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

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Old April 5, 2020   #1
tanstaafl72555
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Default Buckets.....

A few years back, I bought 100 5 gallon food grade buckets for 50 dollars. That was quite a deal (so I thought) and I have been hauling them around since. Now that we are on our own place, I really want to utilize them, and "grow vertically." We have quite a stand of bamboo just down the road and I can trellis to my heart's content. (I get them off the ground on pallets).

My question has to do with soil. I have a 50:50 mix of compost and topsoil, which I mixed with 1/3 peat moss. I put some Lime in (soil here pretty acidic), and threw in some calcium nitrate (don't yet have enough eggshells) and some (about a small handful per bucket) of fertilizer.

Last year I grew in beds only and the results were disastrous. Scrawny, hornworm infested, non-bearing mess. I have never used commercial fertilizer, but in desperation, I threw some miracle gro in there and BOOM! they responded quite well.

Eventually, I want to make up my own soil (I have a composting bin and am working it now), but for now, I am just buying it, treating it like above, and hoping for the best.

Question: How much water a day for 5 gallon buckets is "normal"? I don't want end rot, but I also dont want to water log the roots.

How much fertilizer before you burn up the plant? I don't want to put any more in for another 4-6 weeks, but I also don't want to have the soil over fertilized. I did dig down another 4-5 inches below the roots and put about a half a palm full of pellets down there, and now I am worried I might have overdone it. I need something to worry about!

Do you need bone meal for tomatoes in buckets? I put out some seed potatoes and was liberal with the bone meal, and wondered if tomatoes would also be good with it.

Finally, my grandmother used to have the sweetest, most tart tomatoes and she swore by Epsom Salts. I want to wait till the plants are flowering (she told me when she was living to trim off the first couple of blossoms to force the plant to fruit more aggressively), but I am not sure how much I should use. When they are "in the ground" it is harder to over-concentrate stuff as it does dissipate. There ain't much space for stuff to go in a bucket, except to get flushed out of the (8-9 3/4 inch) holes in the bottom.

Thanks in advance for the advice and the patience.

tans
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Old April 6, 2020   #2
tanstaafl72555
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanstaafl72555 View Post
A few years back, I bought 100 5 gallon food grade buckets for 50 dollars. That was quite a deal (so I thought) and I have been hauling them around since. Now that we are on our own place, I really want to utilize them, and "grow vertically." We have quite a stand of bamboo just down the road and I can trellis to my heart's content. (I get them off the ground on pallets).

My question has to do with soil. I have a 50:50 mix of compost and topsoil, which I mixed with 1/3 peat moss. I put some Lime in (soil here pretty acidic), and threw in some calcium nitrate (don't yet have enough eggshells) and some (about a small handful per bucket) of fertilizer.

Last year I grew in beds only and the results were disastrous. Scrawny, hornworm infested, non-bearing mess. I have never used commercial fertilizer, but in desperation, I threw some miracle gro in there and BOOM! they responded quite well.

Eventually, I want to make up my own soil (I have a composting bin and am working it now), but for now, I am just buying it, treating it like above, and hoping for the best.

Question: How much water a day for 5 gallon buckets is "normal"? I don't want end rot, but I also dont want to water log the roots.

How much fertilizer before you burn up the plant? I don't want to put any more in for another 4-6 weeks, but I also don't want to have the soil over fertilized. I did dig down another 4-5 inches below the roots and put about a half a palm full of pellets down there, and now I am worried I might have overdone it. I need something to worry about!

Do you need bone meal for tomatoes in buckets? I put out some seed potatoes and was liberal with the bone meal, and wondered if tomatoes would also be good with it.

Finally, my grandmother used to have the sweetest, most tart tomatoes and she swore by Epsom Salts. I want to wait till the plants are flowering (she told me when she was living to trim off the first couple of blossoms to force the plant to fruit more aggressively), but I am not sure how much I should use. When they are "in the ground" it is harder to over-concentrate stuff as it does dissipate. There ain't much space for stuff to go in a bucket, except to get flushed out of the (8-9 3/4 inch) holes in the bottom.

Thanks in advance for the advice and the patience.

tans

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Old April 6, 2020   #3
luigiwu
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Have you heard of the Rain Gutter Grow System (RGGS)? Its the only way I can grow anything and its so water efficient! Plus its easy and cost efficient to make your own potting mix. I'm so jealous of your bucket deal!
Look up Larry Hall on youtube.
http://tomatoville.com/showthread.ph...highlight=RGGS

http://tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=30040
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Old April 6, 2020   #4
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If you need a ton, making your own will certainly be cheapest. You need some good quality peat moss (not too fine, medium or coarse is better), and perlite and maybe lime.
Make sure you read what pH your moss is at, since if the pH is not pre-adjusted it will be acidic, and you need to mix lime in the right proportion to get it to about 5.5.

Something like 20-30% perlite is a popular value, the rest moss.

You should get everything in as big bales as possible, usually those will be cheapest per volume.
There are other recipes for mixes, but this is simple and imo effective.


Fertilizer is like this: if you make your own mix, and ingredients have zero fertilizer, mix in (well) at about 1.5g/l some decent complete chemical fertilizer (here in Germany i would use the 16-8-22 with microelements). A good common choice in US would be the masterblend (with the additions (calcium and magnezium), according to the tomato formula on their site).
This same masterblend (with additions), you can use to water later in the season, after a few weeks, at a dilution of 1-2g/l of water.


