Container tomatoes

don555(3a)July 1, 2012

Tomatoes have sometimes done very well for me, sometimes nothing has ripened outdoors. 2010 was a "nothing ripened year, plus they got that blight that turned fruit brown and mushy. So I didn't grow them last year but am trying again this year. I thought I'd try some in pots on the deck, so was going to grow 2 pots of "Tumbler", which is a cherry tomato designed for containers, plus one pot of Sophie's Choice, which is a heritage variety from Edmonton that is kind of like the better known Sub-Arctic Maxi. I got the seeds for Sophie's Choice from an on-line heritage seed company, and I got the seeds for Tumbler from ebay. Planted them inside at the end of March and planted them in pots on the deck on May 13, moving them to protection when frost threatened. All was looking good on May 27, with the Sophie's choice the middle pot and the Tumblers on either side. The pots are 12" deep and 14" diameter.

The Tumbler are supposed to spill (tumble) down the sides of the pot, setting big bunches of cherry tomatoes. As June progressed they were clearly growing strongly upright, with no signs of tumbling at all. Ah the follies of ebay seeds! The only question was whether they were even cherry tomatoes because beefsteaks would not be good for pots. Thankfully, they clearly are cherry tomatoes, with the biggest fruit now about the size of a grape and very green. The Sophie's Choice does appear legitimate, with the biggest fruit about golf ball size and very green.

Today (July 1) I decided I had to prune them as I was having to water the cherry tomatoes every other day. So here they are before and after pruning/staking. The pruning was pretty brutal, but I'm much happier with things now. The Sophie's Choice is the spreading plant in front of the two cherry tomatoes and it has never been pruned.



BTW, doe anyone know a good source for Tumbler tomatoes for next year (no ebay links allowed! :)

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I just get the started plants from Greenland. Live just down the road from them .

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Yep, me if I can ever find my seeds!!! I will go and steal a couple of tomatoes from my neighbours Tumbler and save them for you, Don, if I can't find mine. :-)

I have about 250 different types of tomato seeds. You are welcome to any or all. No postage required. I am just across the river.:-)

I guess I should probably update my seed list so I can share. Still unable to find the missing tub of seeds but I haven't been looking too hard. :-) If there are others you are looking for, Don, just ask. I just may have them.

My potted toms are doing rather well this year even though they didn't get into pots or the ground till the first week in June. I planted about 34 different ones plus a few multiples, thanks to Larry for sharing. Salsa Queen will be my new title. :-)


    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Well, obviously I should read before I look at pictures, but I generally look, and then read.

The first picture I thought "Oh Dear, Don they're awfully small", then the second picture I thought, "OMG what's wrong with mine?", and then a sigh of relief when I saw the third picture, which is close to what my tomatoes look like.

Don, I got all my seeds from Heritage Harvest Seeds in Manitoba. I don't recall if they have tumbler.

So far, BTW, my tomatoes in pots versus the good old ground, are looking about the same. Ginny, how are yours?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 8:11PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Lol, Lynn! I was thinking the same thing when the thread first opened. :-)

You know, I think the pots are a bit ahead this year. They get all the nutrition from the fertilizer so that may be why. Also, they are in a different location with direct south sun pretty much all day. I'll have to get some pics.

I haven't done any major pruning as I put them in late and wanted them to get a really good start. I actually had to pull one out in a pot as it was not draining. Poor little girl didn't look too good. Now she is growing in another laundry basket. She is the only Pineapple one I planted. I also planted a seedless variety, Sweet Seedless. This one should be interesting. :-)

It is not raining at the moment so maybe I can go out and do a bit of an inspection.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 8:42PM
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I'm not sure why you pruned them - Tumbler and Sophie's Choice are both determinate. They make their leaves, they make their flowers and the fruit bears all at once.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 1:10AM
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Shazam, I did not prune the Sophie's choice at all and don't plan to -- it seems like a good variety for containers. I only pruned the "Tumbler" when it became clear that it definitely was NOT Tumbler, and instead is some kind of indeterminate cherry tomato, variety unknown. Already 3 feet tall by Canada Day and growing vigorously upright -- that is definitely not Tumbler!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 3:39AM
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Nutsaboutflowers, I got the seeds for Sophie's Choice and another tomato variety, Stupice, (with the Stupice planted direct in the garden only, not in pots) from Heritage Seeds. But I didn't see Tumbler offered by Heritage Seeds so I resorted to ebay for those seeds, clearly a mistake.

