FrankT
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:19 am
Location: Carlisle, Pa

Cotainer gardening similar to fishing?

First, I woud like to thank the forum members who welcomed me to this forum when I registered as a "Newbie' last week.

Next, I have to reiterate my complete lack of gardening experience in general, and container gardening in particular. Since joinng I have spent a considerable amount of time going through the various forum posts trying to learn as much as possible. I've come to the conclusion gardening, in a sense, is similar to fishing --- everyone has their own favorite equipment, lure, and 'hole'. Wih this thought in mind, I have some basic quesions to ask. Also, keep in mind I am primarily interested in growing tomatoes.

COMMERCIAL POTTING MIX --- Jiffy Mix, Promix, Jiffy Pro, etc. --- all similar or some better than others? Related question, use alone or add other mediums to mix?

CAGES --- Is the idea to keep as much of the plant as possible within the confines of the cage, or do you allow the vines to spread outside of the cage?

MAGNESIUM --- Calcium nitrate, dolomite lime, hydrated lime, eggshells, 'tums', etc. And a related question, can you overdue calcium?

TOMATO VARIETIES --- I'm living in southeastern Pennsylvania and am considering planting the following six varieties in 8-gallon containers.

2 paste --- Viva Italia & Super San Marzano
2 cherry --- Sungold & Supersweet 100
2 slicers --- Jet Star & Big Beef

These are a few of the basic questions I have at the moment and will help me getting started on the learning curve. I'm sure I will have many more as I ventue forth. EACH AND EVERY reply will be looked forward to and ANY AND ALL information greatfully accepted.

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Kisal
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When growing plants in containers, you want a planting mix that drains quickly. I prefer mixes with little or no peat moss, because it is quite acidic and also because it stays wet for a long time. The mix you use should have a near neutral pH.

Whether you need to add anything to the mix depends, IMO, on the plant you're growing. Cacti, for instance, prefer a more alkaline mix.

The container should have drainage holes in the bottom to allow easy drainage of excess water. Otherwise, the soil in the top half of the container will dry out, while the soil in the bottom half remains soggy wet. That doesn't allow the plant to develop a large, healthy root system. It can even lead to root rot, which can destroy the root system and kill the plant. I like containers with several drainage holes all over the bottom, as opposed to the containers with just one hole in the center of the bottom. I line the bottom of the container with a piece of fiberglass screening -- the stuff used for window screens. It will keep the soil from washing out the drainage holes when the plant is watered. It will also prevent insects from entering the container from the bottom and setting up housekeeping among the roots.

The passage of water through the soil, i.e. the draining process, is different in a container than in the open ground, because the soil is confined by the walls and bottom of the container. In the open ground, the water can move to the sides away from the roots, as well as downward. But in a container, it can only go downward. That means it moves more slowly, and if the soil isn't loose enough, the water can gather and stay in the bottom part of the container, creating problems with the roots. That's why I discourage people from using garden soil in containers.

Cages are simply to support the plants. In some cases, they are used to keep a stem with a large flower from falling over. In the case of tomatoes, which by their nature sprawl out on the ground, it would be to support the main stem of the plant, as well as some of the side stems that are laden with heavy fruit. The fruit that lies on the ground tends to rot quickly. I don't even use cages. I prefer staking my tomato plants, because I can position the supports exactly where the plants need them the most. But either way works well.

If you use a good quality potting mix, it probably has all the amendments it needs. I doubt you'd have to add anything like calcium or magnesium. I don't recall ever having to add anything like that. I have use fertilizers, to boost the nitrogen at the beginning, so the plant can grow large. Sometimes, I add a bit of a blossom booster type of fertilizer, to help the plant create flowers to provide fruit. There are also things that will help the plants set fruit, but I've never used those.

I've grown all kinds of tomatoes in containers. Your selection looks fine to me. The problems most people have is using the wrong kind of growing medium -- usually involving soil from their garden or yard -- and then overwatering.

Welcome and good luck! :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

FrankT
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Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:19 am
Location: Carlisle, Pa

THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

FrankT
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:19 am
Location: Carlisle, Pa

Thank you again for your lengthly and informative reply to my post a few weeks ago. I have been diligently going through old posts trying to educate myself as much as possible. I'm at the point of getting all of my ducks in a row and am beginning to feel comfotable with the information I've gathered.

One of a few questions I'm still looking for an answer to; are most of the commercial potting mixes similar in make-up? Are there big differences in Jiffymix, Promix, Miracle-Gro, Bacto, etc. I've been looking around the various nurseries in my area and am leaning to Bacto because of the cost.

As usual, I will be appreciative of any info.

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Kisal
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Location: Oregon

I can't really recommend a specific brand, because there are so many, and I certainly haven't used them all. What I look for is a brand that doesn't have peat moss as one of the first ingredients. If you find one like that, you can just use it as is, right out of the bag. If the mix has more peat in it than I care for, I pick up a bag of perlite and toss in a few handfuls of that.

All you need to do is make sure that the mix stays nice and loose, even when wet, so it will drain quickly.

The mix I use most often is Nature's Gold. I think it might be made by the ProMix people, but I don't remember for certain. I don't have to mix anything into the Nature's Gold, I just use it as it is.

I ask a clerk to open a bag for me, then I try to squeeze a handful into a ball. It should be moist, and if it is, but still falls apart, then it's good. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

loveykatie
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Location: Maryland

The mix I use most often is Nature's Gold. I think it might be made by the ProMix people, but I don't remember for certain. I don't have to mix anything into the Nature's Gold, I just use it as it is.

I ask a clerk to open a bag for me, then I try to squeeze a handful into a ball. It should be moist, and if it is, but still falls apart, then it's good.
Can you buy this brand anywhere (like Lowes or Home Depot)?

They will just open a bag for you right there into the store? What if you don't like it? Do they have to throw away the rest?
~Katie
First year of gardening - loving every minute!

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PunkRotten
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Location: Monterey, CA.

Just want to say I grew Jet Star last year and I really liked it.

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