newbyplantlover
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Questions regarding container-grown tomatoes

Hello all -

I am posting this topic in the tomato forum as well, so I can get the widest variety of feedback. Any and all feedback is welcome, so please comment if you've grown tomatoes at all! While I am asking specifically concerning container plants, any experience with tomatoes will be beneficial, as this is my first time growing tomatoes at all. Please comment!

Here are my questions:

1. How tall does the average tomato plant (indeterminate) grow? If you can give me a specific height with a specific varietal, that would be a great answer as well.

2. What method of support do you use when growing tomatoes and why? IE: stakes, cages, hanging, etc

3. What are the positives and negatives of the various methods of supports you've used? This is the question I am most interested in, so please don't skimp on words! I'll read whatever you write.


Thanks to everyone who reads and comments. I understand that growing container tomatoes is more difficult and attention-demanding than growing them in the ground. I have no choice in this matter, as I don't have ground to plant in, and must make do with my patio. But I want home-grown tomatoes! Thanks for your help guys!
Plants are just so happy.

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Kisal
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When I have grown average, full-sized indeterminate tomato plants in containers, they have gotten about 4 to 5 feet tall, give or take a bit. I prefer to grow varieties that have been specially developed for container culture.

I prefer to use stakes to support my tomato plants. Cages are okay, but I find that they don't really do that great of a job of supporting the plant, and they tend to get in my way when I harvest. But that's just my opinion. I know plenty of folks who are very satisfied using tomato cages. I think I just got used to using stakes early in my gardening career, so now I prefer them. :lol:

newbyplantlover
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Kisal - thanks for the fast reply and all your valuable information. What are the positives and negatives of using stakes in your opinion?
Plants are just so happy.

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Kisal
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By using stakes ... and sometimes I use 2 or 3, depending on the plant in question ... I can position the supports exactly where the plant needs them the most. I can place a stake right at the edge of the container, if there is a large, unwieldy side branch that needs support. I always place one right beside the center stem of the plant at the time I pot it up in the container.

With a tomato cage, you're limited to the size you have ... large or small (I have both) ... but I have had plants outgrow the top of even the large cages. When that happens, there's nothing to tie the plant to for more support. I haven't tried extending the cages with welded wire, although I did see a thread about that somewhere here, I believe. If my plant gets extra large, I can easily pull out the original stake and replace it with a longer one, or just add a longer one as a secondary support. I just feel stakes are more versatile.

As I said, though, I got used to using stakes when I first began to garden. I don't think tomato cages had been invented yet back then. (It was the DarK Ages, don'cha know! :lol: ) If I had started out using tomato cages, I might have told you the exact opposite of what I've said here! :lol:

newbyplantlover
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Kisal - thank you for your detailed reply! That was very helpful!
Plants are just so happy.

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rainbowgardener
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tomatoes in containers

I don't grow tomatoes in containers any more, because I never had very much luck with it. The main thing is that containers dry out very fast and tomatoes need lots of water. If you don't do anything special, in the heat of the summer you may need to be watering the tomato container twice a day and I could never keep that together.

But more people are doing tomato containers these days, because of better containers. If you get the kind of container that has a water reservoir at the bottom, it helps to keep the soil evenly moist with a lot less trouble. A way to do the same thing yourself is before you put dirt in your pot (and be sure you have some gravel or broken pots or something at the bottom for drainage) take a strip of old toweling and run it from the bottom up over the top edge and hanging over. Then add your soil mixture and then put the towel strip in a bucket of water. It will wick water into your soil.

The other thing about containers is if you are running lots of water through, you are flushing nutrients out of the soil, so you will have to be more diligent than you would in the ground about adding nutrients back in.
Be sure your container is BIG enough. 5 gallon bucket size minimum.

newbyplantlover
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Thanks rainbow! The watering issue is another thing I've got to figure out as well. I'm working on ideas for that. Thanks for the towel suggestion!
Plants are just so happy.

pepper4
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This is also my first year to do any kind of veggie gardening. I put alot in the ground but choose to do tomatoes in containers. I have 6 going. Right now they are about 2 1/2 feet tall and I do have them staked but I think I am also going to put cages around them. Extra protection on those real windy days. Watering and drainage is very important as indicated by others. We've had a couple days where I had to water twice but so far temps have been mostly mild and we've been getting a good amount of rain which helps. I also put wood chips on top of soil to help retain some of the water and to keep dirt from splashing up on plant when it does rain. Makes sense nutrients will get washed out more so in pots so I add alittle bone meal once a month and water with fish emulsion once a week. May not need to do both but it's working for me. Saw a big improvement in growth after I started usuing fish emulsion. By no means have I had a lot of experience but I hope this will be of some help to you. Good-luck! :D
Bambi

newbyplantlover
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Thank you so much, Bambi!! I appreciate your input! The issue with any kind of support seems to be mostly with the 'arms' of the plant. That and ease of harvesting the fruit. Thanks for your suggestions on nutrition as well!
Plants are just so happy.

beartoe
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There is a possibility of over-doing it with the support. A stake, some twine, and the invaluable assistance of daily attention to your plants. I watch my plants as they grow, but I also use my hands to get a sense of how even or uneven the weight is distributed. By touching, lifting, poking around the plants, you get a good sense of where the bulk of the load rests on a given stem. Looking for trouble spots is one way to avoid overdoing it. Just concentrate on areas where the plant is straining.

emeraldko
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about watering...

