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  1. #1
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Tomato Expert

    Is it too early to talk 'maters? I have been thinking on it since last August.

    I am not a tomato expert, but Chuck is.
    For decades I have been growing more than I can eat, but this year going for better quality and quantity.

    Having little Sun in my yard, have been growing them in pots on my dock for years. I have a 12v pump run by solar there and so lots of free water. I have not thought too much yet on a way to auto irrigate there, but my mind is working on it. I see one kit that could use a rain barrel, but it is too expensive. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

    Chuck also grows on his dock. He has been doing better than me. I am not sure why as I have more Sun.
    Here is Chuck years back:
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    Here is Chuck now after he improved his dock garden:

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    Chuck uses these pots which are 18" L x 18" W x 15" H:

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    The Reservoir holds 2.5 Gallons of water and about 2 cu. ft of soil.

    I ordered in 5 of the "Chuck Planters" last Fall. I have always used similar home made and store bought pots as the water reservoir is needed for pot growing. Even then, daily water is needed.


    As my needs are different from Chuck am building supports for them differently. Pot separation is best, but I lack space. To that end my cage will be single file and 8' long.
    I am going to use PVC pipe as it is cheap, strong, and light.
    I am using 1 1/2" PVC because I already have joints for that. Cross rods will be garden stakes.
    I hope to do a good job.

    Chuck has made some great wire cages for his, I am going with less suport (lazy) and so will need more tying.

  2. #2
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Soil is important.
    Tomatoes are big feeders.
    Extra calcium is a plus. PH of around 6-7 so the plants can soak up nutrients they need is a plus.

    I am going with this soil as it claims to hold 33% more water:
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    I will be mixing 1 1/2 pounds of dolomite and the same of Tomato-tone into the soil.
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    Dolomite needs a couple weeks to begin breaking down, so hope to have the pots filled by the end of March with April 10th as the planting time. Later might be better, will adjust due to weather patterns. What to look for is warm nights as best soil temp is 65+.

    The recommendation for this system is a 2" trench filled with food, so going with about a pound or so of this:
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    So, I have my plan and now must assemble the parts.

  3. #3
    SGM Mike Kelly's Avatar
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    We've tried to grow tomatoes in years past. Some years great, some years a bust. I have a few questions here: First question: Are those plans patented? Whether they are or not I think I will borrow them this year. Second question: How many plants per pot? I think I will build a box like Chuck's and do a two pot system. That should be plenty for us if all goes well. I don't have a nice dock like you guys, but I have a deck on the back of my house for good sunshine. Thanks for the information!

  4. #4
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    Guys, I've been off the grid somewhat because of recovering from my 2nd knee replacement. I'm having a little more trouble with this one than with the first one. I'm flattered that y'all like the way I grow my tomatoes. I continue to refine the process. Mike, I just took some measurements and custom made those boxes. No patent, so copy if you like them. Somewhere I have the measurements I used when I constructed them. I have a bunch of those cages if someone needs a few. I used to grow a lot more plants than I do now. Mike, I only plant one plant per box. I tried two to a box several years ago and they don't do as well. I use the Miracle Grow potting soil with a slow release fertilizer. After a few weeks of growth, I mix up some Miracle Grow for Tomatoes and water them with that maybe once a week. I'm always open to suggestions as to additives, and will consider AO's above information.

  5. #5
    I am amazed

  6. #6
    SGM Mike Kelly's Avatar
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    Thanks Chuck! With your and A O's expertism, I will will look like an expert in which I really am not. I follow the advice from what someone said many years ago somewhere: "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid, than open it and release all doubt".

  7. #7
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Farley View Post
    Guys, I've been off the grid somewhat because of recovering from my 2nd knee replacement. I'm having a little more trouble with this one than with the first one. I have a bunch of those cages if someone needs a few. I used to grow a lot more plants than I do now. Mike, I only plant one plant per box. I tried two to a box several years ago and they don't do as well. I use the Miracle Grow potting soil with a slow release fertilizer. After a few weeks of growth, I mix up some Miracle Grow for Tomatoes and water them with that maybe once a week. I'm always open to suggestions as to additives, and will consider AO's above information.
    I just hate you are having problems Chuck. Hang in there, not much getting about with the kung flu anyway. I would think that walking less would have you more on the grid. As soon as we get our shots, will be over.