I also got 4 varieties of corn from Heritage Seeds -- two early sweet corn, one early popcorn, one early flint corn, I'm curious how well (or not) they do in our climate.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 3:54AM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

If Tumbler doesn't work out for you, Tiny Tim is another good determinate pot variety.

I have no idea how to prune tomatoes. I just plant one or two and plan for them taking over my garden. :O Speaking of which, it appears to be a Zucchini Year. Run for your lives.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Ah, that's what I get for reading the post on my mobile phone!

I grew Sophie's Choice last year, got a good yield from it. Very early ripening. Also got some pretty big tomatoes from it - beefsteak sized!

I grew Stupice one year, didn't particularly care for the taste - rather bland. But good yield and early ripener. Juicy too.

Tumbler seeds are readily available. What's that seed brand that all the stores carry?? They have it.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Do you mean McKenzie seeds? I find them everywhere.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Yes, that's them!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Thanks! I'll definitely check out McKenzie seeds for next year.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:40PM
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Get them early, they're EXTREMELY popular. Many of the garden centres get as many packets as they can get ahold of, and they will completely sell out by May.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:58PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Stokes sells Tumbler too. Must be popular, they cost three times as much as the other varieties!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 1:08PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

Well I don't know what to think. I also planted Tumbler from purchased plants, and I was just wondering the same thing. They are growing quite large and upright, not what I expected at all. The ones in pots are ahead of the ones in the ground though.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 11:24PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Here's a link to West Coast Seeds. They also have Tumbler tomatoes. I've ordered from them before. :)


    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 1:43AM
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Thanks for the Tumbler seed sources!

North53, if your tomatoes are growing large and upright, sorry, but you don't have Tumbler either. Seems there are a number of people selling fakes out there, and not just on ebay like where I got mine.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 3:07AM
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They're probably selling seeds from the tomatoes, not realizing that it's an F1 hybrid.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 12:29PM
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BTW, for the Sophie's Choice tomato, I have two -- one in a pot on the deck and one direct-planted in the garden. They were started from seed at the same time (March 29), one was planted in a big pot on the deck on May 12, the other direct in the garden on May 20. I was expecting the one in the pot to do much better than the one in the garden, and I guess I still am, but so far I'm not seeing any sign of it. They both appear about the same size, the same vigour, the same state of maturity. Possibly more flowers on the potted one, but that could be wishful thinking on my part. It's still early I guess, but I'm surprised there isn't any major difference yet. Here's a couple pics, the garden one first, then the potted one on the deck, with the largest yellowy-green "tomato" in each being a tennis ball for scale. Has anyone tested pots vs. garden before, and what were the results?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Hi Don. I'm doing the same test, and I believe Honalee is also.

I have Sioux, Old Brooks, Crimson Cushion, and quite a few others. So far I don't see a difference either. However, I'm quite sure that once the ones in the pots become rootbound, that there'll be a major difference in the amount and quality of fruit. I could be wrong, and that's one of the reasons I'm trying it out.

The ones in the pots may have one advantage. They haven't had to stand up to the pouring rain and wind we've been having. Whenever there's a chance for bad weather, I lug the pots into the garage. No way am I having all my tomatoes ruined after all the effort seeding them in the house.

BTW Mine were planted later than yours, so I only have 3 small tomatoes and not a whole lot of blossoms yet. Probably by next week =:)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 7:01PM
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Indeterminates can grow quite large in the ground. I once had a Sungold that was over 11 feet long (I think it ended up being 13 feet). They get about 6 feet in a large pot.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 7:04PM
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Holy Cow !

What on earth did you do to get a tomato plant that tall?

I think the tallest I've ever grown is 6 feet and that was in zone 8.

Maybe I need to start them earlier ?? Or have a greenhouse ??

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 8:54PM
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bluegoat_gw(Zone 3b)

Casey's is a local grower that supplies the Calgary area with tomato seeds.

Also I have had good luck with Trade Winds Fruit. Their shipping charges are very reasonable.

Here is a link that might be useful: Casey's Heirloom Tomatoes of Airdrie

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Nutsaboutflowers - I hadn't even thought about the rootbound thing, I guess I'm hoping that with frequent watering and fertilizing as needed, that can overcome any rootbound issues. What size pots are you using? Mine are 14" diameter by 12" deep. I have only 3 pots of tomatoes, plus 4 pots of hot peppers and while I like that I can move them around (like a couple days ago when I moved them first under the deck to avoid possible hail, then against an east-facing wall to block the strong west winds), I really don't want to move them any more than I absolutely have to because I find the novelty of a mobile garden wears off very quickly!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 2:14AM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Hmmmm. Interesting thread here.

