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Old 03-03-2011, 05:49 PM   #1
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Container gardening -tomatoes

Hello! I'm making my first attempt at container gardening this year. I'm planning on planting a couple cucumber plants in one pot with a trellis behind it and planting a tomato plant each in one or two other containers. From what I've read online, I'll be looking for an indeterminate variety of tomato, so I can enjoy tomatoes all summer long. I've read that as long as I provide proper support, water, and occasional fertalizer, I should be safe with just about any determinant variety. My local temperatures typically range from 80-100 degrees from mid-May through the first week or two of September.

I was hoping for recommendations on favorite tomato varieties. I would prefer full-size tomatoes (though beefsteaks may be pushing it). I don't mind sweetness in my tomatoes, but I'd like it to be balanced with some tartness as well. We will primarily be eating these tomatoes fresh. If you have a favorite variety that you've never grown in a container, by all means, still suggest it.

For the varieties that you suggest, once they start bearing fruit, how often do you get fruit from them? (This will help me determine how many plants I will grow).

Thanks a bunch in advance!

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Old 03-04-2011, 05:37 PM   #2
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Call your local extension office (google Maryland, Extension, your county) and ask them for advice. They will have access to a horticulture specialist, and may have a free publication on tomatoes that do well in Maryland. They can also tell you your last frost date, and when to plant outdoors.

I work for Extension and am a Master Gardener. I grow lots of tomatoes, but not in containers. You will get a heavier yield with hybrids like Big Boys and Better Boys--and they taste good.

Make sure your containers are large enough--the main problem with container tomatoes is that they outgrow the containers, and are hard to keep watered. There are some directions on line for grow boxes made with big storage containers--two nested together, the inside one has holes in it, and the outside one is a reservoir for water.

Don't feed your tomatoes too much, esp. nitrogen. They will be all lovely green leaves and not much fruit. Pretty, but not satisfactory if you like to eat tomatoes!


My favorite heirlooms are Ananas Noir and Golden Sunray.

If your tomatoes do well, you might get enough for tomatoes at dinner every night from one or two plants.
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:04 PM   #3
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I started out container gardening before I moved up to raised beds. It is really easy and very fun.

Be sure that your containers are large in size and with good drainage. Usually a 5-gallon bucket size is a good estimate. Clay will dry out quickly so try a foam or composite pot or even a wooden planter. Your plants will need at least 6-8 hours of direct sun.

You can grow most varieties here in MD since we have such a long growing season. I am in Southern Maryland and usually plant mine at the end of April as long as the nights are not dropping below 60 degrees. If the nights are cool then you should hold off until mid-May. It will depend where you are in MD.

I like to grow heirloom tomatoes, which are indeterminate. Indeterminate means the plant will keep growing and not stop once it reached a certain height. You will need to keep it staked or keep it trimmed back. Some of mine get to be well over 6 feet tall if I let them go.

Most any tomato will grow here. Personally I stay away from the big beef steak tomatoes because they are hybrids and may look good and get big but I find they are not as flavorful as heirlooms.

I like Brandywine, Polish Linguias (which is an heirloom roma or paste tomato), Rutgers, yellow pear. If you have a farmers market or independent garden center near you they normally carry what will grow best in your area and can answer your questions better than the big-box stores can.

As for cucumbers and squash - same thing, we can grow most anything here. Bush cucumbers do well in pots as do picking cucumbers. I'd suggest yellow squash over zucchini if you want to try squash.

If you have any other questions just ask.
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Old 03-04-2011, 07:06 PM   #4
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I need to put something other than dirt in my containers. Last year, they did horribly. I'm sure they needed more water but, when I watered, it went right through the planter. I got three of the BEST cherry tomatoes ever though!
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:21 PM   #5
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I need to put something other than dirt in my containers. Last year, they did horribly. I'm sure they needed more water but, when I watered, it went right through the planter. I got three of the BEST cherry tomatoes ever though!
Look for potting mix or container mix. That will work better. I also mix in some slow-release fertilizer like Miracle-grow or Peter's. They are usually good for 90 days, I think, so you would have to add more in mid-summer. You can also use a diluted liquid fertilizer watering, say once a week, in addition to your regular watering. They also make some liquid fertilizers that are specifically for tomato plants.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:29 PM   #6
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Thanks! I'll look through Lowes on my next trip!
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:33 PM   #7
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Thanks! I'll look through Lowes on my next trip!
They should have it. Down here they usually carry Miracle-gro and Stacy's. I've used both with good success. I did add extra fertilizer to the Stacy's thought.

Remember you can't use this in you garden plot. For that you need different stuff and compost. Hey, you can start your own composting now. Hmmm if you had chickens you would have fertilizer too.... Hmmmmm
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:34 PM   #8
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They should have it. Down here they usually carry Miracle-gro and Stacy's. I've used both with good success. I did add extra fertilizer to the Stacy's thought.

