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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 17, 2009   #16
Structure
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Default Second asking the source

I'm not saying this to brown nose, but I think that Raybo has significantly increased the sale of MG potting mix. It's not just on these boards. For example, our local newpaper carried a story on his Earthtainers and I know several folks who tried it. These are not the type to show up on internet Tomato forums, but they are the type to have been buying lots of MG potting mix. Our local Homedepot flew through several pallets of the stuff this spring. I don't have a clue what their normal sales are, but given the economy at the time, it seems pretty impressive.

Thus, I think MG ought to have a real interest in making this work. They're missing a significant business opportunity if they don't.

They should also give Raybo free soil. Seriously.
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Old July 17, 2009   #17
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Thanks Structure - - but I really like to pay for everything that I ultimately recommend in the Construction Guide, etc. that way, no "favored" treatment, or implication thereof.

But regarding your comment on EarthTainer builds, it was funny this Spring when I went in to 3 Lowes that while they had plenty of 18 gallon Rubbermaid containers, the 3 stores in Silicon Valley were out of the 31 gallon size used in the EarthTainer Guide for several weeks. May have been coincidence, but it brought a smile to my face in driving the Inventory Planning folks kind of nuts!!

Here is a Thread I posted in another Forum:

I agree 100% that by "mechanically" trying to throttle the flow of moisture upward in a SWC, is an exercise in futility!!

What I REALLY need to do is to find a "happy" combination of ingredients that will keep the tomato plants moist, and not wet. I also need to find this combo so that hundreds of people who are using the EarthTainer design can source and combine these ingredients from Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, or Nursery stores across the U.S. with easy availability. Cost is somewhat secondary as if you live in a Condo, or apartment in NYC, growing garden fresh tomatoes on your balcony is "priceless".





So help me out my friends, in finding that elusive combo mix best suited for tomato growing. Hundreds of EarthTainer (and EarthBox users, for that matter) will be eternally grateful!!!


Ray
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Old July 17, 2009   #18
dice
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That explanation of epsom salt's affect on soil pH assumes
that there are enough roots and plants growing in the soil
that they are using up nutrients that are there. In soil with
nothing growing in it, the magnesium and sulfur in the epsom
salt pretty much balance out, and there may be no
noticeable effect on soil pH. In soil with nothing growing
in it and a lot of rain, either the magnesium or sulfur might
be more mobile in the soil, and there could be a delayed
pH change from the epsom salt as one component leaches
out of the soil faster than the other. (That will not be an
issue with the self-watering containers, which are not
top-watered.)
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Old July 17, 2009   #19
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Agreed Structue. Ray's containers are exactly the sort of project Scott's would be wanting to feature on their website.
Who knows Ray, they may even blend a special formula for containers?
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Old July 17, 2009   #20
dice
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I still like adding more perlite to any peat-based potting mix
for a self-watering container. It does not absorb water, and
it is light weight.

The only challenge is finding it in big bags. I did see some at
a feed store in 50-lb bags (I don't know what their customers
used it for, but it was there).

What about mixing in packing peanuts? (Not organic though.)
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Old July 17, 2009   #21
rnewste
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dice,

I can only find small bags of Perlite at Lowes. Not too many Feed Stores in Silicon Valley these days......

hopefully, someone can point me in the right direction.

Ray
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Old July 17, 2009   #22
hill60
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Just a thought, have you tried a full line Nursery one that sells everything. My favourite Nursery if they don't carry a product or size of something I want will order it for me. They're the ones that usually have the contacts for what we need for growing. If they don't have something they can steer you in the right direction.

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Old July 17, 2009   #23
rnewste
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Hill60,

Yes, I have tried Summer Winds and Yamagami's locally here, and no luck.

Ray
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Old July 17, 2009   #24
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Just thinking out loud here, but when comparing the EarthTainer to the EarthBox, has anyone noticed if there is a difference in the moisture of the potting mix between the two? Of course, someone would have to own and EB and and ET and compare, but if the EB isn't as wet, then is there something in their product that makes it less "wet". Not necessarily that they add something to make it less wet, but in the engineering and assembly of their product. If I'm correct, the two are fairly similar? I would just assume that the EB has the same problem, and noone has really noticed up to this point.
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Old July 17, 2009   #25
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kevokie,

I own both, and just checked my EarthBox (good suggestion, by the way - - I never even thought to measure it). I am getting the same "Wet" reading on my Moisture Meter as I saw in my EarthTainers, so it appears to be more related to the properties of the Miracle-Gro potting mix itself.

