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CONTAINER TOMATOES

CONTAINER TOMATOES

 

Growing tomatoes in containers is much more demanding than growing in good old garden soil in the ground.  You have to be much more attentive to the crop.

 

Growing in raised beds or growing in a 5 gallon bucket would be the same.  A raised bed is just a large container.  The main difference a bucket or pot usually contains one plant while a raised bed may contain a number of plants of several different varieties.  All of which need to be tended just a little different.  This article is going to assume that only tomatoes will be planted.

 

Some types of tomatoes will work in fairly small containers while others may need a larger pot.  A small growing plant will do fine in a 3 gal pot while a larger growing variety might need a 5 gal pot.  Pot size is not the most important consideration.  You just want to make sure you have plenty of room for the root ball.

 

The most important item in container growing is the potting mix.  I would suggest using a commercial potting mix and not trying to make your own.  I see customers prepare elaborate raised beds and then, because of cost, try to fill them up with top soil and a bag of peat moss mixed in order to control cost and then have no success with their crop. Drainage is critical in containers.  Usually homemade mixes are too heavy and hold water and this causes problems. For example, in a growing nursery when you put a gallon of water on a plant you want it to run out the bottom in about 20 minutes.  Plants as a rule don’t like their roots to stay wet and tomatoes especially don’t like wet roots. This may mean daily watering whereas in the ground once every two weeks or maybe not at all is usually satisfactory.

 

Don’t over fertilize or over water.  We had customers coming in the store on a regular basis bragging about what beautiful plants they had but they were not blooming or setting any tomatoes.  What was wrong? They were over fertilizing or over watering.  The plant was so busy growing it didn’t have time to bloom or fruit.

 

For insects I use Sevin just as in the ground.  Disease I don’t worry about.  I try to water under the leaves. Never ever wet the leaves if you can avoid it.  That causes disease.  If you see signs of disease you can use an all purpose fungicide.  Usually sunshine and a light breeze will take care of most diseases.

 

If the fruit develops blossom end rot buy a can of spray just for that problem.  Normally one application will cure the problem.

 

I don’t sucker my plants either in the ground or in containers.  You can if you want.  It lets in light and air, but may reduce your yield.

 

Last when you see where I use a certain product that does not make that product magic.  I use it because it works and I like it but there are likely many other products on the market just as good. Use what you like.

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME.

 
GROWING TOMATOES IN THE GROUND

GROWING TOMATOES IN THE GROUND

Let me say that growing tomatoes or anything else for that matter in the ground, is much different than growing them in raised beds or containers.  Watering and fertilizing will be much different in containers versus in the ground. In this article I am going to address growing in the ground and I will discuss container growing in a few days.

 

The two most important things to consider are location and soil.

 

First, location. Tomatoes should be grown in as much sun as possible. Six hours a day of full direct sunlight is a minimum.  Most of that should be afternoon.  All day is much better.  With less light you will have more plant and less fruit.

 

Next, soil.  You need a good loamy, well drained soil.  Good drainage is important for most plants and tomatoes are no exception. Pick up a handful of soil, if it will clump or form a loose ball without being watered then it is likely good for gardening. Earth worms in the soil is another sign of fertile soil.

 

Pick varieties of tomatoes that you like.  Growing conditions are pretty much the same for all tomatoes.  I like for soil temperatures to be above 65 when I plant.  There are all kinds of methods to get a jump on spring and plant early but plants in the ground don’t do much until the soil warms up.

 

Personally I like to buy plants in four packs. A four pack is much better than a six pack as you have more root ball in a four pack.  You can buy larger plant but it offers little advantage.

 

I use plain old 10-10-10 for all of my garden and that in limited amounts.  Too much fertilizer will give you excessive plant growth but not necessarily increase your fruit yield.  Plants don’t grow and set bloom and fruit at the same time.