    I used to have a few raised beds and grew a lot more maters and things, even some corn. I got shaded out.
    Maters tend to come in around the start of July depending on cultivar. A couple plants provide more than one can use.

    I agree on the one plant per box. Maters are heavy feeders and drinkers.
    I have some of the long pots that came out years ago, and some of the large square pots. I have put two plants in those and did OK.

    Last year put in a zucchini in a couple pots with the maters and that did OK. I'll put the zucchini in their own planters this season as they too are heavy drinkers/feeders.

    Chuck do you pour the Miracle Grow mix down the tube?

  8. #8
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Kelly View Post
    We've tried to grow tomatoes in years past. Some years great, some years a bust. I have a few questions here: First question: Are those plans patented? Whether they are or not I think I will borrow them this year. Second question: How many plants per pot? I think I will build a box like Chuck's and do a two pot system. That should be plenty for us if all goes well. I don't have a nice dock like you guys, but I have a deck on the back of my house for good sunshine. Thanks for the information!
    Mike, this is a system that is covered at the top to limit evaporation. It wicks water up from the bottom. It works well. The last years just used mulch on top of home made pots, going back to the plastic top this season. You can design your own, but $28 is hard to beat.

    On your deck, might not need a stand unless like Chuck you require wheels. I'll be posting photos of my PVC deal soon which is not to hold the planters, but just to support the tomato vines so they don't flop around. I just need to get to HD for the pipe.

    https://earthbox.com/gardening-syste...rdening-system


    This is a good pdf:

    https://earthbox.com/media/wysiwyg/P...structions.pdf

  9. #9
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    I think I have a good water supplement plan.
    I ordered this timer which needs zero pressure for $20.

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    I already have all the tubing needed as I timer irrigate in the yard and on the deck.
    I'll just run a 1/4 tube to each down pipe. The water and electricity are free, so over flow is no big deal. It just drains back into the lake.

    I can hook it to a tub of water, and gravity will help me keep them watered. On my dock have no AC and no water. I use a solar pump to get water from the lake. I can just fill the tub every time I am down there. Of course I will still hand water, will set this to top off the reservoir at night, and to help if I get lazy with the watering.

    For yall who have water, all you need is a regular timer and some tubes. Earthbox sells a deal to do this for $50 a pot!!!! Unless a little overflow is a problem, you can do a hundred pots with a timer and some tube for $25.

  10. #10
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Here is a photo from last mater season.
    This was the 3rd year of these 5 pots.

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    I drilled a hole in the side several inches up from the bottom for drainage. That meant several inches at the bottom for water to stand. I mulched about 4" on top and placed in your standard tomato cages.

    Every time I was down there, just sat in the swing and watered until water over flowed the pots. As usual, got more maters than we could eat. As they drained several inches up and not at the bottom, worked well.

    To the left are 4 of the store bought large square pots I have had for years. In those are Mums, peppers, and rhubarb. Used mulch with no cover, no down tubes, just watered often to over flow.
    They also did very good.

    This is a different type system from what I am doing this year.
    "If it aint broke, don't fix it" is no fun.
    In these above you water the dirt like in a garden.
    In the boxes I'll be using this season, no water goes on the top, it all comes from the bottom up via wicking.

  11. #11
    LTG AgentOrange's Avatar
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    Here is an idea I accidentally came on.

    This pot system relies on "wicking". If wicking is absent, the soil will dry.

    In these pots there is a tray to hold dirt up so water can be underneath (2.5 gal). I am sure lots of dirt sifts down, but ??. On two corners are holes to the bottom where you pack dirt to start the "wicking action". Packing the dirt in those corners helps remove some air to aid wicking.
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    Why not add a little effort as you fill the pot with dirt and "pack" those corners to the top?
    That is tip #1.

    Is this tip #2?
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    This week while putting away Christmas decorations ran across a bag of those large citronella torch wicks.
    I am thinking why not add that to the back of the corner? I could slide one end under the tray and up the corner behind the dirt. Seems to me this would really aid the "wicking".

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