Thursday, May 31, 2007

Container Grown Tomatoes

America's Favorite Fruit

As we learned several blogs ago, the tomato is actually a fruit. It was declared a vegetable by an act of Congress in 1893 so that it could be taxed. Well, whether you say "tomayto" or "tomahto," we love our tomatoes and it is America's favorite crop. If you don't care for store bought tomatoes, but don't have the room to grow tomatoes in the ground, we have some alternatives for you.

Tomatoes are very easy to grow in containers and it is not too late to get started. There are quite a few shrub or bush type tomatoes available that do well in containers. The minimum sized container to use if you are only planting one tomato, is a 16" diameter pot. Because most dwarf or compact tomatoes are determinate, that is they grow only so high and have one flush of fruit, you might consider planting several plants with different maturity dates.

Tomatoes need lots of water and do not like to dry out between waterings, so it is important to watch the water. That is one reason to use a large container with lots of moisture retaining soil. You can also mix in water retentative crystals, such as Soil Moist, to maintain moisture levels. In my half barrel, I have two Sprite tomatoes, some sweet basil and some lettuce. The lettuce will bolt in the warm weather, so I will replace it with something later on, possibly more herbs.
One symptom of improper watering, either too little or too much, is blossom end rot, which is actually due to lack of calcium. There is a calcium supplement on the market called Blossom End Rot Stop. The calcium is in liquid form and is absorbed through the leaves when applied. This can happen whether the tomatoes are container grown or grown in the ground.
Tomatoes grown in containers will also need to be fertilized. I used the Osmacote Vegetable and Bedding Plant Food because it is slow release and feeds for 4 months. You could also use the MiracleGrow Tomato Fertilizer. It is water soluble and you normally feed every time you water.

After your plants have become established you may want to consider some other preventive disease controls. Tomatoes are prone to several fungal diseases, such as blight. It is easier to prevent these problems, since they are not actually curable. There are organic controls available. Also, practicing proper watering techniques, such as watering only the soil and watering in the morning, will help reduce these problems.

Our last shipment of herbs comes this Friday, so if you haven't planted yet, be sure to stop by the Herb House, located in Greenhouse 6.

See you soon!

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