The need to buy potting soil is going to makes this expensive!

ameera(z11 Dubai)September 16, 2011

I unfortunately have to buy potting soil for the tomatoes I want to grow this season... I want to try 4 varieties each in a 30 gallon Smart Pot...

I figured I will start slowly buying the potting soil over the next couple months so I am not bombarded with having to buy it all at once and have a heart attack at the price.

I am in Dubai and a lot of stuff is way more expensive than in the US and so many less variety of organic plant maintenance products...

Anyhow, enough soil for just one 30 gallon pot is going to cost around $45... yikes!

And I want to grow other veggies in containers too..

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May To

$45 for 30 gallons os potting soil is not good, not good at all. Have you consider mixing your own potting mix? There are some great potting mix recipe in the container forum. Not only are they cheaper, they are much better than commericial potting soil. Try searching Al's 5-1-1 mix.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 4:39PM
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Well... you got lots of sand there. Since you're growing in pots you will need to fertilize regularly anyway, so as long as it has good drainage you can probably get away with just mixing in some nutritional stuff with that sand.

Compost, peat moss, maybe vermiculite, perilite... whatever you can get your hands on. Key is to not make cement after a few weeks of watering.

Probably shouldn't use beach sand as it might be too salty.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 9:46PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

The key here is what ameera can get his/her hands on and afford.
How many plants per 30 gal SP?
What additives are you able to come by afordably ??
Do you have access to fertilizer?
What toms are you planning to grow?
Is it like deathly hot there?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 11:20PM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

Al's 5-1-1 mix sounds great but not all the ingredients are sold here. :(

I can get my hands on a TON of desert sand... its everywhere! LOL

I bought some fertilizer pellets last year and have plenty left---The fertilizer is Yates Dynamicc Lifter for Tomatoes

As for stuff like peat moss and compost, I never see it at the gardening stores. Well, they had peat moss one time a couple years ago at Ace Hardware and then they haven't stocked it again.

I thought I was out of luck but I just did a google search and found one company that has stuff like this... I just don't know yet if I can come in and purchase it myself or if they only sell it in bulk. They are closed today so I will find out tomorrow.

Here are the products I was looking at... can you please take a look and advise which one/s I should consider purchasing to mix with the sand? Thank you!


PEAT MOSS - Sphagnum Peat Black,ECO - PEAT (Black), BIO - ECO PEAT

FARMER'S(organic bio - fertilizer )

I am planning on growing 4 tomato varieties (1 plant per 30 gallon pot):

Super San Marzano
San Marzano Redorta
Green Giant
Kellogg's Breakfast

right now it is deathly hot... though not as deathly as a few weeks ago. The highs are in the upper 90s to low 100s, and the lows are in the upper 80's to low 90s. But the temps are going to gradually go down soon...which I can't wait for it! And especially for the humidity to go away!

I know I still have to wait for planting tomato seeds--though I might try just a few seeds soon and try shade cloth over the seedlings to see if I can get them to grow. I just at least want to slowly get the containers all ready for when the time comes :)

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 6:49AM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

By the way, I found a link on their site--they have places I can buy this stuff from! As soon as I get advice on what to buy I will go get some to start preparing the pots :D

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 7:05AM
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Ameera, since you're growing in pots and potting soil is too expensive there, you just need something that will not hold too much water (definitely not a problem with sand). But hold enough moisture so that you don't have to water it 20 times a day with your temperatures. And you don't want that mixture to turn rock solid after a few weeks.

Nutrients/fertilizers will need to be added regardless when growing in pots. Potting soils sold here just have them mixed in already to last you first few weeks.

So... sphagnum peat moss, perlite/vermiculite, you can probably even use shredded paper napkins/towels or anything else thats not toxic to help with water/nutrient retention. Compost does that plus adds a lot of nutrients.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 11:52PM
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You might consider hydroponics, soil-less growing. Also, you should be able to produce compost quickly. I'm not sure how much vegetative waste you have access to.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 11:17AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

The Eco-peat and Bio-Eco-peat sound like they have promise, although the claim that they are derived from 9 million year old pine bark is pretty farfetched. If you could mix that with some clean coarse sand and something with larger particles (about 1 cm. in diameter), like gravel, fir bark or perlite, you might have a decent mix.

