it, not more, not less, then the plant will grow as it is designed to grow.

While my second and third flower trusses were killed off this year by the hot spell in June, my experiments are going OK now. What my data shows is that the plants with the most potting soil are generally doing better than the lesser amounts. I have provided virtually the same amount of nutrients in all the pots, large and small, therefore the concentration (per cubic inch) of nutrient chemicals is 50% to 60% less in those larger containers. Also, the containers with a fert strip and the containers that are being periodically fed are also doing well which supports my contention that the per cubic inch of soil nutrient concentration could be a factor.

The quantity of nutrients that I have put in all the pots (those not periodically fed) is a bit excessive, as it turns out. The smaller pots are yielding plants with very leathery leaves and are not recovering from the hot spell as well as the peridodically fed and fert strip plants. BTW, the plant that is doing really well is in the bigger SWC at 6.3 gallons of mix, where as the plants that are not doing so well are in the smaller SWCs with 3.5 gallons of mix. The periodically fed plants are in drip irrigated buckets with 4.5 gallons of mix. The mix in the 4.5 gal and 6.3 gallon of mix containers have a much, much lower nutrient concentration per cubic inch than the 3.5 SWCs by over 50%.

On another note, my data is showing that holes in the pots for air root pruning (both SWCs and drip irrigated pots) do better than the pots with no holes. Fert strip plants doing better than ferts mixed-in-the-mix pots. Pots with indirect sun do much better than plants only in direct sunlight. Tomato plants in fert strip pots doing better than periodically fed pots and much better than fert-in-mix pots.

I feel confident in 'my theory', but the proof will have to wait for next years experiments. Next year I will test for nutrient quantity variations specifically.
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Old July 28, 2016   #37
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BajaMitch - what are you feeding your SWC plants & how frequently ? Also, you make a compelling comparison b/t hydro vs. container approaches. Thank you.

Last edited by nniemiec; July 28, 2016 at 11:03 AM.
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Old July 28, 2016   #38
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Just a note for small-space gardeners like me, I use tall 5-gallon buckets that I get from work for free. (If you're in Canada, go to a Tim Hortons and ask for fondant buckets. ) They're actually a tad less than 5 gal, probably 4.5. But I've had tremendous luck with them considering my inexperience and relative laziness.

My set-up, in late May, a week after I planted the seedlings:



Last weekend:



I think the peppers like this unusually hot/dry weather much better than the tomatoes do, and I don't think the tomatoes get quite enough light, but that aside, the square shape of the buckets maximizes space and helps them get better root space, methinks.
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Old July 28, 2016   #39
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Peppers seem to like deep buckets more than shallow ones.
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Old July 28, 2016   #40
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This would appear to be true, thanks for the tip. All three on the left in that pic are the same variety - 'Cute Stuff.' It's supposed to be small. But the one in the tall bucket on the right produced peppers as large as the 'Early CalWonder' on the right. Pretty nifty. It's fun to see what does well in your little micro-climate.
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Old July 28, 2016   #41
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nniemiac, For the 4.25 gallon containers that have 3.5 gallons of potting mix, I use a variety of ferts and nutrients to derive the exact amount of elemental macro nutrients to the gram. Keep in mind that the Kellogg potting mix that I use, and the small amount of compost with horse manure both have specific guaranteed analyses of the macro nutrient. I use a spreadsheet calculation that takes each tablespoon of those items and all the other ferts that I use (each measured in tablespoons as well) to derive the following levels of grams of macronutrient at the elemental level: N 36.7g, P 20.56g, K 55.42g, Ca 42.7g, Mg 6.24g, S 26.19g. To answer your question more specifically, and to achieve the aforementioned grams of macro nutrients (at the elemental level) ,I use exactly the following measured tablespoons as follows: Vigaro 17-17-17: 13.016 tablespoons (hereinafter "Tbs"), Miracle gro 15-30-15 plant food: .205 Tbs, Espoma Acidifier: 1.337 Tbs, ammonium sulfate: .017 Tbs, bone meal: 6.858 Tbs, Citrus/Avocado plant food: .8 Tbs, compost (with horse manure) 38.94 Tbs, Calcium Carbonate: 4.626 Tbs, Kellogg premium potting mix: 663.693 Tbs, sphagnum peat moss: 458.151 Tbs, Perlite: 213.35 Tbs, potassium sulfate: 1.913 Tbs, Sul Po Mag: 2.135 Tbs.

That is it for the small 4.25 gallon pots. I mixed all those ingredients together in the pot. All the plants in those pots did reasonably well until the freakish anomalous heat wave in early June that took out all my 2nd and 3rd flower trusses and then the plants went into shock and are still working their way back as I write this. I am meticulously and periodically tracking all 19 of my potted experiments with regard to the soil pH, soil temperature, plant height, fruit yield in grams, health of the stalk and stems, degree of comparative foliage health and volume, and ranking by comparative fruiting.

With regard to the larger Walmart SWCs that have 6.25 gallons of mix, they get similar quantities of ferts and nutrients, therefore the quantity of elemental nutrients per Tbs of mix is much lower in these larger SWCs compared to the smaller 4.25 gal containers that have only 3.5 gallons of mix but virtually the same quantity of elemental macro nutrients. My records show that the larger SWCs are doing much, much better than the smaller SWCs, but, again, it is my theory that it is not the size of the container, but the concentration level that matters.