Remember you can't use this in you garden plot. For that you need different stuff and compost. Hey, you can start your own composting now. Hmmm if you had chickens you would have fertilizer too.... Hmmmmm
I know! The only problem is that I would have to take it 3 city blocks away!
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:49 PM   #9
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I know! The only problem is that I would have to take it 3 city blocks away!
Have you ever seen the British TV Series "The Good Neighbors"? It was also called "The Good Life".

They had this cart made out of a roto-tiller, a platform and a bench that they used to drive back and forth to their allotment (same as your garden plot). It looked a lot like this. LOL



Maybe you can get Frank to build you something.
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Old 03-05-2011, 01:52 PM   #10
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Thanks for the tips!
Sparrowgrass, I found the U of MD extension site and it gave me lots of great tips. It also reminded me that somewhere (I just have to find where I filed it away) I have a piece of paper with the email address of a Master Gardener in our area. He did a presentation at my church last year. At the time I only had a vague inclination for container gardening. I wish I'd paid better attention. He said to email him with any questions about varieties and such and even said if you get him early enough in the season he often has seed packets for lettuce, herbs, and occasionally veggies that he loves to send out. I'd better find that paper!

Dave, thanks for the info! I'm farther north than you are, but I'm still inland, so the end of april/beginning of should be safe, but I'll check with the above-mentioned resource to be sure. Are pickling cucumbers any good for fresh eating? I've never actually tried them before, except as pickles, of course.
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Old 03-05-2011, 02:04 PM   #11
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I am partial to brandywine tomatoes myself. The heirloom varieties seem to take longer to bear fruit, at least, that has been my experience. I like the Oxheart as well.
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Old 03-05-2011, 02:32 PM   #12
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Have you ever seen the British TV Series "The Good Neighbors"? It was also called "The Good Life".

They had this cart made out of a roto-tiller, a platform and a bench that they used to drive back and forth to their allotment (same as your garden plot). It looked a lot like this. LOL


Maybe you can get Frank to build you something.
I loved "Good Neighbors" I wish we could find it on DVD. Their gardening exploits were great!
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Old 03-05-2011, 03:07 PM   #13
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I found Italian plum tomatoes to be the best for containers, but you can't do it year after year w/o having some stem end rot (I think that's what it is called). I used a lot of composted manure. There is also a variety actually called "patio tomatoes" bred for that purpose. Considerably larger than a cherry tomato, but nowhere near as large as, say, a big boy. I suspect cherry or grape tomatoes would do well, but the thing is the grocery ones taste pretty good year 'round, so when I grow a tomato, I want it to be larger!
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Old 03-05-2011, 04:49 PM   #14
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I loved "Good Neighbors" I wish we could find it on DVD. Their gardening exploits were great!
Amazon has them. Amazon.com: The good neighbors

You have to buy series 4 separate from series 1-3 but still not a bad price.
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Old 03-05-2011, 04:52 PM   #15
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I use 1/2 of a whiskey barrel for my "container" for tomatoes. I put basil around the plants (I think I put in 2-3 tree). I also have two HUGE "clay" pots. I can get 3 tomato plants in each of those.
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Old 03-05-2011, 04:54 PM   #16
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It is 'blossom end rot'--the bottom of the tomato turns black. It has to do with how the plant takes up calcium. Adding some lime, and making sure moisture levels are consistent will help with that. Mulch helps keep moisture in, both in a container or in the garden.
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Old 03-05-2011, 07:47 PM   #17
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Amazon has them. Amazon.com: The good neighbors

You have to buy series 4 separate from series 1-3 but still not a bad price.
Thank you, it's been a while since I looked for them. They will be mine, soon. One of our most favorite shows, ever!
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Old 03-05-2011, 08:51 PM   #18
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I found Italian plum tomatoes to be the best for containers, but you can't do it year after year w/o having some stem end rot (I think that's what it is called).

...

I don't understand. Don't you put new plants every year? Don't you do something to freshen the soil?
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Old 03-06-2011, 06:33 AM   #19
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He--, yes, new plants every year. Even in Florida and Hawaii a tomato plant is only seasonal! And, yes, I did amend the soil, although I didn't try the lime thing. Instead I just rotated crops and grew peppers in those pots, cut a plot out of the yard and grow my tomatoes in the ground now.
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Old 03-06-2011, 07:59 AM   #20
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It is 'blossom end rot'--the bottom of the tomato turns black. It has to do with how the plant takes up calcium. Adding some lime, and making sure moisture levels are consistent will help with that. Mulch helps keep moisture in, both in a container or in the garden.
Save and wash out egg shells, then crush them up and work them into the top few inches of the soil in the pot. Works great.
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