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

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Old November 13, 2016   #31
kurt
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Default Go figure?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ginger2778 View Post
Speaking of Promix, down near you, Kurt, is Diamond Fertilizer, and they sell the 3.8 cu. ft bales of PromixBX for $24. I get some every time I get down that way.
I get mine delivered from them free(6 bales/yr min.) at that price.We are probably the farthest away from source(Canada via PA.USA).My only beef are the hornworms that come with them.Coco is most inexpensive so far for my regimen.There are those posts from the Wonder Soil about a year ago that got me interested.I even gots a bag (50 LB.)of Coconut Husks that are starting to show promise("spearment only").

http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...highlight=Soil
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Old November 13, 2016   #32
AKmark
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Pro mix has a new blend with coco coir.
I think many of you are using containers that are way too big. I have used everything from 20 gallon down to 5. I have got 50lbs from 10 gallon, and now am sticking with 5's now, with super results. Yes, I do have automated watering on many, and water 3 times a day when it is hot, but remember, that is why mine grow so fast, and yield well, because I am feeding everytime I water. I can fill 9 containers with one bale of pro mix, and it means a lot cost wise when I grow over a thousand plants.
Buy a cheap timer, you can install cheap delivery systems too, the results... less stress, more yield, and more time to manage the plant itself. PERIOD!
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Old November 14, 2016   #33
Ricky Shaw
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Yeah I think my 15gal fabric pots might be too big, even though i'm running 3-4 stems. I'm moving down to 10gal pots for the majority of my toms next year, and go 1 or 2 stems. What I have to be careful of here is evaporation. The 95F days with 30% humidity suck the moisture quickly and the larger containers do help buffer that. A drip system would help, but I kind of like the hand watering and the oneness I feel with my tomatoes. Also with the outstanding production I'm getting, I'm reducing the number of plants by 1/2 this next season, so I won't have as many to water and can spend the extra time honing my pruning techniques.
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Old November 14, 2016   #34
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"Buy a cheap timer, you can install cheap delivery systems too, the results... less stress, more yield, and more time to manage the plant itself. PERIOD".. Akmark, Good advice. I thought I could keep up watering morning and afternoon but in July/August those containers cook. Any that wilted slightly got BER. BTW, I use peat, 1/2 ton of builders sand at $17, and free aged manure with good results. 2 plants per 18 gallon (approx.) container.
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Old November 14, 2016   #35
AKmark
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There is absolutely no reason not to use large containers, you can grow gigantic plants in them for sure, I was simply making a point on cost versus what we get back.
Ricky you will certainly become one with your plants when you start a pruning routine, however... it is a love hate relationship thingy. LOL
Again, if you can keep up on watering, think about why it is good for your media to dry out faster?
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Old November 15, 2016   #36
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This past season I did 16 experiments dealing with various mix recipes and other physical aspects. I found an optimal recipe for drip irrigated containers and self watering containers.

For the drip irrigating buckets, my results showed that a mix of 2 parts compost, 2 parts potting mix, 1 part peat and 1 part perlite was optimal. Drains well, has plenty of CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity), and holds good water retention and air retention. It costs me $.52 per "wet gallon" of this mix. My cost of ferts is over and above this mix cost. The compost has a great deal of macronutrients which significantly keeps my cost for ferts down and provides micronutrients as well. without deteriorating the wicking ability of the mix. I use 4.5 gallon buckets, but in order to fill the bucket with "wet mix", I have to use 5.68 gallons of dry mix. The dry mix reduces in volume when wetted by 21%. So, for a 4.5 gallon container, my mix cost is $2.35 for each 4.5 gallon bucket of wet mix.

For the self watering containers in the same 4.5 gallon buckets, my mix recipe is 3-1-1: 3 parts potting mix, 1 part peat, 1 part perlite. I actually put 1 qt 6 fluid oz of dry compost in the mix and take that away from the volume of dry potting mix for some micro nutrients and some macronutrient boost. The total cost of that mix is $2.21 for 3.5 gallons of wet mix or $.63 per wet gallon. I have to make 4.42 gallons of dry mix, then it wets down to 3.5 gallons with 1 gallon of volume left for the water reservoir.

This mix provided good wicking ability, plus good air and water retention and plenty of CEC.

I tried a bunch of different mix ratios and kept track of the growth, plant health, tomato production and determined that the above mix recipes definitely generated the best results at the optimum cost.

On another point, I second what AKMark says about container volume. He uses fertigation with liquid chemical ferts that do not need breaking down by microbes. Since he feeds the plants every day with just the right amount of plant-ready chemical ferts, the plants do not need a lot of grow media. It is akin to hydroponics where the root ball doesn't need to grow much past a 1 to 1.25 foot root ball and certainly doesn't need to grow any giant tap roots. By keeping the rhizosphere of the plant replenished on a daily basis with plant-ready chemical nutrients at just the right ratios, his plants get everything they need exactly when the need it...nothing less and nothing more. The "nothing less and nothing more" is critical, BTW. An imbalance in the nutrient ratio and either over fertilizing or under fertilizing and you lose plant optimization and your results drop dramatically. It is a balancing act. It is also and unstable equilibrium meaning a small departure from the right balance in any direction will get you poor results.

Next year I am going to experiment with a combination of slow release ferts, compost and some plant ready chemical ferts in various ratios to each other while maintaining the exact same chemical ratio that AKMark's fertigation is based on. I will rescue the plants if they show signs of deficiencies or excesses by turning to increased application of plant ready chemical ferts as needed. Next year's experiments will include comparisons of Self-Watering containers to drip irrigated containers using the approach described hereinabove.