I want to emphasize that it is not a "problem" as I get bountiful harvests of tomatoes. I am just on a quest to "fine tune" the eco-system as optimal as possible for a balance of plant health with production.

Ray
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Old July 18, 2009   #26
kevokie
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Ray,

I have definately seen the pictures of your tomato plants, and I am green with envy! As a matter of fact, I look up your pictures for inspirational purposes.

Anyways, on your fine tuning quest, have you tried any different potting mix that is out there? I've seen mention of Scott's, and I've seen in some of your pictures a bag of Sta-Green(?) I think. I've been trying to brainstorm things that could be added to the mix in order to tweak the moisture level. Other than what is already mentioned, I come up with plain ol' sand or some kind of gravel. Of course, sand was mentioned earlier but I am not sure what problems it would pose. Then, there is the whole, "does this throw the pH off much?"

How much of an effect on the moisure level do you think the mulching aspect creates? What I mean is, if you removed the plastic mulching from the top, would that help with the wetness of the mix in the 'tainer? Could it be better to just use a bark type mulch or even straw mulching and eliminate the plastic all together?

Just my thoughts.
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Old July 18, 2009   #27
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kevokie,

Wow, we are on the same wavelength today!! Just came back from Lowes with 4 bags of their Sta-Green Potting Mix. I recalled when I used it last year that it had a larger particle sized composition than the Miracle-Gro. What I am learning now is that larger particle size media will lessen the moisture content, so will give this a try in a 'Tainer later today.

I am also going to load up a 'Tainer with the Cactus Mix to evaluate wetness although, I am a bit concerned about the sand component of the Mix. Again as above, the smaller particle size of the sand will actually cradle more water (think of walking on the beach on the shoreline, and how saturated that sand is when you dig into it). The sand might be good at draining a traditional container with top down watering, but how it will impact "bottom-up" capillary watering in a SWC is to be determined.

Regarding your suggestion of removing the plastic mulch, that is EXACTLY what started me off on my quest to "tune" the moisture content of the potting mix. I planted a pair of Big Beef some time ago and left off the moisture barrier. These two plants are the healthiest in my entire 'Tainer Farm today:



Green foliage from bottom to top. No "leggy" vines, etc. Perfectly shaped tomatoes. My other Big Beef with the moisture barrier has wilted branches at the bottom, and the fruit are heavily lobbed. The only downside of leaving the moisture barrier off (two actually) is that the 'Tainer will use more water per week due to evaporation give-off, and the fertilizer strip running around the top of the 'Tainer would not make good moisture contact to disperse throughout the 'Tainer.

I can bury the strip deeper into the potting mix as an option, but again, I would rather keep the moisture barrier and instead focus on controlling the top-to-bottom moisture within the 'Tainer by blending a combo-mix to give the desired "Moist" reading on the meter, and not just have the top 3 inches being drier.

I have also just purchased a couple of 2 cubic foot bags of Perlite to also blend in with the original Miracle-Gro potting mix. Not sure of the ratio that I should use, so it will be trial and error for a couple of iterations. Fun stuff!!

Ray
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Old July 18, 2009   #28
Structure
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Default results seem to vary a lot with variety

Cherokee purple is doing excellent. Likewise Stupice. Anna Russian so-so. Black Krim eh. Omar's Lebonese eh. Coustralee so-so. Persimmon fairly good. NAR good.

Pictured from left to right. Stupice, Anna Russian, "Brandywine" (some nursery transplant that turned out not to be brandywine and is a good 8-9 fee tall with small tasteless tomatoes), and CP.
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Old August 14, 2009   #29
dice
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[PS: Rapitest pH Meter with probe on a cord]

I did get some neutral buffering solution for adjusting pH
meters that has pH 7.0. I tested the meter, and it was showing
about pH 6.9. So not off all that much at neutral pH. If I aim
for 6.5 on the meter in soils, container mix, and water,
I will be close enough for good nutrient uptake.

Looks like the cheap Kemtek test strips (color match, so never
all that accurate to begin with) and pH testing solution for the
hot tub are reading high by a lot more than the Rapitest meter
is reading low.
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Old August 18, 2009   #30
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I'm not sure how much changing the media is going to effect the moisture level in a closed container. Perlite and pine bark fines are great additives to increase drainage but where is the moisture going to drain to in a closed system?
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