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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 8, 2013   #61
dfollett
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Default Six Weeks

Six weeks outside. Early Girl (on left) is 29" tall, loaded with blossoms and some fruit set (2nd photo) - about to spill over the top. I don't know whether to top it or try to extend the cage. Siberian - 20" and very bushy - Lots of blossoms and some fruit set (3rd photo). Twenty-five nights below freezing, so far - but the nights are warming somewhat.
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Old May 8, 2013   #62
rnewste
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As the Siberian will not exceed the cage, I would just top the branches of the Early Girl as needed. Great news on the fruitset!

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Old May 18, 2013   #63
dfollett
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I’m starting to think I should have pruned some of the suckers while I could still see down into the plant. I’ve never had tomatoes do well enough to get unwieldy on me before. I may be in trouble before we are through with this one.

I originally said I was not going to do anything but take lids on and off and turn the heaters on and off. I may to have to break my rule and throw a blanket over this one since the lid will no longer work and I didn’t have the heart to top it (29⁰ in the forecast for tomorrow night). In the third photo you can see the Siberian on the right nearing the top of the ‘Tainer.

Two more weeks and I should be able to take the plastic off and let them breathe.
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Old May 18, 2013   #64
JamesL
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Best problem to have! Plants look great. Very healthy.
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Old May 18, 2013   #65
Tracydr
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Interesting thread. I may try one of those greenhouses next winter, along with a lightbulb for cold nights.
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Old May 18, 2013   #66
rnewste
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What you may want to do for next Season, is to cut your upper cage in half just above the second horizontal rung, then you can add cage sections and your wrap progressively as the plant grows.

Attach the top section to the first extension with wire rope clips and this will better "track" the growth while enabling you to have a protective lid of the wrap for the top to protect the plant. Think how they build those jack-up buildings.....

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Old May 19, 2013   #67
dfollett
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Thanks, James.

Tracy - I hope I don't jinx myself by saying this, but so far, it has worked better than I had hoped it would (although I ended up going about it differently than I had planned). I have several other tainers with different varieties going. All of them have are blooming and have set fruit. Most are doing very well, a couple, not so much. Any heat source in the top of the tainer will work. Good luck. Please share whatever you learn.

Raybo - Thanks for the suggestion. If I had done that today, it would have made my next two weeks easier. Maybe I'll get lucky and we won't have any more frosts. Also Ray, Thanks for the work and research you share so freely.
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Old June 9, 2013   #68
dfollett
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Default Conclusion!

It’s time to bring this experiment and thread to a conclusion. I find it frustrating when I read through a thread where this or that is being attempted, compared or trialed only to be left hanging with no report as to results. So, here are the details:

My original goal was to try to lengthen the growing season for two reasons (1- to harvest longer and (2- to extend the season so I could grow something other than early or short-season tomatoes.

The short answer is that it worked much better than I expected or hoped – although with a different approach than I originally envisioned. I picked the first ripe tomato on May 27 and another two June 1. One of my goals had been to have ripe tomatoes by the time of our normal frost-free date (June 3). I removed the plastic from the outside of the cages on June 5. Our last frost here (so far) was the morning of June 1 - 29⁰. Looking at the long-range forecasts, I think we are out of the woods for this season (although we will still see numerous nights with temps in the 30s..

In all, I planted 14 different varieties of tomatoes and wrapped the cages on 7 Earthtainers. They all have great color and look very healthy, although some did much better than others. I’ll describe some of them in order of the photos:

  • Photo 1 – Seven Earthtainers – before the disrobing.
    • Photos 2-4 - Planted March 27 – 11 nights 24⁰ or below – 18 between 24⁰ & 32⁰ – 27 between 32⁰ & 40⁰ and 14 over 40⁰ – 70 days
    o Early Girl is 53” – 25+ fruit and lots of blossoms – extremely dense – a few starting to blush.
    o Siberian is 34” – too dense and too many fruit to count – small fruit – a few starting to blush.

    • Photos 5-8 - Planted March 31 – 11 nights 24⁰ or below – 14 between 24⁰ & 32⁰ – 27 between 32⁰ & 40⁰ and 14 over 40⁰ – 66 days
    o Black Krim – 34” – 7-10 fruit – fair number of blossoms
    o Sophie’s Choice – 27” – 25+ fruit – fair blossoms
    o Abe Lincoln – 34” – 20+ fruit – largest 4” – Loaded with blossoms very dense foliage.
    o Silvery Fir Tree – 14” – 25+ fruit – no blossoms - picked 3 fruit so far (2-4 oz). Short and dense.
    o Early Wonder – the poorest of all, by quite a bit – 17” – about 20 fruit – largest 1 ½ “ – 3 clusters of blossoms – looks healthy, but very sparse foliage -
    o ? (seed label said Silvery Fir Tree, but definitely not) 32” – 15 fruit – largest 2” – quite a few blossoms – looks healthy but more sparse than most others.