The organic way is doable, but slightly harder. Mix about 2 good full soup spoons in the top third of your bucket before transplanting. This will last 1 month or so. Tomato tone seems good. Some mycorrhizae would also help at the beginning, mixed in. Then after one month add some more organic, one spoon maybe 2 weeks per bucket. The problem is that you kinda have to mix this in at the surface, and at some point the root mass will be so dense that you can't really do it anymore. I saw some people do deep holes through the roots with a stick and pour organic in, seems like a decent idea. I would still use some inorganic from time to time though, since with organic only you might run into microelement problems a few months in (organic has some micros but depends a lot on what animal, what they were fed, etc).
I hope that helps.
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Old April 6, 2020   #5
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I don't have enough expertise to address your fertilizing question, but I do have an idea to address watering. I bought some cheap dollar store plastic kitchen colanders that, when I snipped off the handles, fit perfectly in my five gallon pools. I cut a hole in the side of the pail just below the top of the inserted colander big enough for the hose to pour into. Now I have self watering buckets that only need a quick hit from the hose once a day which results in nice, even bottom watering, just like the Earthboxes do. I also drilled small holes all around the buckets for additional aeration, but I'm not sure how necessary or effective that is. I'd say the peat is a necessary component of your soil mix for good water absorption and movement. I suppose you could also put a bit of compost tea into the watering hole occasionally to boost nutrients, but I never felt the need for my purposes.
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Old April 6, 2020   #6
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Hi Tans
I typed you a long reply last night late, and the 'puter glitched, and I lost the reply.



I'm not an expert. I bet the experts would say something like this. You have a certain amount of topsoil, compost and peat moss mixed up. Add more peat. Add pearlite to equal about 25% of the whole mix. Use the fertilizer per package directions. Yes, you can add a little bone meal. You can water with Epsom salts in the water, but not too often because in a bucket, the salt can build up. If your plant wilts, it needs water. Outside in the summer it will need water every dry day. If you're still unsure, dig down 1" into the bucket & see if the soil there is dry; if so, water.


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Old April 6, 2020   #7
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For some reason I thought OP was only thinking of doing his mix, but apparently he already did, so not much to change there. Compost if fine, even 100% compost would be actually a decent 'mix'. The topsoil not the best idea. The particles are fine and they are heavy, meaning that after 1-2 years it basically sinks at the bottom of the pot where it will make a compact, unaerated layer, and we know how tomatoes like to send a ridiculous amount of roots curled to the bottom. Remixing everything after each season, will probably be ok I guess.
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Old April 6, 2020   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanstaafl72555 View Post
Question: How much water a day for 5 gallon buckets is "normal"? I don't want end rot, but I also dont want to water log the roots.

There's no answer to that question. It depends entirely on the amount of water the occupant can pump and how hot/dry is the ambient.

But your question raises another question: You aren't intending to use undrained buckets, I hope. There's no way you'll be able to manually regulate the moisture levels; you must create an environment where the soil moisture level will regulate itself. That means a sufficiently coarse, self-draining soil mix.

Self-watering is one solution. I wouldn't use it with very large plants.

IMO the best is a coarse mix that won't sustain a "perched water table" (PWT). In other words, it won't act as a sponge, holding standing water and drowning roots.

An example is Tapla's 5-1-1 Mix https://www.houzz.com/discussions/13...in-more-detail
5 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat
1-2 parts perlite
Optional:
garden lime
controlled release fertilizer
a micro-nutrient source (seaweed emulsion, Earthjuice, Micro-max, STEM, etc,)

Does this fit your idea of your garden?
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Old April 6, 2020   #9
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You guys are awesome. Thanks for all the responses. I am a little nervous as I "saturated" the buckets, in that I filled them to the point that water dribbled out of the holes in the bottom, let them sit in the sun for an afternoon, and then planted (or transplanted, to be more correct). I was a little surprised to see how LONG the water took to run thru the mix, and when I turned it, it looked like "gumbo" land (if you are from the South you know.... marshy, mucky, always wet swamp stuff). Dunno when to water, and more importantly, how much. Much thanks for the "collander" advice above. Actually, much thanks to everyone. I have now 56 buckets out, with three raised beds. Let's just hope I don't manage to kill everything.
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Old April 7, 2020   #10
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Old April 8, 2020   #11
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If the water dribbles out the holes, that means that you've fully watered them, which is good. It's only a problem if the mix retains too much water (see above comment re: PWT). If you stop watering before water comes out the holes, there's no way to know how wet the soil is. If you have a proper mix and proper drainage, you can't really overwater.

As for fertilizer, I never have been able to find much of a good answer as to "how much". I use only liquid ferts after plant-out. I think, in a well-draining mix, it would be hard to over-fertilize. The best thing is probably to go easy and go slow, and see how the plants respond. You can read the FAQs from Texas Tomato Food (somewhere... a thread here?) that discuss how/when to fertilize using their product, which I think is relevant for all liquid ferts.

Good luck!
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Old April 8, 2020   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elight View Post
there's no way to know how wet the soil is.

Well, plant droopage will give you a clue. For peppers, it's my primary summer indicator. I'm not sure how well it works with tomatoes.
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Old April 11, 2020   #13
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I don't grow tomatoes in buckets, but I grow peppers in buckets, so I'd like to follow your progress.
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Old April 11, 2020   #14
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Tomatoes in a bucket, once big and start to carry fruit, you need to ensure steady and sufficient watering, else you run a higher risk of BER.
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Old April 11, 2020   #15
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Peak season I have to fill my Earthboxes at least twice a day.
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