Tomatoe Plants in 5 Gal. Bucket

edspanglerApril 12, 2013

Greetings, could use some advice on planting "Parks Whopper" Tomato plants in 5 gal. buckets in East Tennessee. Heres what I am planning to do so please feel free to share any wisdom/ advice!! Plan on drilling drainage holes in bottom of buckets,plus lower sides as well to promote drainage ( Will be kept outside ) Plan on a thin layer of pea gravel in bottom, then gonna take Scotts top soil and put in bucket, plant the Tomato plants and spread a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer around plant. use the 10-10 10 maybe once a month in sma;; amounts. I Plan on spraying plant's with Fungo-Nil and mancoZeb alternating products every 2 weeks and or after heavy rains to prevent Mold,fungus etc.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Several potential problems with this approach.

- what will be a BIG indeterminate plant in a too small container. Try a container 2x that size minimum or use a bush or determinate variety only.

- blossom end rot issues due to the watering issues and soil moisture inconsistency

- using gravel. That it adds drainage is a myth and it only takes up room needed for soil

- using top soil in a container rather than soil-less container mix. This poses serious problems.

- not enough feeding for a container much less one that small. nutrients leach out of small containers every time you water. Minimum of weekly feedings is commonly recommended.

- keeping the plant upright as it will be very top-heavy

Lots of discussions and info here on trying to grow in 5 gallon buckets that the search will pull up for you.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 3:46PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I tried 5 gal buckets and upsidedown tomatoes one year just to try it. Dave hit a number of the problems we don't think about when planting in buckets. IF you can water from the bottom that will help to keep from washing all the nutrients out the bottom.

What I came away with is IF you can grow them in the ground it is prob a better way. Yes, BER was from the moisture fluctuations in the bucket. Plus the wind dries em out fast, so they need daily attn.

IF you have no other way to grow tomatoes or just want to try buckets then go for it. But if you have a spot in the ground plant there also.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:43PM
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All of what the others say is valid. I will address two of the most serious issues.

Using "soil" instead of "mix" will keep the temperature in the buckets higher than normal. This promotes diseases such as molds and fungus. It also compacts easily and makes wetting the growing medium evenly nearly impossible. This can increase your BER problems big time.

Park's Whopper is a very large plant with lots of foliage. The more foliage, the more water that is needed to keep the plant from drying out. This is the essence of watering stress and primary cause of BER. The large plant in the not-so-large bucket will be easy for wind and storms to knock everything down. You'll need to stake that bucket down or put guy-wires on the plant to keep it upright.

The last thing is watering. You'll have to water EVERY day if not TWICE a day, especially in the summer heat. And you'll need to feed the plant much more often because of nutrient "wash out".

In my garden, indeterminates, like Park's Whopper, command an area that is roughly 3 feet square. You can grow Park's Whopper in a 5 gallon bucket, but you'll have to do some heavy pruning of foliage.

An alternate variety might be Rutgers. The taste is similar and the plants are somewhat more compact.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 9:57AM
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5 gallon containers can be an easy wasy to try some varieties, such as smaller, determinate types. I have Taxi, Czeck Bush and others happily growing. The previous comments are spot on.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:07PM
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Check out homemade Earth Box on youtube it involves a 5 gallon bucket and I think it would work just fine if it is done right! People think that Space is needed to grow stuff I personally have found the faster something gets rootbound the faster it produces fruit. if the dirt is good then the plant will follow suit!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:27PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I tried several dwarf varieties (both old and new) in 3 1/2 and 6 1/2 gallon pots last summer and they did well (till the Late Blight got them).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:31PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

It all depends what one is trying to do. Frankly, I don't try and grow the biggest best producing largest tomato plants. I like the fact that smaller containers produce less.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 2:35PM
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basically that Earth box/5 gallon bucket deal on youtube is a very simple form of an outdoor water culture. i think it would do just find you might just have to move it around cause of high temps

