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Old January 1, 2010   #1
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: California Central Valley
Posts: 2,518
Default squeezing more tomatoes into less space

I have a fixed plot size (community garden) with room for about a dozen varieties in the less shady areas, but I've been finding ways to plant more each year, partly by adding containers around the edges and partly by planting them closer together, or planting less of other crops. I get at least 5-6 hours of direct sun in the area where I usually plant tomatoes. I have also planted tomatoes in the shadier area, with a big drop in production. The local "master gardeners" have recommended planting 2 plants per hole to get more variety, but the same production per hole. I haven't done that, but I have planted only 18-24 inches apart, which is more root room than they get in a 5-gallon container.

In 2008 (a very cool summer) the yield was about 68 pounds from about 17 varieties (half that from 6 plants). In 2009, 118 pounds from about 39 varieties (with 75 pounds from 10 varieties). The most per plant was about 16 pounds. Two of the ones that did the best in 2008 didn't produce much in 2009.

We get no rain from about May to September, and I found the ones that got watered most (because they were next to crops that needed more water) produced much more, so I'm going to do more creative interplanting and water the tomatoes more next year. Oh, and maybe I'll start fertilizing a little more. So far I've used homemade compost with occasional comfrey tea, and in the containers this year I added some alfalfa pellets.

I had Marianna's Peace planted next to celery and parsley that got watered regularly, and Fox Cherry, Dagma's Perfection, Caspian Pink, and Kosovo near a bolivian sunroot that got a lot of water. Other tomatoes were near strawberries, lemongrass, penstemon, alstroemeria, artichokes, lovage, and raspberries. The ones planted where kale, broccoli, peas, nettles, or potatoes were growing, or had been growing the previous season, did not do as well.

Every year I start out wanting to choose 15 or so, and end up with a lot more. Looking at my 2009 list, a couple of my afterthoughts had good yields and good flavor.

What have you tried to grow a larger variety in a fixed amount of space, and what were your results?
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