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Old March 17, 2013   #1
Melissa569
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Default Breaking My Tomato Losing Streak

This year, now that I have moved back to the country and will be using a greenhouse (instead of my apartment patio in the city), I am DETERMINED to break my tomato losing streak.

I will be growing in containers in a green house. But my problem in the past has been-- I use a 4-gallon bucket and fill it with miracle gro potting soil (or any decent soil I can find for a decent price). Then I end up with skimpy plants, curling leaves, and only 3 or 4 golf ball-sized tomatoes per plant

But I don't contribute this to containers, because I have seen some people use containers (4 gallon) and get TONS to fairly sizable tomatoes. I am just hoping that I can pick up enough tips this time to get some good success.

This year, I bought a "Rapitest" soil test kit at ACE Hardware (first time ever using one, maybe that's my problem, lol).

Our natural soil up here in the mountains is really loose sandy lava ash (but people say it has lots of nutrients?). I've seen other gardeners up here grow some monster food, so I'm hoping I can manage this time. So I was thinking mix our sandy lava soil half and half with potting mix. But first, I wanna test both our natural soil, and the potting mix. To see what I might need more (or less) of. I will be doing my soil tests on both today, and posting the results on my youtube videos (its the video channel called "GardenCalifornia" on Youtube, if anyone is interested. And I'll be putting all my progress there too.

The reason I will be using containers in a green house is because we are just infested with rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks up here who will eat absolutely everything you try to grow. Seriously, they will leave you with nothing. Last year, my outdoor "in the ground" garden was wiped out by them, I didn't get anything at all. lol.

I tried everything-- deterring them with seed/nut bowls or veggie bits and pieces elsewhere, cat litter and pepper flakes around the outside of the garden fence, sage brush woven into the fence, sprays.... Nothing worked, they just kept on coming, lol.

I've reached the conclusion that the only way to actually HAVE a harvest is to put it where they can't get it-- in a green house.

But yeah, I really wanna get to where I can grow some decent tomatoes in containers finally. Any tips you guys have would be great. just getting the seeds going now, so plenty of time to act on it.
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Old March 17, 2013   #2
Rockporter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melissa569 View Post
This year, now that I have moved back to the country and will be using a greenhouse (instead of my apartment patio in the city), I am DETERMINED to break my tomato losing streak.

I will be growing in containers in a green house. But my problem in the past has been-- I use a 4-gallon bucket and fill it with miracle gro potting soil (or any decent soil I can find for a decent price). Then I end up with skimpy plants, curling leaves, and only 3 or 4 golf ball-sized tomatoes per plant
The soil is probably your problem with container growing and if you change over to a potting mix it would be much better. The drainage and the air is much better with potting mix in a container. I would also add some basic fetilizer to the mix because Miracle Grow doesn't have enough nutrients to support a tomato plant to the finish line.

Are your containers self watering, or are they simple buckets?
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Old March 17, 2013   #3
bughunter99
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<<I use a 4-gallon bucket and fill it with miracle gro potting soil (or any decent soil I can find for a decent price). Then I end up with skimpy plants, curling leaves, and only 3 or 4 golf ball-sized tomatoes per plant >>

Problems:

"skimpy plants"
Causes of stunting:
Not enough water
Too much water
Poorly draining soil
Not enough sun
Starting too late
Not enough nutrition
Plants with wispy gene some might call "skimpy"
Plant type doesn't grow large tomatoes


"leaf curl"
aphids
disease
environmental stress (too hot, too cold)


Possible issues:
"any decent soil"
Soil and potting mix are not the same thing. "Soil" is a poor choice for container growing. Personally I do not touch miracle grow anything as my results with it have not been good. You need a light potting mix for containers.

"any decent soil"
Potting mix is not enough, bagged soils are virtually devoid of nutrients and tomatoes are heavy feeders. When growing in containers you must add NPK and trace nutrients to the mix.

"4 gallon bucket."
Size is OK but how is the drainage? If the plants are sitting in water, they will remain small as well as be more susceptible to disease"

"leaf curl"
You will want to watch for aphids and other pests, even in a greenhouse. Get in the habit of checking you plants once a day. Go out and pet them, admire the undersides of some of there leaves, not just the top sides. Watch for bugs. If found, move the plant away from the others and treat it.

not enough sun
Things like enough sun are way more important than new gardeners often think. Full sun is required and that means six hours MINIMUM a day. Now you are in CA so there might be a variation to that rule for you so the other CA gardeners can weigh in.

Too much love/too little love
Beware the extremes of over watering, or not watering at all. Massive swings in moisture are a plant stressor, and will leave the plant open to disease and insects.

Disease
Where did the plants come from?


You are doing the perfect thing, getting your soil tested and the native soil to your area sounds like a dream. The rest of us have to buy rock dust to get your nutrients. You should read everything you can about growing tomatoes in containers. You've already had successful fruiting, now you just need to tweak it. You will also need to be thinking about how the blossoms will be pollinated in the greenhouse.

BTW with respects to your critter problem at the other place. Trying to lure them to other locations with treats doesn't work. You just draw in more. Same thing with those Japanese beetle trap things, avoid them at all costs, they draw the beetles to your yard.

