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Zipfelmuetze
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Early Girl Tomato

I purchased a $2.00 Early Girl Tomato plant from Target's Garden Center clearance. I have no idea how to care for a tomato plant though.

I don't have a garden, because I live in an apartment, but I do have a balcony. I've been keeping my herbs inside though, right by the window, because I want to avoid bugs. Last year my herbs on the balcony had a number of bugs and I got grossed out. My Early girl plant was doing ok by the window, but seemed a bit weak every now and then so I put a light over it since I thought it wasn't getting enough sunlight, but then it seemed to be growing away from that light, so then I watered it and it seemed fine. The other day it withered a tad so I turned the light back on and it appreciated the light that time. I decided to place the tomato plant on the balcony just to see how it does in the full sunlight, but a day later I looked outside and it was completely withered. It looked dead, but I took it back inside, watered it and it is back to normal again. This is one picky plant! Any advice would be great, thanks.

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rainbowgardener
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You didn't say where you are or what kind of climate you are growing in or what direction your balcony faces (ie, how much sun does it get).

But MG gave you good advice.

I start plants from seed every winter indoors under lights, to plant out in spring. The trickiest part of that process is called hardening off. It is getting the plant used to being outdoors in direct sun, wind, temperature changes etc after being babied indoors. It has to be done gradually, bring them out for a few hours in a protected location, then gradually give them more time outdoors and then less protection.

When you moved your plant outside it wasn't adapted to the new conditions. Our eyes are so efficient at adapting we don't realize how many times brighter even a cloudy day outdoors is than even bright indoor lighting.

Tomato plants like at least 6 hrs a day of direct sun (once they are acclimated to it), enough water to keep moist, and enough nutrients. Growing them in a container where you are flushing nutrients out all the time, you will need to fertilize regularly. Your tomato plant will need to be in a pot at least the size of a 5 gallon bucket. The plant once it gets bigger will need a cage or some kind of support, unless you just want to let the vine sprawl all over the place.
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Zipfelmuetze
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Thanks for the replies!
I live in East Bay, CA. My balcony faces towards the West. Yeah I'll have to repot the Early girl tomato since the current container is nowhere near 5 gallons. Do I use sand mixed with soil for tomato plants?

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engineeredgarden
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You will want to create a mix that has adequate moisture retention, excellent drainage, and airspace for the longevity of root health. A combination of potting mix (or peat moss), small pieces of pine bark, and perlite will give you excellent results in a container.....

EG

cynthia_h
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Good luck with tomatoes this year in the East Bay. :( My SunGolds, in containers between my south-facing wall and my driveway--full sun--bore fruit, a little smaller than it should have been, but at least something.

All my other tomatoes--the ones in the raised beds, including the Stupice, a cool-season tomato--were shriveled and shocked by our record cold summer and topped out at about 10 inches tall. One Roma has finally been inspired by the heat wave in late August and has sent out maybe a dozen tomatoes, all in clusters close to the ground, where heat is reflected from the cinder blocks which form the sides of its raised bed.

So you're working uphill with the length of day/sun exposure, now that it's the Autumnal Equinox.

You're also working uphill with the temperatures, since tomatoes prefer temps in the 70s, 80s, and low 90s to mature, esp. the larger tomatoes.

The 5-gallon container is what the tomato grows into. Let the root structure develop so that it needs repotting before just throwing the whole plant into a 5-gallon container. For instance, if you purchased this (expensive) clearance plant in a 6-inch plastic pot, it may need up-potting into a 1-gallon pot now. Then, later, it may need the 5-gallon pot. IF the ever-shorter days and the slowly dropping temps allow the plant to grow sufficiently large.

If you have a very protected, warm, southwest-facing corner with excellent sun, that is where the tomato has the best chance of doing well.

As to the planting medium for the tomato container: native soil is usually not recommended b/c of the weed seeds, insect eggs, and all that it may contain, as well as the drainage characteristics it may possess. Containers need growing media which drain well but not too quickly. There's a product available around here called "Paydirt" which is a potting medium with nutrients in it. I've seen it at two independent nurseries in Berkeley, so it's probably available at others, too. Maybe the tomato will like "Paydirt" or a similar growing medium.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Zipfelmuetze
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Thanks for all of the info! I'll take a look around for Paydirt. My plant has fully recovered from being outside and is growing some white flowers now. I wonder if I will even get tomatoes.

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gixxerific
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Zipfelmuetze wrote:Thanks for all of the info! I'll take a look around for Paydirt. My plant has fully recovered from being outside and is growing some white flowers now. I wonder if I will even get tomatoes.
Tomato flowers are yellow, aren't they? :?

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Zipfelmuetze
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Oops, you're right, they are yellow. I was thinking about my chili plant's flowers.

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gixxerific
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Zipfelmuetze wrote:Oops, you're right, they are yellow. I was thinking about my chili plant's flowers.
:() Just checking I have never seen a white tomato flower. 8)

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