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

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Old May 17, 2016   #1
AKmark
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I see several people asking if you should prune or not? I have had the best results with a single stem,and I have tried no pruning and everything in between. I can manage my plants better, I can grow them closer together, and the result is less disease, much better fruit set, and much more yield in a given space.
As a truss matures its fruit I trim the leaves off, and when the plant gets taller than I can reach, I lower the plant, this keeps production continuous, and fruit uniform in size. In a greenhouse I just use drop strings attached to the trusses above, and tomato clips to attach the plant to the string. For outside you have to build something to attach drop strings from to do this method, and it is worth the time. In short, if you want more fruit, proper pruning, one or two branches, and proper fertilization methods, will help you achieve much better results.
You will also find the quality and taste of your fruit improves with the health of the plant, disease, and nutrient deficiency, results in less than satisfactory results in my experience.
Good luck with your maters, I hope this helps some of you who wonder.
Mark
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Last edited by AKmark; May 18, 2016 at 02:05 AM.
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Old May 17, 2016   #2
ricman
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Hello Mark,

I always enjoy your posts, beautiful plants and tomato's. Just awesome to look at.

Rick
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Old May 18, 2016   #3
BajaMitch
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Man Alive, AK, what are you feeding those monsters? Do you get more than 12 Lbs of tomatoes per plant?

How much grow media per plant? Your yield looks tremendous!
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Old May 18, 2016   #4
AKmark
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Mitch, I am mostly happy, but not 100 percent.
I am running Hydro Gardens fertilizer at a 2.4 EC, 6.2 ph, but I think I need to tweek my MgSO4 and KNO3 just a bit. If I can't get desired results, I am sending off a leaf sample to have the elements measured. Our long days up here always leaves me with MgSO4 deficiency signs on my lower leaves, it drives me nuts, but never seems to affect yield. My worry is chasing MgSO4, it can result in Ca uptake problems as well as K, which is really bad. Right now some vines seem a touch bully, but others are fine, this tells me I may be inducing the Mg deficiency. If it does not go away, I will have to do the leaf sample.
I get up to 50lbs off of some varieties such as Delicious, but that is from mid May- June to the end of October. I probably average 25-35 pounds on most varieties.
I use 6 gallon containers with pro-mix HP. I used to use 15-20, then 10, now 6.

When I am fully cranking, I have about 250 plants in each of the 72 foot greenhouses, 350, or so in the 96 footers. I can prune and sucker all of the plants in a greenhouse in less than a couple of hours, and lower plants in 3-4 hours. I only lower plants every two weeks or so when that starts. Last year I pulled out 20 foot vines, they were coiled everywhere, but the plants were never more than 7-8 feet tall.
Over the last several years I think my best improvement in growing tomatoes has been management of the plants. This has reduced disease, and has improved my fruit production.
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Old May 18, 2016   #5
taboule
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Mark, this looks wonderful. Bravo.

I love the pencil erasers (i think that's what they are) protection from the sharp ends of the sticks.
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Old May 18, 2016   #6
ginger2778
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Wowzers! You make me so jealous, but in a good way.Heee.
Mark, please explain what you mean by you lower the plants. Cutting the tops?
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Old May 18, 2016   #7
Uncle Doss
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I think he is referring to the practice of growing tomatoes to the roof. Once they are so tall, you let more string out of the spools which lowers the tops of the plants down a little.
this eventually results in a bare stem being coiled up on the floor.
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Old May 18, 2016   #8
ginger2778
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Doss View Post
I think he is referring to the practice of growing tomatoes to the roof. Once they are so tall, you let more string out of the spools which lowers the tops of the plants down a little.
this eventually results in a bare stem being coiled up on the floor.
That makes sense. Thank you. He's probably still asleep, 4 hours earlier there.LOL!
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Old May 18, 2016   #9
BigVanVader
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Obviously gorgeous plants Mark, I think we are all a little in awe which is why I have several questions. You may have stated, but how close do you grow them with one stem? Its interesting that one stem is more productive, seems like it would hurt production, but I will have to try it some this year. Do you think in ground plants would benefit the same from 1 stem?. Do you grow any cherry tomatoes or just biguns? Do you grow any determinate varieties or all Indet? You mentioned Delicious as being really productive, could you list your top 5 for production and/or favorites? Do you use new mix yearly? What do you do with the old mix? Ok I will stop, thanks for the expert knowledge Mark!
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Old May 18, 2016   #10
oakley
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Really cool. Great to see such heavy production
Here is a short video explaining the rollerhook lower and lean method.
I just passed through Maine a couple times and wanted to stop at Johnny's but not
open to the public yet. No formal tours, just self touring they way i like it....maybe next year....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE19mgLC9q0">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE19mgLC9q0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="350">

