Messed up my containers - Help me plan for next season!

tomahtohsJuly 12, 2013

Hello, All! I hope you're all doing well and are staying happy.

So here's the story:

I'm an amateur tomato grower who's been trying for a few years to grow big plants in containers. I've had reasonable success in past seasons, but never have been able to get a consistently high yield and/or strong plants; it's more of a roller-coaster.

This year I think I finally figured out why.

Through much research and reading up on these forums, I've come to the conclusion that it's because I'm doing my container soil all wrong - In that I'm using *soil* instead of the correct method. This season I joyously and diligently mixed lovely compost and manure with soft and loamy topsoil, adding copious amounts of love, and healthy measures of peat moss. My plants aren't unhealthy per se, but they seem to be plateauing much earlier than they should be.

So here's where I ask for your insight and knowledge. What do I add to heavy, compacted soils to lighten them up for next season's planting? I have heard that Perlite and Vermiculite are good for loosening the mix, but how much will I need to properly aerate my heavy container concoction? Remember, it's composed of (approximately) 2 Parts Topsoil, 2 Parts Compost and manure, and 1 part Peat Moss.

The container sizes range from a 5 gallon pot to a half-wine barrel.

What a mouth full! Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your responses.


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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

You'd be doing yourself a favor if you used your current container soil for a raised bed or spread it on your lawn or something, and start new with a good container mix. Suggest reading the following post re container soils and drainage.

Here is a link that might be useful: container soils

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 6:42PM
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mea2214(z5 Chicago)

I would replace topsoil and peat moss with pine bark fines making it 3 parts pine bark fines 2 parts compost and manure. If you can find a 4 cu. ft. bag of perlite buy it and go with 1/2 part perlite in that mix. Don't be frugal with the perlite. That should fluff everything up nicely. IME tomatoes are the most finicky of plants to grow right in containers. You'll probably need to add some lime and other black magic to keep them from getting blossom end rot and then outright dying on you. Skip 5 gallon buckets for tomatoes. Other plants like cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, etc. are much easier to grow right than tomatoes. Read some threads on where to get and what pine bark fines are.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 10:51PM
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