Shazam, I forgot about Tumbler being an F1. I have only ever grown them from greenhouse started plants and not for a few years. Last time was in a Topsy Turvy which was a huge waste of time and soil IMO. :)

Lynn, I am finding the tomatoes grown in pots are doing well and possibly a bit better than the ground ones. Again, probably due to the more direct nutrition and the position in the garden, as I've said before. It seems to me that they are doing much better than last year in the pots but could be the different position again. Direct sun from morning till sunset. The cherry types that I grow against the fence and supports easily grow about 12 feet if I stretch them out. I have grown many indeterminates well over 10 feet in the ground in the past with supports. I usually trim them to keep them controlled where they are now. I used to grow all my tomatoes against the south side of the house with heavy wire support. One year, while living in Saskatoon, I grew them down the roof of the house, outside a second floor window of an old character home! That was fun! :)

As for the experiment, I only planted doubles of Beefsteak and Early Girl as they seem to be two very popular ones grown around here and both for different reasons and characteristics. I have a variety of pot sizes too, the smallest being 3 gallon, I think. Apparently Mel Barth. swears to being able to grow tomatoes in a foot square by 6 inches deep so I figure my pots will produce something. It is an experiment afterall. :) And I only move them to cut the crab grass.......

This is about where we are as of today. Bear in mind that these plants were planted out on June 3rd and 4th.


Beefsteak in pot July 6 2012

Beefsteak in ground July 6 2012

Early Girl in pot July 6 2012

Early Girl in ground

Tiny Tim

Poseidon in pot July 6 2012

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:11PM
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Don, my pots are the buckets from a restaurant, so they're about 14" deep, and 12" wide, so very similar in size to yours. Mine are white, which I thought was maybe a good thing in our very hot and very sunny yard.

I'm going to look at these pictures again in about a week. Hopefully my plants will be caught up by then =:)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:36PM
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Ginny, I'm not completely convinced by some of what Mel says, although I haven't read much of it.

I'm skeptical that a tomato plant can grow properly in that amount of space.

I guess I'm old school =:)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:40PM
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I had a raise veggie garden that I constantly amended with compost and occasionally with zeolite (works great for Calgary's clay gumbo). I usually put some slow release in as well. Dig a deep hole so that six inches of the stem is buried (this also applies for containers). Water everyday with 1/2 strength fertilizer - I used to use Shultz's Tomato Food but it's been discontinued. You just need something that contains magnesium (most don't).

For indeterminates, rub out any suckers that appear between the main stem and a branch. Those suckers will not produce fruit on an indeterminate.

Have a really, really long pole :)

For containers, cut the main stem once you think it's high enough (6 feet usually), unless you have some sort of system that can support it growing higher.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 1:45PM
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Don, there is a GW tomato growing forum that discusses container grown tomatoes. One comment I see is that determinates are preferred for containers, and gardeners seem to have better results with 5 gallon sized or larger containers.

Several years ago, first year with a new garden plot, I bought the McK brand seeds, for a patio cherry tomato. Description said sweet, bright RED cherry sized tomatoes,perfect for growing in containers on the patio (this is from memory, I don't have this seed packet any more). So I grew two to plant out in the garden, one the fruit was ORANGE, the other was YELLOW, and both were bland tasting, so the leftover seed was cursed at and thrown away. But poor flavour could have been from the plot being so new, probably with a low soil food web, so I probably shouldn't be blaming the seed packet so strongly. I think it is easy for the seed names/bins to get mixed up, or maybe the ones you'd planted had somehow gotten mixed with another variety.

As for the comment on rubbing out the suckers on indeterminates because they won't produce fruit, it is my understanding that those suckers are a complete new tomato plant, and they will produce fruit. I believe this because this past winter I kept 2 cuttings of a tomato plant variety that I knew to be a hybrid (so no saving seed and being guaranteed I will have the same thing), and felt like trying to overwinter it. The poor thing looked so pathetic all winter, but come February I could see it had perked up and had started to grow a new leaf at the top. Mid February I pinched off the top to force the dormant suckers below to grow. When the suckers were long enough I took them off, set in water for a day to make sure they were hydrated, then stuck in soil. Placed in a bright spot that rec'd no sunshine. They rooted! They grew! They produced blossoms on trusses, which I pinched off so the plant could grow stronger. Had one of the cherry tomatoes two weeks ago from a plant 18" in ht and growing in a yogurt cup on my front step that only receives morning sun, and it tasted as good as the original mother plant had produced last summer. I'm growing 2 in the garden right now, and both have fruit trusses, one with fruit. Now it's the wait for them to ripen so I'll have something to snack on when I'm out there!