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 2:46PM
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I am very grateful to everyone for their input, I think I probably made a big mistake in not more clearly explaining what I am trying to do. I have a regular outdoor garden plot myself, I intend to plant The Parks Whoppers in the ground in my plot.Had my soil tested PH 6.6 , then met with area ag. agent at local Co-Op, he suggested small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer, using the Parks Whopper plant, ( He Stated they were very hardy and disease resistant.) HOWEVER my daughter's area at her house ,where I could plant is very rocky and we had decided to try the 5 Gal. Bucket idea for her only.She only wants 3 or 4 plants.
I think now I will still try that ,HOWEVER, I will attempt to find a smaller Determinate with disease resistance to plant for her.Suggestions? We live in East Tennessee, I live in Sevier Co. my daughter in Blount co.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 2:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

If you are buying transplants rather than growing from seed then it will all depend on what plants are available for you to buy. Husky Cherry Red and Patio are commonly available and do ok in 5 gallons. Otherwise look for any variety that is labeled 'Determinate'.

But the main point - please don't miss it - is that you need to use a soil-less potting mix in the buckets, not any kind of 'soil'.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 3:49PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Two of the dwarves I grew last year were Husky Cherry Red. 3 1/2 gal. pots. They did very well.

The short narrow wire cages were a fine size for support (and the support was needed); add a bamboo stake or two if the plants outgrow the wire rings.

They survived Late Blight with a daily check and a little trimming of bad leaves here and there.

That said, it's a large cherry with decent-but-not-great cherry taste. Enthusiastic producer of perfect fruit.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 4:25PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I would suggest making a small raised bed to also experiment with. You can use scrap wood or almost anything else to make the frames. Put newspapers or cardboad down to stifle the grass before you add your soil (or Mel's Mix).

Choosing a sunny location with well drained soil is the key.

Do a google search on Lasagna Gardening and check the below links for more ideas.

Cost of setting up boxes

You can combine Lasagna with SFG

Google Search Lasagna Gardening 101

Here is a link that might be useful: Borders for Bed Gardening

This post was edited by gumby_ct on Sat, Apr 13, 13 at 16:30

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 4:26PM
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Greetings all, especially Dave, who has been very helpful. Will be doing my planting in garden and the containers this week. One final question, Have been to Lowes and there are a couple varieties of the "Soil-Less" Potting Mix, one is even "Moisture Control...So question is the containers with Patio variety plants, should I use the Moisture Control Potting Mix? Or Just plain Potting Mix? Also gotta ask, is it OK to sprinkle some 10-10-10 fertilizer ( Lightly) around plant when first planted? I have some Black Kow Manure, should I place a small amount of that around plant? Thanks Everyone, if you can, please reply by email./ thanks ! Ed Spangler

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:54AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Put many large one inch holes in the bottomof 5 gal bucket ,bury the bucket 6 -10 inches in the ground , fill with soil/dirt and tom plant ,feed with water soluble ferts as directed , you cannot over water because it drains into the ground ,now just drive a large stake near the bucket and your all set . (or better yet stake thru a bucket hole near the rim of your bucket )

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 6:26AM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

While I do agree that plants will do better if the roots can reach into the ground, I wonder why use a bucket at all if you have the space to plant in the ground?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:28AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Do not use the moisture control in the buckets or in any small container. It keeps the soil too wet in small containers. Use the plain stuff.

You can mix in some of the Black Cow just don't overdue it and keep in in the bottom half of the container. Save the 10-10-10 for after first fruit set and then make a a narrow trench an inch or two deep about 1 inch in from the outside edge of the container. Put about 1 cup of the 10-10-10 there and cover. It is similar to what is done with Earthboxes. From then on you will have to use a liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/2 strength to water the plant every 7-10 days.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:50AM
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inulover (9A Inverness)

This is why you would want to plant in containers. This is a squash, but tomatoes look pretty much the same. This specimen came from a 1 year old raised bed.

I am converting all of my susceptible plants to containers. Five gallon is sufficient. I currently use cheap box store potting soil, but I will convert for winter tomatoes and squash to Al's 5:1:1: mix.

I think the only organic matter in this pile of sugar sand is the root knot nematodes.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:52AM
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