Tomato Containers in South Florida

albabyAugust 14, 2011

After some disappointing experiences growing tomatoes in raised beds in my small urban garden, I'm going to try putting in some containers around the edges for my tomatoes this season. For this first effort, I'm going with the low-tech (low cost) double five-gallon bucket, probably with a top watering system.

I've got a few pretty newbie questions that I'm sure have come up from time to time, but they're so general I'm having trouble using the search engine to find answers. If anyone could point a link to a thread answering them I would greatly appreciate it.

1) I've read through the Al's Mix threads, and am planning on building a soil - but is there anything I should take into account given my climate zone and choice of crop? Given our high heat and precip (even in fall), I would think that drainage should be my top priority - but do tomatoes have special needs in a container garden?

2) I know that fertilizer choices can spark a lot of discussion - but is there any reason why a basic, big-box solid tomato fertilizer would be problematic for this type of set-up, until I get my feet set for container gardening?

3) Any tips for calculating the rough level of ingredients I'll need, given that I'm looking to get about eight cubic feet of soil at the end?

Thanks so much,


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Over on the tomato forum the majority recommend soil-less potting mixes for container tomatoes. Most have lime already added so you don't need to worry about adding calcium. But if you are making your own, then you do need to worry about adding calcium to prevent blossom end rot. They recommend adding dolomite lime on the tomato forum. But you need to make sure you don't raise the pH too much with the lime.

I am using Miracle Gro Potting Mix and adding Tomato Tone to it. I supplement with Miracle Gro tomato fertilizer. I probably overfertilze, but with all of the watering I have to do because of the heat, it washes the fertilizer out.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 4:12PM
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You are going the right route using Al's 5-1-1. It drains really well. I like the fact it is as Al says, almost impossible to over water.
I am using 5-1-1 this year for the first time in 18 gallon storage containers from walmart that were $4.88 and I have been well pleased with my tomatoes as well as yellow summer squash and bush cucumbers.

Conventional wisdom says to use at least a 10 gallon with larger size preferred. It gives the roots room to grow and holds more moisture for lower watering needs.

I am growing Better Boy and Brandywine tomatoes which are large vined indeterminates and the 18 gallon containers have no problem supporting their water and nutritional needs, as long as I do my part that is. I am also growing Better Bush which top out at 4 feet and they are doing well.

For 18 gallon containers I used each,

1.5 cf of soil conditioner, pine bark fines, from Lowes
8 quarts of perlite from walmart.
8 quarts of peat moss from wherever.
1 cup of powdered dolimite lime.

As far as fertilizing there are many choices.
Try doing a search for "fertilizing 5-1-1"

We had some really hot weather over 100 for 2 weeks and I used the lids to shade the containers and the plants didn't suffer much to the eye. I watered well every two days during that time. I can go 3 when cooler. I also used shredded paper as a mulch and it reduced my watering needs and helped keep the mix cooler than without.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:01PM
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