Central NJ SWC Tomato Growing

Mustang_EdJune 3, 2013

Greetings, All! I'm new to the GardenWeb Forums, and have to say that they're quite a resource with a tremendous amount of useful information - not only for those with the greenest of thumbs, but those less experienced (i.e., me) as well. Good Stuff ™, and thank you! (Especially Al Tapla)

Okay, as to what brings me here. . . As it turns out, my hobby this season here in central New Jersey is to attempt to grow tomatoes in some self-watering EarthBox containers that were given to me. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to make a go of it, right? . . . RIGHT?!? lol We'll see.

Anyway, after scouring the various threads here on GardenWeb, and attempting to gather as much information as possible, I've gotten to the point where my boxes are filled with a (hopefully) suitable mix (Raybo's 3-2-1).

Here's the lowdown on how I got to this point, so feel free to post any comments or suggestions (Al Tapla, are you reading?? ;-)

Initially, I started with a base derived from Al's 5-1-1 mix of pine fines, sphagnum pete moss, and perlite. Apparently this mix is *unbeatable*, but mainly geared toward NON-self-watering containers which are meant to flush/drain a given amount of water when watered from the top. Further reading lead me to a derivative version that is (Raybo's?) 3-2-1 which consists of more pete which should (hopefully) allow for the "wicking" necessary when using SWCs such as EarthBox.

At this point, each of the 1.4 cu.ft (give or take) EarthBoxes contain a mix of the following ingredients:

Base mix (per box)
3-parts pete: 0.68 cu.ft. (or 0.70 rounded up) (roughly 5 gallons)
2-parts pine fines: 0.4534 cu.ft. (or 0.50 rounded up) (roughly 3.4 gallons)
1-part perlite: 0.2287 cu.ft. (or 0.25 rounded up) (roughly 1.7 gallons)

Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Continuous Release Plant Food Plus Calcium (a CRF)

6 Table spoons per box (1/3 cup or so per cu.ft. of mix) ?

ASIDE: I could not find Osmocote Plus locally, so grabbed an alternative. Unfortunately, the MG seems to lack the boron, and molybdenum required. I'm not sure if I should forgo the missing micros (I don't believe that wise), or find a way to amend/augment the MG to bring it more "inline" with Osmocote Plus. Suggestions welcome :-) I did receive my bottle of Foliage Pro today, so maybe a dilute maintenance dose every other week (as I've said, suggestions welcome ;-)

Dolomite Lime: 3/4-cup (0.75 cup per container)

I not sure I should plan on keeping the containers in part-sun/part-shade or full sun. Right now, the only place that's convenient is full sun. I'm not sure what the ideal soil temperature is supposed to be, or if that's even important, but I'll try and keep them out of full sun so as not to cook them, or at least try and shade them in some way. Also, my understanding is that the ideal pH (of the mix) should be between 6.2, and 6.5 for optimum water/nutrient uptake. I've checked, and each boxes range from between 6.5 and 7 (as of today).

That's it.

At this point I'll take any further suggestions anyone would care to provide; especially regarding a watering/Foliage Pro schedule.Would you also recommend ProTeK (0-0-3)? I believe I read somewhere that about 13 ml per reservoir fill. I should really drain the box and get an accurate measure. EarthBox claims 3 Gallons, but I know the box itself only provides enough volume to hold between 1.45 to 1.7 dry media. They claim 2.0 cu. ft. (I guess if you really press it in there.)

Thanks in advance!

Below, I whipped up a quick comparison between the MG and the OsmocotePlus for reference.

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OK, I took some pH readings today. I know the pH of my tap water is 6.5. The soil media of 2 boxes is sitting around 6.5-6.8, and the the other two boxes have a pH of 7 (a little high). Since no amendments (for micronutrients) have been introduced as of yet, I might go ahead and drain the water in the two boxes having a pH of 7 and refill with fresh water, and maybe some vinegar to bring the pH into the "sweet spot" range of 6.2 - 6.5. At the same time I'll be able to get a more precise measurement of the container's reservoir. I'd also like to start introducing the Foliage Pro for the necessary micros that are absent from the MG CRF I initially mixed in.

By the way, the varieties of tomatoes I've planted (two per container) are Celebrity, and Rutgers.

(Zone 6)

This post was edited by Mustang_Ed on Tue, Jun 4, 13 at 12:54

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 12:52PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Very interesting pH measurements. Thanks for posting.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:05PM
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