Two suggestions:
Be sure to add something like lime, gypsum or crushed egg shells to supply calcium. Every time I've grown San Marzano tomatoes, I get blossom end rot, which is caused by lack of calcium and uneven watering.
And, two, you can definitely grow two plants per pot. I have been growing two tomato plants per 25-gallon smart pot for several years with success.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 2:53PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Crushed egg shells will be useless and a waste of time as they will not break down to be absorbed by the plant.
You can use Epsom salts to add calcium and magneseum if your liquid fertilizer doesnt contain them.
I might try Sphagnum Peat or Coir 40%,Potting Soil 40% ,and 10% sand and 10% shredded paper.
You need a water soluble fertilizer.
Also to save only fill pots with 20 gallons ofyou grow mix
Also use a mulch which will help retain water ,again 2-3 inches of shredded paper will work (completely soak the paper for a couple minutes)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 3:57PM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

Thank you all for all the advice!

I went to the head office of the company that I found online. They are the distributer who sells their products stores around the country here who in turn mark the price up for profit.

He sold everything to me at wholesale!

Now with their potting soil alone I could fill a 30 gallon pot for $11.00!!!!!

I am going to be making a mix of their products with desert sand so it will be even cheaper.

And on top of that they will deliver it all for free! yay!! I just hope I can convince the guys who deliver it to take it up to our roof for me... I bought a total of 25 50 liter bags... so its a lot! I got enough for later when I decide to grow carrots, beets, and shallots :)

I had asked on an expat forum about mixing stuff with desert sand and one member just informed me that one of the garden supply shops sells bags of red sand that they call "sweet sand" for about $1.35 (though she didn't mention how much sand)....

I was just thinking of going out to the desert and taking some sand for free! Now that she mentioned that the red sand is sweet sand, I will have to ask around about this... When we go drive in the desert, the Dubai side is the light tan colored sand and the next Emirate over, Sharjah, has red sand.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:27AM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

Also, as for crushed egg shells-- I have been saving egg shells by drying them and crushing them in a ziplock bag. They are kept in the freezer. I was going to add the crushed shells but I keep reading that it really doesn't break down enough for the plant to get calcium from it.

I did read that at a certain stage of the plant's life, I could dissolve egg shells in vinegar, dilute that and then the plant would receive the calcium from that mixture. So I will be reading more about when is the right time to make this mixture.

For now, I can get epsom salt at the pharmacies here so I can buy that for now.

The Yates Dynamic pellets that I have do contain calcium, but it says to not use the product once the temperatures have reached 30C (86F)so it will be a while before I can even use this product. I think its because one of the ingredients is chicken manure and that heats up soil, right?

As for paper mulching, I will mulch my plants... should I use shredded blank printing paper,drawing paper, or shredded paper towels? I won't use newspaper because I don't know if they print with soy ink. This is a petroleum producing country afterall...I would assume they use petroleum-based inks here.

ljpother-- hydroponics looks interesting... I will read up about it more but for now since I got a cheaper source for the mix I want for soil, I will stick to that :)

As for composting, We have had roach problems before in this house so now I am too scared it will attract cockroaches.

However, once we start building our new home, the land next to ours that is owned by the family will be vacant and as soon as walls are put up to surround the property, I would like to start Bokashi Composting. That way, by the time our home is finished, I will have made a good amount of compost to start a garden. I may also consider starting a compost bin on that property as well. I just have to keep studying all of this :)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:02PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

My hydroponics fried when the temps got into the 80's. Glad you found the products at a great price. Maybe you could tip the guys to take the stuff up to the roof for you/

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:46PM
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Hey man, I have been using horse manure for potting soil. I left it sitting in a pile throughout our dry,hot summer,and started some onion and tomato plants in it recently. So far, so good, no great!

Take care,

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 4:28PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Try calling the newspaper company to find what type ink they use.Might get expensive buying paper products. Did you score some water soluble fertilizer?
No reason to fool with egg shells,Epsom salts mix readily in water.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 7:45PM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

I will call the newspaper companies... I am just a bit weary because a lot of people here will lie rather than admit when they are not sure if they don't know the answer, or even if they don't understand what I am saying (while English is widely spoken here, it doesn't mean everyone speaks it well)

I wonder if the horse stables here save the horse manure for fertlizing plants... I will ask around.