Good luck to you, sound like the bones of what you have are great!
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Old March 17, 2013   #4
Melissa569
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Thank you for the replies you guys! Taking notes over here, lol

Gonna look around for some good potting mix and some NPK and trace nutrients. Oh and calcium, I hear tomatoes really love that. But really, so do a lot of vegetable plants, lol.
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Old March 17, 2013   #5
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A shovelful of your native soil should give you the trace minerals.
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Old March 18, 2013   #6
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I would also like to say pruning to a 1 or 2 stem system is highly advised. The roots and plant mass above the soil have a symbiotic relationship. In a container you have to really pay attention to root over crowding. The more plant matter on top of the soil means you need more roots to support it. Eventually you are going to run out of root room in your pot if you don't reduce the plant matter on top.
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Old March 23, 2013   #7
dice
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I would say cut the bottoms off your pots and let the plant root
into the soil below it (some drought protection), but I do not know
if you have a soil floor in your greenhouse, and I do not know if
you are in root knot nematode country. Root knot nematodes love
sandy soils. They will infest the roots of your plants, cause little
galls to form on the roots, and the plant will not be able to root
normally and take in nutrients. In RKN country, containers (that
actually have bottoms) are one way to combat the problem.
(The other way is huge amounts of organic matter in the soil,
spreading out the sand particles.)

Expect to have to water daily once the plants gets some size
in 4-gallon containers, maybe twice a day in hot weather. Since
you are watering more often, fertilizer will leach out of your
containers faster. You might want to use something like Osmocote
or Nutricote, that is polymer coated. It sits on the top of the
container mix and releases some fertilizer every time you water.
(Far from organic, of course; these are synthetic fertilizers.)

You could also try the Mittleider method. It seems a little too
fiddly for me, and it also does not use organic fertilizers,
but if you are out there watering every day anyway, adding
a fertilizing pass once a week is perhaps not that much extra
work. It worked pretty well for Caroline Phillips (see this
thread: http://www.tomatoville.com/showthread.php?t=18309 ).

Physical properties of container media:
http://oregonstate.edu/dept/nursery-...roperties.html
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Old June 6, 2013   #8
carroll49
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Eat the squirrels, rabbits and tomatoes.
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Old June 6, 2013   #9
WVTomatoMan
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Soil is generally too heavy for containers. 4 gallon is generally too small for tomatoes. I recommend at least 5 gallon. I use 6 gallon containers, even for dwarves, Miracle Grow potting mix (not soil) and black cow at a 60-40 ratio - and I fertilize when needed. That works for me and I have success. Just to prove you can get decent sized tomatoes in a container I grew a 1.5 lb Mortgage Lifter.

I like carroll49's response.

Good luck.

Randy
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Old June 6, 2013   #10
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If you want a liquid fert, use one of these

1. Our own members Texas Tomato Food-here is the thread:

http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...as+tomato+food

I am using it, like others, and its working very well.

2. I alternate the TTF with this:

http://generalhydroponics.com/site/i...ries/nova_gro/

I have only used these this summer, and its easy-I use a soil drench with each, not foliar. But you can use either as a foliar, as long as your dilution rate is reduced.

I have made the mistake of using a bad potting mix, so this year, even though I dont like Miracle Grow, I used the miracle grow organic potting mix, and its working very well.
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Old June 6, 2013   #11
tlintx
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If you haven't seen them already, these are some of my favorite container threads.

Just Showing Off - 4 gallon tomato plants in a greenhouse!

Virtex's garden

Earthtainer thread

Going to add bughunter99's post from above, too, that was incredibly helpful!
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Old June 6, 2013   #12
b54red
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I usually have terrible luck with containers but this year I have a couple of them and am using the Texas Tomato Food every week and they are doing better than I have ever had container plants do. They still are dwarfed by my garden tomatoes.

Pellet rifle with a scope sighted in will help tremendously with squirrels. It is the only way I have been able to keep them under control. If I let up just one year the population explodes. They must breed like rabbits around here. I would also set out a bait station with rat poison in case you are getting a lot of mice and rats which you will probably never see unless you are out with a flashlight at night a lot. They will do much worse damage than the squirrels and chipmunks and you never even know they are there.

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Old June 6, 2013   #13
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How's this for container gardening? Picture taken several days ago.

You could even use rockwool, well-draining potting mix, or pure perlite and do great......if you give them what they want, in abundance.

That's what it's all about.....give them what they want. And don't let them dry out.
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Old June 6, 2013   #14
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Tomatoes are generally big plants and heavy feeders. In a container you need to feed them often, perhaps weekly, or use a timed release product. A dilute fertilizer every time you water works too.

You can grow a tomato in a 4 gallon pot, but you will need to get it set up on a timer to water several times a day for optimum growth. In a 3 gallon pot, you would probably need to water every 3 hours during daylight in a greenhouse. The mature plant will easily use a half gallon of water every day. It's hard to keep that much water available to the plant in a small pot without timers,
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Old June 7, 2013   #15
WVTomatoMan
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I don't have many pictures at work, but I've attached a couple. The second picture are of my "cheater" plants which are dwarves so they won't be that big. Refer to my earlier post for what mix I use etc.

I have a friend that grows commercially in a greenhouse. He uses 4 or 5 gallon containers (I can't remember which), but he has a drip irrigation system. If you don't have that I recommend larger containers especially for indeterminates.

When growing in a greenhouse there is an important thing that you need to do for success - you must help with fruit set. You can use fans, an electric toothbrush or sonicating bees. Fans are used to simulate the wind. The toothbrush or sonicating bees are to help with pollination. Tomatoes have perfect flowers (male and female parts are in the same flower) so you don't use bees to move the pollen, but instead to help the pollen move. The same is true with an electric toothbrush.

Also you should have a way to control temperature. Most tomatoes will start to fail to set fruit when the temperatures get into the 90s. A closed greenhouse will have higher temperatures than the temp outside.

Good luck.

Randy
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