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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old March 6, 2021   #1
jcrous
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Default Permanent Mulch idea

I am now constructing my polytunnel, which will be finished soon.
I am planning to plant in 25 L / 5 gal pots. My medium is a basic soil mix of 60/40 Compost / Soil.
In the very hot climate of Cape Town, I must water daily or my plants will die. I get blossom end rot in the containers, but not in my soil beds.
Not enough water is partially part of the problem. I work during the day, and can only water late afternoon.
I am now considering mulch, but I would like to use a permanent mulch.

I am thinking of making a disc of plastic, with a hole in the centre and a slit halfway through. I can also use multil-layer discs of 100% shade cloth to breath.

Any comments or better ideas? Possibly a link to similar posts.
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Old March 6, 2021   #2
AKmark
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In your situation I would look at a tank and a cheap battery operated timer for irrigation, or you can at least run straight water from a hose. You can do a passive system really cheap or go high tech.

If you are missing the morning watering in a hot climate, I really suggest this.

Your mix and fertilizer program can also be causing BER. In container gardening antagonism between elements is real, but still less common than a lack of an element when we see observation of an issue.

I'm not sure what you are thinking with mulch?
Good luck
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Old March 6, 2021   #3
zeuspaul
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I use 4 inch white tile in several of my containers as mulch because I have it available. 4 inch would probably be too big for 5 gallon. I also use 2+ inch river rock in many others. I prefer the look of the river rock. I debate the best color to use. Early in the season black would be best and later lighter colors but I don't want to change mid season.

Some of my containers have larger tile outside to reflect heat and help to keep the roots cool.
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Old March 7, 2021   #4
jcrous
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKmark View Post

Your mix and fertilizer program can also be causing BER. In container gardening antagonism between elements is real, but still less common than a lack of an element when we see observation of an issue.

I'm not sure what you are thinking with mulch?
Good luck
I have managed to keep BER away by applying Gypsum and Seaweed mix.

An automated irrigation system will follow eventually. Now Iwant to finish the polytunnel first and the another raized bed. The pots for the polytunnel are quite expensive.
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Old March 7, 2021   #5
ddsack
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Quote:
I am thinking of making a disc of plastic, with a hole in the centre and a slit halfway through. I can also use multil-layer discs of 100% shade cloth to breath.
A solid plastic disc certainly should stop evaporation from the top of the soil, giving you a bit of leeway in watering chores. However, as the plants grow larger and roots fill the container, they will still need a lot of water in hot weather. I'd give it a try and see how much difference it makes. I do a similar thing with houseplants when I need to be gone for a month. I fit smashed together plastic grocery bags on top of the soil, and in a cool house, they stay very damp for weeks. Obviously, a large tomato plant in active growth in hot conditions would be different in it's requirements, but it's worth a try for comparison.
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Old March 7, 2021   #6
AKmark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcrous View Post
I have managed to keep BER away by applying Gypsum and Seaweed mix.

An automated irrigation system will follow eventually. Now Iwant to finish the polytunnel first and the another raized bed. The pots for the polytunnel are quite expensive.
Excellent, BER gets a lot of people when they start growing in containers. We own a bunch of commercial greenhouses and do alittle container growing.
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Old March 8, 2021   #7
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Quote:
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Excellent, BER gets a lot of people when they start growing in containers. We own a bunch of commercial greenhouses and do alittle container growing.
Yes it got me for the first two years of my grow bags growing tomatoes. But then I discovered a guy up in Alaska who does "a little container growing" and I started to use the same fertilizer (4-18-38) he uses and my BER issues have almost completely disappeared. That guy really really knows what he is doing. One other issue that was contributing to my BER problem was maintaining a consistent moisture range in my bags. The last 3 yrs. have been very successful for me and I never would have believed how productive my plants have been. Considerably more productive than 40 yrs of growing them in the ground. I think I will try this permanent mulch idea this year as I'm sure it will help to maintain moisture levels.

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Old March 10, 2021   #8
jcrous
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I leave very early every morning for work. So I can only water in the late afternoon/evening.
That is not enough in our hot climate.
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Old March 10, 2021   #9
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I grow some stuff in Earthboxes, which use a bottom well of water which wicks up into the soil as needed. It works wonderfully, so I decided to try a homemade version. I got a five gallon pail, and a cheap plastic colander that fits inside nicely. With the colander in place, I drilled a fill hole in the pail just below the top of the colander. When I put my potting mix in, the soil in the colander will be below the water line when it's full, allowing the water to wick up as needed into the rest of the pail. It worked exactly as expected. I filled the bottom of the pail to overflowing through the fill hole once a day, and the soil above stayed perfectly moist all the time, never soggy. I used no mulch, but I certainly could have. I am not sure if you'd need to add some peat or coir to your potting mix to make it wick properly (mine has some in it). But it was easy and cheap to construct, and dead easy to maintain. And I didn't have any BER. Also, it makes absolutely no difference when you fill the bottom of the pail, as long as it gets done daily, especially as the plant gets big.
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Last edited by FarmerShawn; March 10, 2021 at 02:36 PM. Reason: addition
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Old March 11, 2021   #10
AKmark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yak54 View Post
Yes it got me for the first two years of my grow bags growing tomatoes. But then I discovered a guy up in Alaska who does "a little container growing" and I started to use the same fertilizer (4-18-38) he uses and my BER issues have almost completely disappeared. That guy really really knows what he is doing. One other issue that was contributing to my BER problem was maintaining a consistent moisture range in my bags. The last 3 yrs. have been very successful for me and I never would have believed how productive my plants have been. Considerably more productive than 40 yrs of growing them in the ground. I think I will try this permanent mulch idea this year as I'm sure it will help to maintain moisture levels.

Dan
Its a stressful but fun job. What we see is a lot of variables in everything because of the volume, we also have space to do many experiments and not ruin the farm. I just share info, just like some guy did for me. The good part, there's several methods to get good results.
We are already at it on the 62nd. lol
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