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Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growing?

Posted by paradoxbox none (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 1, 14 at 18:53

Hi all.

I live in Tokyo, Japan. I live in an apartment so there are extreme space limitations. I have a veranda which is west facing and gets lots of really intense sunlight in summer, but in winter only a little, or almost no direct sunlight due to some other buildings blocking the sun.

Summer time temperatures get up to around 37-40c and humidity in early summer usually hovers around 95-100%.

Winters are generally mild but occasionally temps do go below 0C at night.

My veranda is around 12 feet wide by 4 or 5 feet deep.

Can anyone give me suggestions on what kind of container tomatoes would be suitable for growing here?

My primary uses for tomatoes are fresh for sandwiches, pasta and pizza sauces, and using in Indian curries which I love cooking. I'd also like to dry some for use on pizzas etc.

I was thinking maybe costoluto genovese as well as maybe black cherry and brandywine? Will these varieties handle the heat and humidity?

Also can they be grown in such close proximity to one another?

What size of containers do they need? And soil types? Keeping in mind that I cannot get any kind of brands that are available in the US.

I will also be growing several kinds of chili peppers and herbs in the same area.

I appreciate any help. I'm a total beginner to this and would like to spend more time researching but time is a precious commodity for me and unfortunately it's already February, so I need to get these plants started soon I think.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

I cannot be specific about the names, But I can tell you that DETERMINAT varieties is probably what you want. There are even DWARF type of DETs that are especially designed for growing in pots and window boxes. I have two varieties last season : SWEET N NEAT and window box Roma. the SNN is very very small and compact. Roma was a bit bigger about 80cm tall.
I am sure you are going to get a lot of suggestions here.
.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Brandywine is a very large plant and has a reputation for not doing well in hot humid areas. I grew Sophies Choice in a pot last year and it did well. I would recommend it for container growing and its tastes good, too!


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

The size of the containers will primarily determine the varieties you can grow successfully. The equivalent of 5 gallon buckets will handle most any of the determinate dwarf or bush varieties. They were bred for container growing. Examples are Totem, Tiny Tim, Baxter's Early Bush Cherry, Tumbling Tom, etc.

8-10 gallons will do well with any determinate variety and some of the smaller indeterminate varieties. Examples are Bush Champion, Costoluto, Black Cherry, Bush early Girl, Bush Beefsteak, Better Bush, etc. You can also do Roma, Bella Rosa, Cherokee Purple, and many other average sized indeterminate varieties. Some of them will work in the smaller 5 gallon but with less production and much more watering.

But for any of the really big indeterminate plants 12-15 gallons works best. 1/2 whiskey barrel type containers 1 plant each, or any of the large Smart Pots or extra large self watering containers like Earthtainers and such. Example are most all of the regular cherry varieties like Sun Gold, Sweet Million, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Big Beef, Beefsteak, etc.

There are literally 1000's of varieties to choose from depending on how much you want to spend for big containers and the quality potting mix (not soil) needed to fill them.

You can learn much more about container gardening over on the Container Gardening forum here as it is a very unique form of gardening.

Here are some previous discussions of this question you might want to read through for more tips and suggestions.

Best variety for a container

Growing tomatoes in containers

Container tomato growing basics

Hope this helps some.

Dave


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

I just took a look at the historic average high and low temperatures for Tokyo, and you're going to have much the same difficulty that tomato growers in the deep South do. Tomatoes can handle high temperatures and high humidity OK, as long as there are relatively cool nights. With your average nighttime lows staying in the 23-25C range, with high humidity, you are likely to have sticky pollen and possibly blight to contend with.

That's why those who grow tomatoes here in the South try to push their growing season early, and get perhaps 30 days' worth of tomatoes between June and July.

There are varieties that do better in the heat than others, but you should be aware of this issue. Also, it would be helpful for you to read about the mix for containers over on the Container Forum.

Good luck!

-Bruce

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

I would also say "NO" to Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. Firstly because they are INDETERMINAT and require much bigger container and floor/air space as well. Secondly, they do not do well in hot climates.

Your other resource is to check with your local nurseries and seek their advice on variety and planting time. Probably it is alread. too late for you to start from seeds. PROBABLY !