Last edited by oakley; May 18, 2016 at 09:30 AM. Reason: oops did not work
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Old May 18, 2016   #11
BajaMitch
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AK, thanks for the info. Much appreciated. Your fruit production is beyond amazing. If I can achieve 1/2 the yield you get from your plants, I will be ecstatic and consider my efforts a complete success.

I am completely amazed! I have to confirm (in order to maintain my sanity), are you saying that for a single tomato plant in a 6 gallon container, you are achieving an average yield of 25 to 35 Lbs of tomato fruit?

Also, when you say that you are using Hydro Gardens' fertilizer, do you specifically mean Hydro Gardens' Chem-Gro Tomato Formula 4-18-38 together with their recommended amounts of Calcium Nitrate and Magnesium Sulfate?
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Old May 18, 2016   #12
sjamesNorway
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AKmark wrote, "Our long days up here always leaves me with MgSO4 deficiency signs on my lower leaves..."

I always follow your threads Mark, and your plants look great. Do you know why long days, which we also have here, leave you with MgSO4 deficiency. I had the same problem last season, and I'm wondering if it was for the same reason.

Steve
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Old May 18, 2016   #13
Salsacharley
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You grow giant leaves just like your giant fruits!
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Old May 18, 2016   #14
AKmark
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Ginger, as Uncle Doss stated we coil a bare vine once they reach a certain height, this keeps production steady.

Big Van Vader, we grow them about 20 inches to two feet apart.
I think outside plants would benefit too, you can keep them well managed.
I do grow cherries, a few that is, and in the past I just let them grow. This year I will trim away inner insignificant shrubbage. LOL
I grow Mountain Fresh in the greenhouse, this year I pruned away shaded leaves to help keep disease under control, I want some air moving under them. I will post a pic of my MF cradle idea.
Delicious just does well for me and grows rather nice, but large fruit 1-2.5 lbs, some trusses get tomatoes trimmed off, I try to limit them to 5
The ones I love are not my best yielders, but are acceptable
Brandywine, Chapman, Yellow BW (Platfoot) Bear Creek, good yields there, KBX, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, it produces well, but the foliage gives me a wrestling match with Mg deficiency. The pics of the loaded plants are an F4 BW X Bloody Butcher that Sherry Sheisl and I have been working on, as is the orange tomatoes which is Green Giant x Juane Flammee. I will send out some F6's this year.
I do reuse mix in some greenhouses, except the experimental house, which is open 8 months.
I am not an expert, I appreciate the gesture, but I learn new stuff every year too. I went from simple dirt farming that I started 25 years ago, to trying to be a production grower, I get my fanny kicked quite often. However, I do have good friends at the Department of Agriculture.

Baja, I will need to recalculate weight, in the past, last year as a matter of fact, we got 50lbs from two vines. However, I think 25-35lbs is very attainable, I will let you know. Thanks for pointing that out.
Yes, follow HG's formula, I use much more than the bag says though, and need to re-balance with more Mg SO4, before I go nuts.

Steve, the old Horticulture guru up here just called it length of day syndrome, I think the long days results in ultra fast growth, and Mg is central to the Chlorophyll molecule. I don't have an answer, but can say that many varieties do not get so affected, but some like Crnkovic Yugoslavian are very susceptible. If I find out why, I will certainly let you know, I am going to increase MgSo4 even more, they are improving.

Thanks ya-all
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Old May 18, 2016   #15
jmsieglaff
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Mark, you could make a 1,000 page book of just pictures and I'd look at each page. That greenhouse setup and production you get is just awesome.
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