 

Water.  How much and how often is a tough question to answer.  Every garden is different. Rain, wind, clouds, sun and daily temperature all affect need for water.  In the most productive garden I know of the man never waters, fertilizes very little, doesn’t pay attention to disease or insects, and always has more tomatoes than he knows what to do with.

 

I use Sevin if see a real need for an insecticide.  It is an all purpose product and very safe.  I don’t bother with fungicides as diseases are so weather related that I don’t bother.

 

These are some general rules that I follow.  They seem to work well for me.  As you can see I am not into organics. OK if you want to but it's just not worth it for me.

 

In a few days I will post some tips for containers.

 
HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

 

What makes a tomato an heirloom?  Experts generally recognize three categories of heirlooms.  They are commercial, family and created.

 

COMMERCIAL

These are varieties introduced by seed companies before 1940. Some of these are hybrid varieties.  Most purists don’t recognize the hybrids because they are different from their parents. Remember,  if they are hybrids you can't save their seed.

 

FAMILY HEIRLOOMS

Usually developed for certain characteristics and produced as an open pollinated form.  Open pollinated simply means the seeds carry the same characteristics as the parents.  Thus you can save seed and plant year after year and get the same results.

 

CREATED HEIRLOOMS

They result from the deliberate crossing of two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid.

This is a simple explanation of the differences.  Again it means little to a homeowner that is planting and just wants a few good tomatoes to put on the table.

 

A last thought, do not go into a garden center and ask the clerk what type the variety you pick up is.  Most of them don’t know if its not on the label. When I was in the business I didn’t know.  If it wasn’t on the label I simply did not have time to check out all the different ones. We carried some 60 to 70 varieties during the season and it just wasn’t that important.

 
April - Almost Tomato Planting Time

(Almost) TOMATO PLANTING TIME

 

It is that time of the year.  People are ready to plant tomatoes.  And nothing you can say or do will keep them from planting. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some tomato terminology and what the terms mean.

 

HYBRID

Plants that are grown by genetically crossing two plants.  Seeds from these cannot be saved.  They will not produce true in the next generation.  You will end up with low yield and fruit that is not very good.  Hybrids are generally more disease and crack resistant.  They are bred for specific qualities.  Many times taste is sacraficed in order to get a firmer fruit or a longer keeper for example.

 

LOW ACID

Those have a higher sugar content and seem less acid than regular tomatoes. Actually, they have the same amount of acid.  Some people like them better.

 

HEIRLOOM

These are tomatoes the way nature made them.  You can save the seeds and they will produce the same plant next season.  They are less disease resistant and tend to crack and not keep as well as newer introductions.

 

DETERMINATE

This refers to the growth habit of the plant. They grow to a specific height and then stop growing.  The fruit ripens all at once and they are good for canning, freezing and drying.

 

INDETERMINATE

This also refers to the plants growth habit.  The plants genes tell it to keep growing.  Normally these need to be staked or caged and they continue to bear fruit all summer and until frost.

 

NUMBER OF DAYS

Simply lists the number of days from the time the seed germinates until the fruit matures or starts to ripen.

 

ORGANIC

These are seeds that are grown under the USDAs NOPL (National Organic Program) standards.

 

 

This is just some of the more important terminology used in talking about tomatoes. It is probably not that important to the average homeowner planting 5 or 6 plants.  I receive two catalogs each with hundreds of tomato seed listed and yet there are many differences between the two listings.  Just an example of how many kinds of seed are available Brandywine is a popular heirloom.  There are some 15 to 20 different Brandywines available.

 

In the next few days I am going to write about what makes an heirloom an heirloom, also about the difference in growing in the ground versus growing in containers.

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME

 

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Plant of the Week-Azalea

AzaleaAzalea

  • Azaleas are called "the royalty of the garden."   
  • Azaleas are easy to grow. 
  • Azaleas come in a wide range of colors.
  • Azaleas will not tolerate alkaline soil and prefer a rich acidic soil with a PH level from 5-6.
  • The roots of azaleas need to be kept cool and moist, but not wet.
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