This is all very fascinating to me. I have spent nearly 3 hours a day for the past year researching and working on fertilizer compositions, mix recipes, physical aspects such as containers with and without holes, optimizing root generation of cuttings, and meticulously tracking my experiments' components such as pH, grow media temps, hours of sunshine, day time and overnight temps, exact tracking of irrigation quantities per container, etc., etc., etc.

Not sure, but I think next year will be the year I complete the major part of goal which is to determine the lowest cost container method with repeatable reliable results. Right now it looks like I can do it for $2.70 to $3.30 per container which includes all costs for everything.

Last edited by BajaMitch; November 15, 2016 at 10:03 PM.
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Old November 15, 2016   #37
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Mitch, were your plants subjected to any cold weather? If I use any compost at all and the plants are exposed to temperatures in the 40's or below, I get horrible stem rot and lose almost everything. I have the theory that compost or organic fert recipes for media are dependent upon warmer temps, to culture the right kind of bacteria.
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Old November 15, 2016   #38
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Mitch, we do need microbes, that is why pro mix has mycorrhizae added to it.
http://www.greenhouse.cornell.edu/cr...rogen_form.pdf
https://www.parco1.com/text/mycorrhi...AL%20CROPS.PDF

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Old November 16, 2016   #39
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Go to Finland and buy a boatfull of bags of Kekkila. Add perlite and maybe some rock dust.
Or alternatively, buy a good mix and reuse it, at least partially. Everyone's calculations seem to consider they are throwing everything each year, which doesn't make sense (at least the containers should last a few years). I just finished my 6th year in same containers and mix and was the best year yet, especially for taste.
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Old November 16, 2016   #40
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Cole Robbie, the answer is no. The mix recipes I developed were used where the temps were warm here in southern California. I planted on May 1st and temps never went below high 40's Fahrenheit. I am growing tomato plant cuttings during the coming winter that I planted about 1 month ago. The temps here will drop to an occasional low of 35 F but the vast majority of overnight and daytime lows rarely go there, but they do certainly go there for at least a few days during winter. I will be watching for root rot based on your words; thanks for the heads up.

AKmark, I am glad that you chimed in. Always great to hear from a hands on expert; much appreciated and you are very generous with us with your time.

I would like to hear from you on what I am about to write. I understand that in strict hydroponics, there are no microbes as the grow media is completely devoid of any, such as the sterile perlite. The Hydro-Gardens Tomato ChemGro formula introduces no microbes. From that I surmise that microbes may not be specifically necessary. Having said that, mycorrhizae is actually a fungus specifically, and its utility is to attach to the roots, form fungal colonies that function like extended root, thereby enhancing/augmenting root function. Microbes, on the other hand, are for chemical action on fertilizer nutrients that need chemical processing to convert non-root ready fertilizers into the root-ready fertilizers. Many NPKCaMgS ferts are not in the correct ionic chemical form that can be uptaken by plant roots. It is necessary for the microbes to ingest those chemical forms, their gut processes that chemical nutrient and then the microbe excretes the chemical nutrient in a different ionic form that is readily uptaken and immediately usable by the tomato plant. But, the Hydro-Gardens ChemGro fertilizers are chemicals that are all water soluble and already in the correct ionic form that the tomato plant can readily absorb and readily used. That is why you are not supposed to mix those dry chemical nutrients in the soil all at once, but "fertigate" with those dissolved chemicals on a strict regimen a little at a time. Optimal Plant metabolism requires getting plant ready ferts at the right time and in the exact right amounts in the exact right proportions to each other. It is what chemists call an "unstable equilibrium".

Pro mix having mycorrhizae is great, especially since it comes with peat and other materials where fungal colonies have a type of grow media where it can grow itself, but with the Hydro-Gardens ChemGro hydroponic ferts administered thru a regimen of daily fertigation, I am not so sure that the mycorrhizae is actually necessary.

What say you, AKmark? I remain humble and have always believed that hands on experience is better than theory any day. You have grown hundreds of plants for many years with monumentally fantastic results. I have grown 19 plants for 2 years.
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Old November 16, 2016   #41
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I agree with your take, my post certainly had an error. However, the first article talks of Nitrogen converting microbes and pH, the second fungus. I am no expert either, but have grown a bunch of plants, yes. Thanks for the great posts. The great part for me is I just have to do as I am told, then observe the results.

Last edited by AKmark; November 16, 2016 at 02:41 PM.
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Old November 16, 2016   #42
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If you have the time and patience maybe give this excellent advice from out villian from across the pond.I do a seed coat soak,azos,actovinate mycos dustings,(rootballs at transplants)and the prep for custom mixes for the different plant varietys.If you want to get that "optimal performance"as the literature says.I like to manicure one or two pulled plants for show,monitoring/calibration.Those amendments do grow and multiply as the hosts health/ growth does the same.

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Old November 16, 2016   #43
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With just pro-mix as a medium, I can see growth almost twice as fast with an initial drench of aerated compost tea.
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Old November 19, 2016   #44
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With auto watering many times per day, 1 gal/plant is plenty.(what I use)
.5 gal medium per plant is possible, and used in modern automated greenhouse culture.
More media gives a buffer for watering mis-haps, but not required by the plant for good production.

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Old November 22, 2016   #45
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Thank you everyone for this wonderful information. Mitch, I can't wait to see the results of your next round of experiments. I think that one of the problems with bringing home gardening to the masses is that it isn't particularly easy - even the most basic step of buying a quality potting mix is unlikely to be successful for the average person (they'll inevitably end up with something that will not produce anywhere near optimal results even if they do everything else right). I have spent countless hours and lots of money pursuing a system that works but I still find it onerous and expensive (and still not optimal). I'm glad you have the time and resources to do these trials so that we can all benefit from them.

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