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Tomatoes in 4 gallon pots

I was on another site that ends in ville and concentrates on tomatoes, and man this post of a greenhouse with 4 gallon pots, had the most excellent looking tomato plants I have seen. An amazing amount of flowers and the fruits look like melons. It was a sight to behold. The use of calcium nitrate, Epson salts, trace minerals, and 13-13-13 fertilizer in a mix of 1/2 peat and 1/2 compost. The results were exceptional/ makes you rethink everything you thought.

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Comments (29)

drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I have to experiment more with tomatoes. I have good results, but these plants are so consistant in size. Quite impressive.

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

It looks nice. but why would it make me re-think anything?

What specifically are you suggesting should be re-thought?

Rather, it reinforces the things that I know. Greenhouses with plenty of light make gardening easy. Wish I had a greenhouse. I’d put my peppers and citrus out there during the Winter. Also, allowing roots to grow into the soil (which is what I assume is happening in this pic, I think) will compensate for any small container.

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seysonn

Those containers look bigger than 4 gal, to me. But that does not matter , a lot of people grow matoes in 5gal. buckets, leaving almost one gal. space empty. That is practically gal.

As long as you provide what the plants need (nutrients, moisture, sun) they will thrive. This is especially true for the annuals that have about 6 months of container life. So the worse can happen is they get root bound by the end of season.

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

What i meant is I use bigger containers and usually avoid compost in pots. Tomatoes can have 4 foot roots so that is why it is surprising. It seems her technique is very productive. Unlike many here, I do not know it all, and have learned ton’s from this grower.
A photo of one of these tomatoes.

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Another nice photo

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Impressive amount of flowers!

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I don’t believe the greenhouse has much to do with it. Yes controls the amount of water, but I can do that too.
I’ll never use the 5-1-1- mix again.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Dec 26, 13 at 10:27

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

The greenhouse has an *incredible* amount to do with it. As does the selection of the tomato itself. In a warm greenhouse, you can employ a much more moisture retentive mix. This is old news.

As for your last comment – “I’ll never use the 5-1-1 mix again” – all of your posts, comments, and antagonisms have been working toward this statement. Do you have any pics of the 5-1-1 that you’ve used, or the plants that you’ve grown in the 5-1-1?

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Ohiofem

Been there. Done that. I grew container tomatoes in a 50-50 mix of Promix, which is more than 80 percent peat, and compost. I tried growing in a five-gallon pot a couple times and the plants were gnarly failures. Even in my 25-gallon pots big indeterminate tomatoes didn’t do great in that mix. In those days I was growing reliable indeterminate hybrids like better boy and early girl. When I started growing large open pollinated indeterminates like brandy wine I found that larger containers (at least 15-20 gallons) and heavy fertilizing with all micronutrients (in spite of using 50 percent compost in the pot) were essential to produce a decent harvest. For the past three years, I’ve been using 5-1-1 and chemical fertilizers like FoliagePro. My Brandywines and Mortgage Lifters are several times more productive than they were before I switched to 5-1-1. And I’ve saved a lot of money on the container mix.

What kind of tomatoes are those?

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tapla

. and we’re not really looking at “containerized containers” in a conventional sense. Because the pots are resting on the soil, maybe even dug into a shallow trench, the pots are really small raised beds . or at least the water in them behaves as though they are raised beds – take your pick. Therefore you can get away with using soils that would otherwise perform poorly in conventional containers.

We know you’ve rethought and reformulated the gritty mix several times w/o ever having used it. What is the extent of your experience with well-aerated soils like the 5-1-1 mix et al?

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seysonn

Now that Al( THE expert in Bonsai) is here, I THINK that a smaller pot (relative to the plant in question) acts as a condition of BONAIng. This means plant roots are restricted/confined to a small space. So the plant, by its genetic mission will concentrate more on growing fruits than foliage.

But on the other hand, I don’t think that a 4-5 gal. soil is that limiting in this case,. As long as you provide the needed nutrients and moisture(plus sun) a tomato plant can thrive for one season, which is about 6 months. I have heard this (but not have done myself) that some gardeners do ROOT PRUNING their tomato plants in garden bed to promote fruits production. In a container this is done automatically.

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tapla

Too small pots don’t restrict growth unless the soil/root temperatures are higher or lower than something that would be more ideal if roots were in the ground and subject to the moderating effects of the earth’s mass, or the state of root congestion has reached about the point where the root/soil mass can be lifted from the pot intact. Even then, if roots are allowed to run into the soil beneath the pot the effects of root congestion would be largely eliminated.

I usually grow tomatoes in 18 qt totes. To keep weeds down around the containers, I usually have the totes resting on 2×8 pieces of white FRP panel, so roots don’t penetrate into soil below the pots. Vine growth always slows at about the time roots get congested, but decreasing photoperiod and intensity might play a significant part in that.

In bonsai, it’s true that root constriction shortens internodes and decreases leaf size – it slows growth. Normally though, since root congestion also negatively affects vitality, it’s carefully monitored, and even avoided in developing plants. The practice that has the most influence on ‘dwarfing’ bonsai material is pruning to increase the number of apices (growing points). By pruning so as to increase the number of leaves and branches, we greatly increase the ratio of apices to plant volume. This means that nutrients and photosynthate are divided between a much larger number of growing points, so leaves grow smaller, and closer together because branch extension is reduced. This is why it’s so difficult to make young plant material with only a handful of apices look like a realistic representation of what a mature tree of the same species would look like in nature. We often defoliate or partially defoliate areas of the plant where growth is strongest, especially near the top of apically dominant plants, or cut leaves in half. These practices serve to balance energy allocation and keep all parts of the plant healthy – especially useful in keeping the plants from shedding lower branches that are important parts of the composition.

Ok – I’m off topic now – sorry about that. Still, I hope the info provided some insight.

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nil13

No one ever said you couldn’t grow tomatoes in a peat based mix if you carefully hand water, heavily prune, grow in a greenhouse, heavily fertilize, spray the crap out of everything at the first sign of pest or disease which you catch early on your daily hour long inspection, and use new mix each season like Carolyn does. However some of us would rather not micromanage our tomatoes so we use a different medium and irrigation timers.

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lathyrus_odoratus

I read the same post. Carolyn noted that these are indeed in a raised bed. She used both 20 gallon and 4 gallon pots. As noted above, the pots in the one picture sure looked bigger than 4 gallon to me. I wondered if she made a mistake by saying those were 4 gallon in that picture.

The raised bed changes things dramatically. I’ve grown in the ground, in raised bed, in fabric pots (essentially raised beds) and in plastic containers. It’s really a different ballgame, at least in my experience.

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lathyrus_odoratus

Oh forgot – someone asked what kind. I think the 1st and 3rd are Brandywine and the middle is Big Beef.

I was on another site that ends in ville and concentrates on tomatoes, and man this post of a greenhouse with 4 gallon pots, had the most excellent looking tomato plants I have seen. An amazing amount of flowers and the fruits look like melons. It was a sight to behold. The use of calcium nitrate, E…