Tuesday, May 20, 2014

growing tomatoes in containers

Today I gave away the first 75 tomatoes plants at MOPS (Mothers of preschoolers). I'm a mentor mom for MOPS. I don't have preschoolers anymore. But many of the women asked how they could grow their tomatoes in containers. I thought I would make a blog post on this topic. 1 Use a big pot or bucket and plant deep. One of the most important things you can do to ensure tomato success is to use a big enough container - the bigger the better. Five gallon buckets (the ones you get at building stores) are the perfect size for one plant. A large size reusable grocery bag (like a big ALDI BAG) is perfect size too. Just make sure you put allot of holes in the bottom of the container. You can use a drill or a nail and hammer. Also fill up that large container with a good quality potting soil. Most plants will not thrive if you plant them deeply, tomatoes are different. Roots will develop from stems that are under ground and your tomatoes will be stronger and healthier. Dig a hole so that most of your plant is covered by soil, making sure that you remove all the leaves below the soil line. But I gave MOPS very small plants today. Do not remove the leaves on these plants. Just pot them up to the leaves. 2. Water but not too much! The key to tomato success is to give your tomato plants a consistent amount of water, which can be the biggest challenge for growing tomatoes in pots. The goal is to keep the soil moist, not wet. Too much water and your plant's roots will rot. Too little water and your plants will get weak and your tomatoes will get blossom end rot. Also, water in the morning (plants take up and use water more efficiently in the morning) and water the soil, not the plant leaves. I would even put a mulch around the plant to help save the moisture. That could be a mulch of wood chips, newspaper, or stones. 3. Feed Your Tomatoes It is critical that you feed your tomatoes. I use an organic fertilizer I put into the water one time a week. Tomatoes also need calcium and magnesium. An easy thing is to get the tablets that dissolve in water. You will get end rot on your tomatoes if you don't give them calcium or regular water. Some people just use egg shells dug into the soil around the plant. 4. Sun Most people way overestimate the amount of sun they get. So really figure out if your tomatoes are getting enough sun. 6 hours full sun is the minimum and 8 hours is better. Place your plants in the sunniest spot you can find. Tomatoes like heat. I've never tried to grow a plant inside the house. But if you don't have a garden or balcony try a sunny window. Just not a bathroom. Tomatoes

don't like it too moist. They are a desert plant. It's better to have a dry and sunny spot. 5. If the plant gets too tall clip off the top of the plant, and it will stop growing tall. Some of the plants I gave MOPS will grow 2 meters high. But if you want it to stay smaller this is all you need to do. Wait until the plant gets to be a height you think you can manage...then just pinch off the very top.  Every year I learn more about how to grow tomatoes. Maybe you will not do it perfect, but try it. 

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