Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Where do all the tomato plants go??
Every Spring my collection of tomato plants seems to exceed the amount of space I have in the ground. I cannot go to a nursery or seedling sale without coming home with a new variety that sounds so wonderful I just have to try it, or a duplicate of one of my favorites. Can you ever have too many Pineapple tomatoes? As I run out of space in my raised beds I turn to containers for additional tomato plants. For years I have used 15 gallon plastic containers that I buy at the big box store or sometimes at the local nursery.
The containers, as you can see in the photo are black. And, you may also notice that they're sitting on a basketball court, which in Woodland Hills summers, translates to really hot! The containers are always elevated on pot feet, both to facilitate drainage and to keep them from direct contact with the hot cement. I've often put a layer of artificial turf underneath them. And this year, I think I might paint them white to help them reflect the heat rather than absorb it.
You may be wondering why I use such large containers. The answer to that is quite simple ...soil! I need enough growing medium in the container to support the huge root system that the tomato seedling will quickly develop. A smaller amount of soil will drain too quickly, taking all of the wonderful nutrients that I carefully provide my plants along with it. The result will be more frequent watering (leaching the soil of even more nutrients) and over watering is exactly what leads to unhealthy plants producing tasteless tomatoes!
When choosing containers, the most important things to look for are size and proper holes for drainage. Ideally, you want a container with 3 drainage holes at the bottom of the side wall of the container. You'll see pots made of all sorts of materials - terra cotta, plastic, half wine barrels and paper pulp. I've always used plastic containers but have to admit that the pulp pot did quite nicely last year and even held up well enough to be used again this season.
Don't let a lack of ground space keep you from growing your own tomatoes. Containers just may be the answer for you.