For example, when I look at my stats with regard to the % by weight of the elemental grams of total macronutrients to the total weight of the final mix (i.e., concentration), the smaller SWCs have a concentration of 6.3% of elemental grams of nutrient to total weight of the mix and the larger SWCs have a concentration of only 3.5%. Similarly, another metric I am using, the smaller SWCs have (a concentration of) 0.17grams of elemental macronutrient per Tbs of mix whereas the larger SWCs have only 0.106 grams of elemental macronutrient per Tbs of mix.

My contention is that by using a larger container, you can keep the concentration level of nutrients lower while still being able to provide enough nutrients for the individual plant. In order to provide a plant in a small container, obviously, you have to make the mix more concentrated in order to hold all the nutrients the plant will eventually need.

The problem is that the smaller containers will thus have an unhealthy high level concentraton that causes growing problems. The tomato plant apparently needs a low level of nutrient concentration to thrive, but since they are heavy feeders, they can deplete the nutrients near roots quickly and thereby cause a too low level of nutrient concentration in the short term (near the roots) unless there is plenty of mix in the pot that the plant can send its roots to.

My problem, I think, now, is that the amount of nutrients I am putting in both the large and small containers is, itself, too much for either my large and small containers. That recipe that I mentioned above is actually too much nutrient.

I think that I need to cut all nutrient levels back so that the concentration of the mix is closer to about 2.0 to 2.5% of elemental nutrient weight to total weight of the mix and to 0.06 grams of elemental macronutrient per Tbs of mix. That may well mean that the smaller SWCs will need to be periodically fed to some extent and that I may get away with not having to periodically feed the larger 6.25 gallon SWCs.

Well, that's my story and I am sticking with it...for the time being.
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Old July 28, 2016   #42
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Originally Posted by NarnianGarden View Post
I have noticed that tomatoes are highly capricious as to where and how they thrive.

One rooted Azoychka branch I planted just for tasting one or two fruits, is thriving and pumping out tomatoes in a very small pot. Probably root-bound, it doesn't seem to mind - it's flourishing and the leaves & new growth are green.
It doesn't seem to mind whether under-watering, over-watering or watering at all.

Some of my plants are in large containers, properly planted and fed, and they have been harassed with BER, blossomd drop, and they're very stingy on top of that...
Barely ten set fruits in a large pot that should give it plenty of room.

That brings me to believe that container size isn't everything... One can do their best and try to give plants ideal conditions - as good as possible within limits -, and still, there are other variables as to what happens and how much fruit the plant decides to give.
I have to agree with Narnian that container size isn't everything. I grew everything in 3 gallon containers. Of course I had to water twice a day when the heat came on and kept a regular regiment of ferts and I had a jungle out there. The plants grew and grew and I had to get help with learning how to drop lines as the plants grew to over 7 foot tall and I wasn't climbing in the air to pick.

One thing I noticed is I don't reuse potting soil that I had for tomatoes, peppers or potatoes over gain for those crops. I re use that soil for perennial plants for repotting instead. I had disease free, bug free plants and tons of fruits and when I dumped pots I would roll the root balls to get excess soil off and usually had one to two pot gallons of soil that came back off the root balls.
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Old July 29, 2016   #43
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. . . grocery that sells their used frosting buckets and lids for a dollar upon request.
Bakeries and delis and grocery stores can be bucket sources (and Free.99 seems a fairer price for saving these from the dumpster), and at least some car washes get their soap in five-gallon buckets, which, again, are quickly emptied and become waste products.
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Old August 18, 2016   #44
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Like BajaMitch said....

Look at hydroponics and the compact root system that feeds the entire plant. If planting in SWCs, the medium is pretty much just an inert product that wicks water when it starts to get dry and drains water when it has too much. If that water has a constant supply of nutrients, then the plant has everything it needs.

I have grown in five gallon buckets and I have put two plants in a 27 gallon tote - both self watering so they never run dry. Both have produced 1 lbs+ tomatoes for me. I fertilize once a week with masterblend - half gallon per plant until they set fruit. Then I start giving giving each plant a gallon. There is a slight difference in the mix when they start fruiting as well as it adds a little more N.

Basically, the way I see it, as long as the roots get the right moisture/air mix and the right quantity of nutrients then everything should be good regardless of the size of the container. Obviously, you couldn't grow a full size plant in a coffee cup, but I think 5 gallons is plenty if given the above.

Works for me and help it hopes someone else
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Old August 20, 2016   #45
RomanX
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Thiss is my second year growing tomatoes in containers. This year's pcs at various stages are posted in the forum Photo Gallery.

I have siletz, cyril's choice and defiant in 5-gal orange buckets (Home Depot) with two drainage holes 1.5 in from the bottom. Growing media is 1:1:1:1 mixture of peat moss, MG potting soil, compost and perlite; additions were 1 cup Espoma Organic Garden Lime and about 1/3 cup 10-10-10 fertilizer. I water twice a day (three times, when temps go above 85) and fertilize with Jack's Classic water-soluble fertilizer as the plants show they need it (approx. every 2 weeks).

I also have Jasper (the only indeterminate and cherry tomatoe) in an 18-in patio container: same grow media etc.

Then there's my 2 Earthbuckets (self-watering etc) for mountain merit, celebrity, legend and another defiant (for direct comparison of container size). (Another mountain merit is in a 5-gal bucket on a neighboring patio.)

I'm ending this tomato season nesxt week (6 weeks early), so I feel I can draw comparisons now:
Tomatoes from plants (both mountain merit and defiant) are smaller and fewer than those from plants in the Earthbuckets.
Over the winter, I will buy another Earthbucket to replace 2 5-gal bukets.
I haven't decided whether to keep the 3rd 5-gal bucket, but if I do I'll grow another dwarf tomato plant in it and this time stake it with a STOUT PVC pipe!!!
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