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

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Old October 24, 2019   #1
Yak54
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Default Container Productivity VS In Ground

I started growing tomatoes in grow bags 4 yrs ago. My 1st year I didn't water correctly and suffered BER issues. The 2nd year I overcompensated and had mold issues. The 3rd year I started using a meter to monitor the moisture level in my Promix and was reasonably successful. Now for my 4th year I switched fertilizer to 4-18-38 to water my grow bags and I am amazed at the amount of tomatoes they produced. For example my Box Car Willie plant produced 85 tomatoes, my Nepal plant produced 47 tomatoes, my German Head plant produced 75 tomatoes, my Mimi Koch plant produced 66 tomatoes, my Polish plant produced 72 tomatoes, my Cherokee Purple produced 32 tomatoes, AND my Momotaro plant produced an amazing 111 tomatoes. I wouldn't have believed I could get such productivity from containers. All the many years I grew my tomatoes in-ground I would be lucky to get 35 tomatoes per plant (depending on the variety of course). So I attribute the 4-18-38 fertilizer to the increased productivity for me. I am curious as to what other tomatovillians have experienced as far as productivity in containers. And I know that this fertilizer is used by greenhouse growers in 5 gal bags like our friend AKmark and their productivity is out of this world. Just curious what you more ordinary gardeners have to say on this subject.

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Old October 24, 2019   #2
Cole_Robbie
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I think the answer to your question would depend on the quality of one's soil, if you are making comparisons.

I use 4-18-38 too. Alternating it with calcium nitrate is a popular method.

As far as container size, the more you feed them, the smaller it can be. Containers are really just run-to-waste hydroponics.
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Old October 24, 2019   #3
Yak54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
I think the answer to your question would depend on the quality of one's soil, if you are making comparisons.

I use 4-18-38 too. Alternating it with calcium nitrate is a popular method.

As far as container size, the more you feed them, the smaller it can be. Containers are really just run-to-waste hydroponics.

Lets assume good to very good quality soil



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Old October 24, 2019   #4
Nan_PA_6b
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Dan, those numbers sound like what my mother got from her tomatoes in-ground the first year she grew anything in that virgin clay. Her soil was not topsoil but clay dug up from a hillside, rich in something those plants loved.
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Old October 24, 2019   #5
Yak54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nan_PA_6b View Post
Dan, those numbers sound like what my mother got from her tomatoes in-ground the first year she grew anything in that virgin clay. Her soil was not topsoil but clay dug up from a hillside, rich in something those plants loved.

Wow, I never got anything like it in Ohio virgin clay. And certainly not in my loamy garden plot for 27 yrs. Maybe PA clay is better than Ohio clay, or your Mom had a greener thumb than I.
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Old October 25, 2019   #6
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Soil is imo still superior. You could get same numbers and more fertilizing the same way in soil. And the soil will be more forgiving if you make mistakes.

That's pretty much the difference. If you are a pro and invest in this properly, soilless is the way, as we see with the modern hydroponics grown commercially. But for the more or less normal guy at home, I believe soil is better.
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Old October 25, 2019   #7
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Years ago I tried tomatoes in containers...some in 5 gallon buckets, some in 10 gallon gro-bags, and a couple in 20 gal grow-bags. The medium was soilless mix, a national brand (don't remember which one) and water and fertilizer added as needed and the fertilizer formula changed as the season progressed.

Compared to in-ground tomatoes of the same varieties, the container plants were smaller in size, the tomatoes also smaller and there were fewer fruits harvested. The smaller the container the less productive the tomato.

Since there is plenty of room in the garden for tomato plants there is no need to bother with container tomatoes.
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Old October 25, 2019   #8
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I gotta say that I had better luck with my container eggplants this year than in my raised beds but everything else does a whole lot better in the ground (raised beds).
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Old October 25, 2019   #9
Rajun Gardener
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Just my 2¢ but it's the 4-18-38, use it for ground plants next year and you'll see a difference. I grow in perlite with it, epsom and CalNit and they grow fine so I know the media isn't as big of a deal as the fertilizer. I think growing in potting mix and using 4-18-38 produces a better harvest due to the uptake of some nutrients of the media.
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Old October 25, 2019   #10
Yak54
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Lots of good comments !

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Old October 26, 2019   #11
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I'm just impressed that you can count your tomatoes like that.

Tomatoes I've tried in both containers and the ground have done better in the ground, but I haven't worked hard at perfecting the art of growing tomatoes in containers, and I didn't use any special fertilizer. I usually save my containers for peppers, but I've discovered that mulching them with shredded wood mulch makes growing peppers in the ground a viable alternative.
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Old October 26, 2019   #12
Yak54
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Quote: "I'm just impressed that you can count your tomatoes like that"

I kept a log. Every time I picked tomatoes I wrote it down in a note book and added it all up at the end of the season. Over the years I've only done this 3 or 4 times. Most years I don't do this, only when I'm trying to learn if an experiment is valid or not. Yes it's kind of a pain but this method tells me what I want to know. I also weighed a bunch to see which varieties produced the largest tomatoes.

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Last edited by Yak54; October 26, 2019 at 10:19 AM. Reason: additional info
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Old October 28, 2019   #13
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I also keep a log, since I only have a balcony, so it's not much work for a few tomatoes. I weigh them however, since that's the most important statistic to me. Last year I managed to break 10 kg in one plant (I grow in 5-6 gallon), but it was a great year. I think I need to change the soil mix now, after 8 years of use it's basically a mush.
I think at your numbers, it's more than 10 kg, a very solid result.
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Old October 28, 2019   #14
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All I have been missing is 4-18-38 all these years! I’m going to look for it from a Canadian source. I wonder if it can help certain fruit trees. I planted two apple trees several years ago that produced a grand total of 6 apples, one tree never flowered and the other one had one flower in the spring. They were in a shady spot in the garden but I removed a lot of other bushes around them last year, I realized that I need to fertilize them, something I have not done.
On the other hand, my plum tree produced well over 100 Pounds of fruit last year, on its own merit I did not fertilize it either. Figs did well too. Those are less demanding ones that do not need the extra help.

Thanks everyone for sharing, I realized I need to read up more on sUpplying nutrients to soil.
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Old October 28, 2019   #15
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Yak, does your fertilizer have other minerals or anything in it?
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