As for water soluble fertilizer, I don't have any yet. My mother-in-law told me that I can get fish emulsion at the fish market though. Will that be good enough?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:53PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Do NOT use manure in container planting.Especialy fresh uncomposted .it will burn your plants .
Not sure if fish emulsion has all the ingredients or not .

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:49AM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

Could I take the pellets of the dynamic lifter I have, crush them and add them to water to make a tea to use as a liquid fertilizer?

I just went on the Yates site and they have a video on how to grow tomatoes.... the lady uses the pellets but also feeds the tomato a liquid fertilizer too. And I thought the pellets would be enough!

Thats too bad the gardening store only sells these pellets and didn't bring any other of the company's products!

They do sell plenty of non-organic fertilizers here but I wont use those.

My husband was just informed yesterday that he may be going to the US for business on Oct. 1st - he will find out if it is for sure by tomorrow. Can I get recommendations for a water soluble organic fertilizer I can order for him to bring back?

If it isn't a business trip I would bombard my husband with a huge list of stuff to bring back lol

I just emailed a company about a insect barrier cloth (that doesn't absorb heat like normal row covers do) they sell to see if they will ship their product to my husband's hotel if he goes :)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 1:41AM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

my husband just got home from work... he is not going afterall :(

oh,and zackey, yes I will offer a tip if they will take all the bags up for me :)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:37AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)


I responded to your email but I don't know if my message went through, so I thought I would repeat it here. I am no expert, but I can share my own experience growing tomatoes in containers for about 20 years, and growing them in smart pots for the past four years. Keep in mind that your growing conditions must be very different from mine. I live in an area with summer high temperatures from 25C to 35C and a good amount of rain. Farmers in my area grow corn and soybeans for a living. I choose to grow big tomato plants because I like heirloom tomatoes like oxhearts and beefsteaks. They often grow more than 8 feet tall.

I think your main question is about whether I need to prune my tomatoes when there are more than one in a 25 gallon pot. I was always taught that tomatoes should be caged or staked and all suckers should be removed, so I have always pruned my tomatoes, even when I grew them widely spaced in the ground. I usually leave a couple of the lower suckers growing so there are about three main stems in the plant. I believe that the tomatoes are bigger grown this way, but I know there are experts who don't think you should prune.

I think you would need to prune most of the suckers when there's more than one plant in the pot because tomatoes are so susceptible to diseases if they are crowded. My climate is very humid (70-90% is common), so this can be a major problem for me. If your climate is drier, you might not need to be so careful.

I did an experiment this year. I grew two plants of my best variety in a 25 gallon pot and one of the same variety in a 20 gallon pot. I wanted to know if I would get a bigger yield from the tomato that had more soil to itself. In the beginning, the plant in the 20 gallon pot grew faster and seemed to have more leaves than the two in the 25 gallon pot. But, over the summer, one of the plants of the two in the 25 gallon pot produced many more tomatoes than either of the other two. It must have had better genes or something. This convinces me that putting two tomatoes in a 25 gallon pot is a good idea. I've gotten more tomatoes from that pot than from the 20 gallon pot with just one tomato.

So my opinion is that you can grow two tomatoes in a 30 gallon pot and at least three in a 45 gallon pot. I think you could grow a single tomato in a 10-15 gallon pot successfully, although you might get a bigger yield in a bigger pot. You do need to fertilize regularly in pots. I add a controlled release fertilizer to the potting soil and use a complete soluble fertilizer every two weeks starting when the first baby tomatoes form. If you only have time release fertilizer pellets, it's better to use them according to directions on the package than to grind them up and add them to water. You might burn your plants with too much fertilizer if you don't follow directions.

Good luck! Keep us informed about your experience.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 4:42PM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)


My phone just notified me of new emails. Sorry I didn't see your email reply earlier!

Thank you for the advice--and thank you for the advice about the fertilizer pellets. I will keep looking out for water soluble fertilizers here.

another question, can I plant two tomato varieties in one pot if I am not planning on saving seeds?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 4:59PM
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Dickiefickle, that's funny because I have just used uncomposted horse manure to start both transplants as well as seed, from green and turnip seed,to cucumbers,tomato, and bean seed. This was horse manure that was piled up,and let to sit in the heat for the last 2 months. It was still in pellet form for the most part, but after breaking it down with a weed-eater and bucket, it appeared more of a grass and dusty,pillow like texture.