    • Photos 9-11 - Planted April 24 – 3 nights 24⁰ or below – 6 between 24⁰ & 32⁰ – 20 between 32⁰ & 40⁰ and 13 over 40⁰ – 42 days
    o Sasha’s Altai – 42” – 12-15 small fruit – largest 1” – lots of blossoms – very dense foliage – great color (I don’t know how large Sasha’s Altai gets, but it is ahead of the Early Girl for its age).
    o Paul Robeson – 34” – 7-10 fruit – Lots of blossoms
    o Earliana – 32” – 4 fruit – few blossoms – very healthy looking, but not much production yet.
    o Carmello – 26” – 7 fruit – lots of blossoms
    o Dr. Wyche’s Yellow –34” – 1 fruit – lots of blossoms
    o Black Sea Man – 29” – 5 fruit – lots of blossoms
Additional observations:

I used the heaters much more than I anticipated when I installed them. Originally I planned on using them as needed to keep the temperatures above freezing on cold nights. Instead, I used them every night (they kept temps 15⁰-20⁰ above outside temps and warmer is better than colder) and on quite a few days. On those cloudy/snowy days with high temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s, I kept the lids and heaters on and the plants enjoyed 50’s and 60’s. I’m sure that contributed to their growth.

Knowing that the plants were getting no wind, I used a toothbrush to help pollinate a few times each week. I don’t know how the fruit-set would have been without that. I didn’t see any that had dropped any significant number of blossoms.

The humidity was always way high inside the cages when I took the lids off in the mornings – plastic on the sides of the cages was wet as were the leaves pressing against the plastic. Our humidity is typically very low, so they nearly always dried out during the day. I haven’t seen any fungal problems, but I sprayed with Daconil after the disrobing for insurance. Not knowing for sure, I assume that fungal diseases don’t manifest themselves until the weather is hot. Freezing nights are probably an ally.

It will be interesting to see how they adapt to the cooler nights. Without the plastic and heaters, they will experience cooler nighttime temperatures for the next couple of weeks than they have for a while (except for those that topped the caging so I couldn’t put the lids on). Those that topped the caging seemed to take the cold nights OK (it never got below 28⁰ during that time). I turned the heaters on and left the lid off. I’m sure the rising heat helped (the one that topped first did have a few dangling leaves that got nipped on the edges).

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It looks like I will be enjoying all the fresh tomatoes I can use over the next two months when I normally would be watching for the first blossoms and fruits to appear. Next year I will plant a few for early tomatoes, based on which ones of these produce the best until our regular season starts. I will also plant a bunch of the late-season heirlooms I have never considered before – something to look forward to.

Many thanks to all who offered suggestions – JamesL – thanks for the advice to think twice before going ‘all in’ with a bark mix that contained 20% manure. I followed it. My study was not scientific at all, but the two ‘Tainers with the sparsest foliage and poorest looking plants were the only two in which I used that product.

So, that’s it. I’d be happy to share anything else I learned or did if anyone wants to PM me or ask something here. Bye.
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File Type: jpg 1-EarlyGirl -Siberian.JPG (180.6 KB, 42 views)
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File Type: jpg 1-Siberian.JPG (172.1 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg 2-BlackKrim-SophiesChoice.JPG (186.1 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg 3-AbeLincoln-SilveryFirTree.JPG (188.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg 4-EarlyWonder-Unknown.JPG (169.5 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg 5-SashasAltai-PaulRobeson.JPG (168.0 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg 6-Earliana-Carmello.JPG (190.7 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg 7-DrWychesYellow-BlackSeaMan.JPG (174.0 KB, 37 views)
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Old June 10, 2013   #69
JamesL
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Dfollett,
Great follow up post and congratulations on a successful result!
Please let us know how your season ends up.
I fully intend to try a version of this, hopefully next winter.
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Old July 15, 2013   #70
fishtrap
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Default Soil Temperature

This is my second year of earthtainers on the garage roof. The roof is black epdm (rubber). Both years the plants are great until July when it starts to get really hot. The earthtainers are up on wood leveling platforms a couple of inches. I am thinking this year that it may be too hot on the roof and the roots are cookin'. Today is 95 ambient, 101 on the roof, 120 sitting on the rubber. I just went to Lowes and bought some Reflectix Double Bubble Reflective insulation wrap and wrapped a skirt around each earthtainer. We'll see. Anybody ever had this problem?
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Old July 15, 2013   #71
JamesL
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Ouch. That's Texas hot. How many tainers do you have? Maybe post this in a new thread for the Southern container growers to weigh in.
Haven't had that problem.
2 thoughts - start really early and also replant for a fall crop like the texans do. I wonder if that would work in NY?
What about putting down a layer of foam insulation board? If you can't get white you could also staple a layer of Tyvec house wrap to it. That would not be to expensive.
It would need to be wide enough to avoid having the radiant heat coming off the black roof still hitting the foliage.
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Old September 10, 2013   #72
dfollett
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Default Will it work in the fall?

It worked so well this spring I thought I’d give it a shot this fall. I probably thought about it too late and will likely not get a crop to ripen, but I’m going to give it a try.

I planted 15 dwarf seedlings in 5 Earthtainers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get them planted until August 24th – I wish I had thought of it about a month earlier and planted them in July. I used dwarf plants so they would not outgrow the single level of cage on the ‘Tainers.

It has been warmer than normal all summer and so far this fall. I intend to wrap and start covering the cages as soon as it looks like we're getting close to a frost. I probably won’t report a blow-by-blow throughout the fall, but will give a report when I either pick ripe tomatoes in October/November (our average first frost date is September 3) or give up with frozen plants. I’m going to use essentially the same set-up I ended up with this spring. We’ll see what happens.
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