I have only heard of this and I am trying it out for myself. If you are having trouble with watering you can use an empty soda bottle, fill it with water, and push the opening in the dirt. It is supposed to work the same as the 'water globes' that water the pot only when the plant needs water. Once again i am only trying it out now myself so I don't know if it completly true or not....
new gardener - lots to learn

newbyplantlover
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Beartoe - Thanks! That is very helpful to consider. When you say 'there is a possibility of over-doing it with support' what do you mean? Is it possible to harm the plant, or are you just saying that it isn't really necessary. Thanks for your input! I appreciate it.

Emeraldko - I am toying with several ideas similar to that. I have heard in the peak of summer, that container tomatoes need to be watered sometimes twice a day. One liter is not going to cut it if the demand is that high. Depending on what the water consumption is ... I'm going to do something with a system that will keep it decently watered, and maybe I can supplement. I have heard that punching holes in a gallon jug and burying in the dirt, then keeping it filled with water is another way of making sure it gets continual water. Of course, that method is dangerously close to 'out of sight, out of mind' ... so I don't know the actual effectiveness of it. Thanks for the input though!
Plants are just so happy.

pepper4
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newbyplantlover, if you decide to stake your plants I would suggest tieing them with and old pair of nylons rather then twine or twist ties to reduce chance of them getting cut into or damaged. Just alittle tip I was given :wink:
Bambi

newbyplantlover
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Bambi - Thanks! Yeah, I've heard that tip as well. :)
Plants are just so happy.

Blunt
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But more people are doing tomato containers these days, because of better containers. If you get the kind of container that has a water reservoir at the bottom, it helps to keep the soil evenly moist with a lot less trouble

I am useing 5 gallon buckets due to cost. Do you know if I could fake the water reservoir with a plastic container placed near the bottom of the bucket where I place my gravle for drainage? Or possibly punching my drainage wholes several inches up closer to the roots would help. I hate it when peaple make me think It makes my head hurt :D I'll look this up if I find anything good I'll try to post it.
If you have a fertile mind. Does that mean it is full of compost?
What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

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Kisal
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This site has a nice tutorial about how to make an earth box out of a plastic crate. Perhaps you could use it as a guide for some ideas? :)

Here's a link to it:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Building-your-own-Earth-Box/

newbyplantlover
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That earth box idea is interesting Kisal. I have heard not-so-good things about planting edible fruit in plastic, though. I'm concerned about that. But the concept seems wonderful.

Blunt - I have never grown tomatoes before, and don't have any experience with 5 gallon buckets or self-watering containers, but I can comment to your idea of punching the holes up closer to the roots. This will not accomplish what you're thinking it will. I believe you are thinking that extra water will collect in the bottom, thus forming a 'reservoir' in the bottom of the bucket. However, this is not how the plant will see it. The plant will see it as the ground being flooded, and it will have it's roots in standing water, which in fact sort of 'drowns' the plant from the roots up. The idea that the holes could be 'below the roots' is somewhat deceiving. The holes could be 'below the roots' if the plant is still very young. By the end of the growing season, though, those roots will completely fill up the bucket. There will not be any 'below the roots' space.

I hope that answered at least one question for you! Good luck on the rest of it!
Plants are just so happy.

GardenerGirl
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5 gallons should be enough to grow tomatoes, and a bucket should be fine: in my experience they don't need a lot of depth, just volume. You definitely want the drainage holes in the bottom, though. The idea behind having a water reservoir is that your potting medium can wick water up from it when it's needed, so it doesn't saturate the soil and rot the roots.

If you want to make your own reservoir, I'd recommend placing some gravel in the bottom of it and then the bucket on top of the gravel, so you're sure the drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket will be exposed. I've had some trouble using non-standard pots because my drainage holes are flat in contact with the ground, essentially closing them up again.

Blunt
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Thanks for the info on placing drainage holes. I will be sure to place them at bottom of container. I read a article about placing gravel under the soil (it looked to be about 6 inches beep in a 5 gallon bucket) with a container for water in it covered by a single layer of weed cloth. (the container is filled with gravel as well) I currently have the gravel but no container or weed cloth and have issues with rapid drying. I will also be looking into a metered drip irrigation system (rubber hoses with holes) hooked up to a timer. But it sounds pricey so will most likely stick with garden hose and calibrated eye balls :)
If you have a fertile mind. Does that mean it is full of compost?
What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

snafu918
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I made my own "EarthTainer's" out of 5 gallon buckets here's a few photos of the results thus far:

[url]https://boisemusings.blogspot.com/2009/06/fruit.html[/url]

This is the first time I've grown anything and so far it looks like I'll be getting fruit in a few weeks.



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