I think it's encouraged to rub out some/most/all the suckers to provide better air flow (disease prevention) to the mother plant, and if the suckers are allowed to grow, the tomato plant becomes a monster in the garden!

I'll should make mention: that is not my giraffe in the attached photo. I've copied that from a thread in the Garden Experiments forum on GardenWeb.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 5:47PM
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Yes, you can cut off a part and plant it. It will root, since in the wild they are sprawling ground vines that will root wherever the stem touches the ground.

You don't have to remove the suckers, but you will have to have some really good support system to keep the plant up. I simplified a bit, but specifically only some of the suckers will bear fruit (there's some really convoluted way to know which do and which don't).

And here's Disneyland's tomato "tree"

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Oh hey, look, seems the container tomatoes have suddenly surged ahead....

Stupice in container on deck:

Stupice in the garden where I couldn't move it out of the way of last night's hail:

I guess this kind of ruins my experiment for this year :(

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:46PM
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That is so sad.

Does every tomato plant in the ground look like that or are there some that survived?

Thank goodness your deck must have been protected.

Do you have neighbours that got the same damage?

What about your blackberries?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:25PM
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Haha, the stuff on the deck was only protected because some idiot was running around in the hail at 3 a.m., dragging pots under tables and chairs (3 pots of chilis plus the Stupice tomato), or snug up againt the house and under the eaves (2 pots of cherry tomatoes). So no damage (well, a couple leaves only) to the peppers and Stupice, and only partial damage to the cherry tomatoes, and no serious damage to me from the hail :)

Everything in the open garden got really messed up but will hopefully bounce back in a couple weeks. The fruit on the tomatoes didn't get knocked off but it got really bruised up so if it ripens I'm going to be cutting out lots of bad spots. Tomatoes are pretty weedy so I'm hoping they will recover quickly, but any decent early ripening tomatoes will be coming from the pots on the deck now. The hail was widespread and I understand areas directly west of here got it even worse, so yah, lots of gardens got messed up, flower or veggie. I think the blackberries are okay -- they have only been flowering for a week or so, so any fruit will be small and hard and not easily damaged. I haven't actually looked to see if flowers got knocked off, but I think maybe some but probably not too many. Raspeberries looked fine so I think the blackberries should be too.

Keep running those pots into the garage when dark clouds threaten!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Your in ground Stupice should have a well established root system, it may well be impressive how strong it can comeback (as long as your plot can avoid any more hailstorms this summer). I'm putting my vote on your in ground.

I did try tomatoes in pots for a couple of summers. Pots no larger than the 7 gallon black nursery pots trees/cedars come in, and the ones that were planted in the garden grew more robustly for me, even though the 2 years I tried that it was because I didn't like how cloddy and lumpy the dirt was in the garden, and didn't expect great things from the tomatoes being planted in it. Garden ones still did better (same varieties were in the pots, and usually I got the in pots ones planted out a week or 2 earlier than the garden, because of wet conditions, or it was too windy and exposed in the garden and I didn't know how to protect them).

This year I bought some clear garbage bags from CT, and split the bottom open like a tube, and pinned that to the cages to shelter from our horrendous spring winds we got this spring. Wow, did those plants grow. The bags were open at the top. All the plastic did was keep the wind off the leaves.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 11:54AM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

I can't say I'm doing the test on the same scale, but I have 1 each in a pot and in the raised bed, of 2 different varieties. The raised bed tomatoes are far & away doing better than the pot ones, although those are doing acceptably well also. I managed to prune the insanely large one in the garden but it's still rampant.

I'm also growing over a dozen hot pepper plants in the garden and in pots, and both are doing equally well, which is very well indeed as each plant has 5-7 peppers that are ripening already. Unfortunately my *$#&^ dog ate some of the ones on the patio so the harvest will be reduced.

As an aside, I was surprised to find out that Winnipeg has higher summertime average day and night temperatures than both Calgary and Edmonton, by several degrees. Definitely for the past 2 years we have had a lot of heat, both day and night.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Winnipeg's elevation is a lot lower than Calgary's and Edmonton's. Probably accounts for some of the difference. Also you don't have the crazy Rocky Mountains throwing its temperament at you :)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Last year I had twice hail, tomatoes looked worse, unusable, plants never recovered.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 2:27PM
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