Have you ever tried manure in this manner dickie? Dry manure for the most part? Because my experience has not only been good, if not great.

I also transplanted about 40 onion bulbs(in 80% dry horse manure) left to dry from the spring in the field garden. Within 5 days, these bulbs that did not have any green foliage whatsoever are now 5 inches tall,and looking good.

Take care,

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 3:18PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

"Dickiefickle, that's funny because I have just used uncomposted horse manure to start both transplants as well as seed, from green and turnip seed,to cucumbers,tomato, and bean seed. This was horse manure that was piled up,and let to sit in the heat for the last 2 months "

Do you know what composted means? Its not Uncomposted if it was left in a pile for 2 months in the sun.

The dried manure is also mostly fine particles(dusty) .which doesnt let water drain effectivly.and prohibits air intake into the soil.Wet roots without oxygen leads to root rot.
Not saying you way is wrong,saying manure can cause problems in Containers

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 8:41PM
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do you have access to camel dung? It might be interesting to use some of it (if as others have mentioned) if its been aged.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 1:31PM
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Ameera, can I suggest cherry tomatoes? Our Matt's Wild Cherry & Spoon tomatoes (very teeny little tomatoes with nice full tomato flavor) grew great in small spaces (although not containers)in the Florida mid-summer heat.
I have a friend in Sharjah & it'd be neat to see if your containers do well-I'd recommend them to her if yours do good. :)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 3:32PM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

macbettz, yes, I do have access to plenty of camel dung when we go driving in the desert..especially the areas with the trees :) We see it all the time! If the dung is completely dried up does that mean it is aged enough? I will take some gloves for the next trip out to the desert :)

tumblingtomatoes, I will keep an update as my tomatoes grow in the containers :) unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of cherry tomatoes. It might just have been the variety...but earilier this year my husband received a cherry tomato plant that we kept and my brother-in-law grew a TON of cherry tomatoes but they were just waaaaay too sweet for me.

ok... I just did a google search for the Matt's Cherry & Spoon and found this blog post:

I think I might be ordering these now! I think my MIL will like this one. :D

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 8:11PM
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I do not claim any expertise, but I have taken the horse dung, dry enough so in general,as a whole, becomes light to the hand. Manure is certainly ready when you can put a pellet on a table and slap it with a stick, and it takes off across the table. Ping Pong? Seriously, manure in this situation can and needs to be broken down with a simple rub of your hands. Depending on how much you would like to amend. I will say that for every plant you grow, I would collect at least 2 5-gallon buckets full of dung, and while your sifting through that bucket, be thoughtful as you rub your way through very interesting(to me) matter that these animals digest.

When I began sifting through numerous buckets of crap, I began to understand how much hair there is. And rock. Mainly hair though.

Super amazing, if nothing else try it all.

Take care,

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Good morning Ameera! I hope things are going well for you with your tomato plants. I have a suggestion for you, for where you might be able to get ahold of good organic water-soluble fertilizers. The company is called Dr. Earth, and here's some contact information for them:
Dr. Earth Company PO Box 460 Winters CA 95694 Phone: 707-448-4676. I don't know if you can order directly from them, as I think they only sell to independent garden centers, but I think it's worth a try for you. They have wonderful products, including soils and compost. You can find them by googling Dr. Earth, they should be the first option on the list of results. We sell their products where I work, and I use their fertilizer all the time. It's great as it's organic, and I make wonderful tea from them as well. I sure hope this helps you!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 8:49AM
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ameera(z11 Dubai)

My husband went out to the desert today and looked for camel dung but only found a tiny bit so he didn't pick it up... but then again he wasn't out where too many camels are so hopefully in the next few weeks we can gather some :)

speediebean, I will look them up, thank you :)

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 8:04PM
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I have a full Bokashi Bin. It can be picked up in Sharjah. Just bury the contents in any soil- even sand -and in a few weeks you'll have healthy organic compost for your garden. Or just plant a tree or other plants right on top.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 6:26AM
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