Homemade mix for tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets?

muskymojoMay 2, 2011

I usually grow everything in raised beds, but this year I won't have enough room for everything I plan to grow. I plan on growing all my tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, because I can't afford to build more raised beds at the moment. I'm looking for a good recipe for a potting mix suitable for doing so that is cheap with easily attainable ingredients. I have an almost endless supply of good compost and aged horse manure, so hopefully I can use some of that in the mix. Any suggestions would be great!


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I have been using peat/perlite to add. I am currently thinking of adding bark to my soil mix for a filler. But with your access to compost just add 20% perlite/50%peat moss/30% compost. You could always top dress with compost so make a nice drainage mix. I have been growing cherry tomatoes in containers for years. Using those 5 gal. buckets you will need to keep feeding them. Also Use tomato cage or trellis. I have found that using even 50% perlite or more can grow plants faster but require more food and watering and if you add too much perlite ph ballance will need attention so stay with peat/perlite mix to add.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:22PM
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Thanks for the advice! How about the horse manure? I always mix it into my raised beds, but can it be used in a potting mix? Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 1:17AM
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Look for Al's 5-1-1 mix on here. I am going to try it soon.

5-parts pine bark fines
1-part perlite
1-part peat
lime @ 1tbl spn per 1gal of mix. You have to water this mix alot but grows plants fast as to what I hear.
Add that manure about 5-10% of the mix you can always add more manure later. The lime helps ph and gives Ca to the plant.
Everytime I make a mix with perlite/peatmoss when I water it still retains too much water. That is why I am going to try this 5-1-1.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 1:58AM
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Thanks! I've been reading about the 5-1-1 mix and it sounds like a good one. I think I'll give it a go.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 2:27AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

MM - I really think you have a much greater chance at getting plants to grow nearer their genetic potential if you base your soils on large particles like pine bark, instead of fine particulates like compost & manure that virtually assure excess water retention. Container media are much more about their structure than their nutritional content. It's often when you focus on try to get the soil to act as a source of nutrients instead of as a healthy home for roots that you run into some pretty significant growth/vitality issues. More help available if you need/want it .....


    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 2:23PM
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I am so new at this! Never planted tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, but have 3 heirloom plants (1 reg & 2 cherry). I don't have "compost" I have potting soil, vermiculite & peat moss. I have pine mulch, can I use that? Please help me come up with a recipe! THANKS

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:40PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

HI lynda,
does the pine mulch have pieces of bark, or is it very fine material? Can you post a picture of it?

Did I read somewhere that compost can replace the peat fraction of the 5-1-1?

I'm getting ready to put together a container for mom, actually more like a raised bed, and I KNOW she's going to forget to feed the plants. lol... So I was thinking maybe the small amount of compost will help the plants.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:46AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You can use compost instead of the peat fraction, but compost adds very little in the way of nutrition for plants. It's primary benefit comes in the form of improved soil structure in mineral soils (gardens/beds/lawns ..... Maybe including a little dose of Osmocote on her behalf would be helpful?


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 10:29PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hi Al~
I planned on putting in some Osmocote too. ;-) I do realize compost doesn't add much in the way of nutrition, but think it would be better than peat.
Many thanks,

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 9:13AM
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