msmalls
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New to gardening. Any helpful tips?

Hi everyone! I am very new to gardening, and haven't a clue as to what I am doing. I figure I will experiment this year with container gardening. I planted grape and cherry tomatoes, along with hanging strawberries and I'm trying my hand at container bell, banana, and jalapeno peppers and cucumbers. All were bought as starter plants. Anu helpful tips? I'm really interested in whether or not the tomatoes should be pruned as some websites call for, and how would I go about pruning them? Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Dillbert
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>>tips

yup, not everything is going to work the first time - despair not [g]
you'll never get a tomato if you don't try!

your containers for the tomatoes & peppers need to be at least 5 gallon size and have drainage holes. you'll need to pay attention to watering - they can dry out quickly - what kind of soil did you use in the containers?

try to keep the container itself shaded from direct sun. in a pot the sun can heat up the soil to the point the root system 'cooks' and the plant will languish.

to prune or not to prune a tomato plant has a long debate. in an "open garden" I never prune - which typically means pinching out the 'suckers' - odd branches that go off on their own. also there are two major divisions of tomatoes - determinate and indeterminate. the determinate kind reduces the stem/stalk/foliage growth after it sets fruit. pruning could cut your harvest. indeterminate types just keep growing and sprawling until the frost gets them - which could be a long season in GA. for a container plant, you'll probably need to prune back an indeterminate type to keep it from taking over the neighborhood.

peppers do well in containers - but watch as the plants can get quite large and if they bear abundantly you may need to support them (same with tomatoes)

Rob_NZ
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Hi msmalls,

Personally I find container gardening needs more management than "ground gardening" and if anything, it can be more challenging raising some plants to maturity in pots, but that's just me, and I'm certainly not what I'd call a good gardener.

One tip I do have though is this. If you have the land available, and if it is suitable for the plant in question, everything you start out in pots, also plant another one or two in the ground, and compare results.

I think it is a good approach which will halve the time it takes you to get to know your personal growing conditions. :D

garden5
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First off, welcome to the Helpful Gardener Gardening Forum :D! Stick around and you will become a great gardener in no time.

Well, Dilbert is right when he says that there is debate about the pruning of tomato plants. Some say that you will get too many fruit if you don't prune and they will not have enough nutrition for all of them to ripen. Others say that you should not prune for the exact opposite reason, the tomato plants will grow too many leaves and not enough tomatoes.

Really, I think this depends on the genetic tendencies of the plant and the level of nutrients in the soil. I say this because I read about a man who has grown world record tomato plants and he prunes to 16 growing stems! Some of his plants grow 20 ft. tall and produce 300 lbs. of tomatoes. This leads me to believe that if you have enough nutrients and a trellising system, you can ease up on the pruning and still get a good harvest.

Overall, I do believe in pruning; I'm just talking about if you want to prune a lot or a little. That is, if you want to have 2 main growing stems or 10! For your circumstances, I'd say to go with more pruning, to about the conventional 2-3 growing stems. The plant will be easier for you to handle and train/stake/trellis. [url=https://gardening.about.com/od/totallytomatoes/qt/Tomato_Suckers.htm]Here[/url] is one article on pruning tomatoes and [url=https://www.howtodothings.com/home-and-garden/a2947-how-to-prune-tomatoes.html]here[/url] is another.

Great luck with your first time gardening :).
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msmalls
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Hi everyone! So sorry it took so long for me to respond and thanks for all of the advice and encouragement. I'm using miracle grow potting mix in my containers and I also have the miracle grow tomato plant food. How often should I feed? I'm finding that once you starting planting, it's hard to stop! I started out with two pots that i told myself I would experiment with. I'm now up to 10 pots...two of which I added just today. That's it...no more! I really hope this experiment is a success. I will definitely put all of the helpful hints to work.

garden5
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msmalls wrote:Hi everyone! So sorry it took so long for me to respond and thanks for all of the advice and encouragement. I'm using miracle grow potting mix in my containers and I also have the miracle grow tomato plant food. How often should I feed? I'm finding that once you starting planting, it's hard to stop! I started out with two pots that i told myself I would experiment with. I'm now up to 10 pots...two of which I added just today. That's it...no more! I really hope this experiment is a success. I will definitely put all of the helpful hints to work.
Miracle Grow....some love it....others, not so much. I'd have to say that I'm in the "not so much" category. Now, I don't mean to single out MG, but all chemical fertilizers in general. The chemical/natural debate in one that will probably continue for a long time, but here is my input on the subject.

When you use chemical fertilizers, you are doing harm to your soil and your microbes (we'll get to these in a second). You soil, over time, will loose its tilth (structure and ability to hold the right amount of water).

In addition to your soil's structure, chemical fertilizers also harm your soil's microbes. These, as their name implies, are microscopic organisms, such as fungi, bacteria, and protozoa, that live in your soil and do tremendous things for it and your plants. You see, the roots of the plants exude certain compounds that attract certain kinds of microorganisms. These organisms do all kinds of things.

For one, as they eat each other, they emit nutrients that are in a form that the plant can use. You see, not all of the nutrients in your soil are in a form that is usable by your plants. Some fungi actually attach themselves to the plant's roots and act as little extension-cords, helping the plants roots to receive nutrients from deeper down in the soil than they normally would.

Now, I know that not all of these things apply to container growing (maybe you have some insights, HG, on how they benefit container plants), but you get my point: they're good to have.

So, the two main things you can do to make sure your soil has and abundant supply of microbes is to add compost and [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097]ACT[/url]. ACT is short for Aerated Compost Tea, and man is it good stuff. The thread on it is quite long, but read the whole thing..it only gets better and there is some really educational stuff on soil microbes near the end.

As for the compos, we have an entire sub-forum here dedicated to just that. Good luck with your plants.
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rainbowgardener
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I basically agree with garden5. I'm an in-ground (mostly, except for all the pots on the deck), organic, no chemicals, feed the soil kind of gardener.

However, you said you are gardening all in containers. That is as someone else said, in some ways trickier and a more artificial environment. The containers dry out faster than things in the ground, so you have to water a lot more often. Tomatoes and peppers in containers will probably need to be watered every day in the summer, unless you are getting rain. Watering that often flushes nutrients out, so then you do have to have a way to keep adding it back in. Compost doesn't work real well in containers, too heavy and dense, doesn't drain well enough. So you probably are going to need to be using your MG or something like it, especially as a beginner, needing an easy way. For the tomatoes, once they are well started, you will want a tomato fertilizer, that is one that's not too high in nitrogen, maybe a 5 -10-10. High nitrogen fertilizer forces vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting.

As you see, everyone does things their own way and you will figure out as you go along what works for you. What works for one person growing things in containers in their specific climate, location etc isn't the same as what works for someone else in a different climate and location growing in the ground, etc.
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SarahSarah
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I think the most important tip is to pay attention to your plants. Even when I go back to work (I teach and am on spring break right now) I try to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes a day just looking at the plants. I check to see if any plants are starting to wilt or start to look diseased. I make sure that plants have sufficient support. I look to see if plant leaves/stems are being eaten by critters (in which case I net or ask the experts here for help).

You learn a lot about your plants just by checking in daily :-)

msmalls
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Thanks for all the helpful hints. I'm learning more every day! Now I'm trying to tackle hand pollinating. Never heard of this until 3 days ago! I've been shaking the peppers and strawberries, but no flowers on the cucumbers yet. I really hope this works...

Tigerlilylynn
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along with the tomatoes and peppers you'll want to support the cucumbers even if it's a bush type.

For hand pollinating some people use qtips or paintbrushes, especially with cucurbits since they have separate male and female flowers.

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