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

If you can start from seed, I'd recommend you look into the new dwarf releases. You can read about them at the link below, or at Tatiana's. Also, Sioux and Danko might be good choices. If you want a cherry tomato, Sweet Baby Girl produces lots of fruit in a relatively small space.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heritage Tomato Seed


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

As Dave said, you can grow a large indeterminate plant if you use a large container of at least 12-15 gallons (45-60 liters) with a quality soilless potting mix. I have grown several in 20-25 gallon pots, including Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Mortgage Lifter. Momotaro is a favorite Japanese tomato that is supposed to be heat tolerant. Sounds like it might be worth a try.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Momotaro tomatoes.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Noting that OP has a 12ft by 4ft balcony, I don,t think big indeterminants( like Brandywine , cherokee Purple) requiring 15gal. container , plus lots of head space is the best option. That is one of the reasons I think DETERMINATS are more suitable, concerning the space limitation.
But in the end of the day, it is up to him to pick and choose.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Do you mean you have a balcony? If you mean upstairs I'd be concerned about too much weight. Containers full of soil and wet soil are very heavy.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

It's very difficult to generalize about tomatoes as their performance is dependent on so many different factors. You may have to experiment a little.
First, choose a tomato you like and sow the seed with a little bit of the pulp as soon as it gets warm, sprinkle a little wood ash into the compost to encourage the fruit. Yes I know books tell you not to grow from your own seed, but I have never had any problems and if you get any bad plants just throw them away.The seed from one tomato can provide up to 20 plants.
It's important to use a good rich compost. You must also water every day in warm weather, If this is a problem use saucers under the pot. Large pots are best but if space is a problem medium sized is okay if you use saucers. I grow about 15 plants in my back yard and provided you keep recycling with sowing the seed, this gives enough tomatoes for everyone all the year round.. If you get extra, you can make sauce or ketchup. Every three or four years I sow the seed from different tomatoes bought in the supermarket. They will cross-fertilize. Good luck.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

It's very difficult to generalize about tomatoes as their performance is dependent on so many different factors. You may have to experiment a little.
First, choose a tomato you like and sow the seed with a little bit of the pulp as soon as it gets warm, sprinkle a little wood ash into the compost to encourage the fruit or apply high potash fertilizer. Yes I know books tell you not to grow from your own seed, but I have never had any problems and if you get any bad plants just throw them away.The seed from one tomato can provide up to 20 plants. Save the seed from the ones you like best.
It's important to use a good rich compost. You must also water every day in warm weather, If this is a problem, use saucers under the pots. Large pots are best but if space is a problem medium sized is okay if you use saucers. I grow about 15 plants in my back yard and provided you keep recycling with sowing the seed, this gives enough tomatoes for everyone all the year round.. If you get extra or winter is too cold to grow, you can make sauce or ketchup. Every three or four years I sow the seed from different tomatoes bought in the supermarket. They will cross-fertilize. Good luck.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Thanks for the replies all. To clarify, I guess it could be called a balcony, but it's built into the face of the building. It's reinforced concrete so I'm not worried about overloading it.

As far as determinate/indeterminate, basically I want plants that will keep growing all year long so I can keep on eating. I understand that determinates are more compact but due to my insane work schedule (usually over 60+hours a week) the whole plant would probably be dead before I had a chance to harvest and eat. So, I think I'm going to go for the following:

Aunt Ruby's German Green
Aunt Ruby's German Green cherry (Just to see how different it is from the regular size)
Costoluto Genovese (I read that it did well in South USA, might be OK here too)
Cherokee Purple (We'll see if it withstands the heat or not)
Black Cherry (Because people say it's so delicious)

I've taken everyone's advice on container size. I am going to be buying a bunch of plastic garbage cans around 12 gallons / 45 liters in volume. Possibly not the most ideal but we are talking about growing tomatoes in the middle of the most densely populated city on earth..!

I have not bought any soil or growing medium yet, so I am curious about people's advice on that. Someone mentioned soil-less mix, are we talking gravel or pure perlite or ???

Thanks for any continued advice!


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

In my experience, people tend to use the term "potting soil" as a generic for the stuff you buy in bags at the store (Miracle Grow, etc.), but if you read the label on those bags, a product that is intended for containers is actually called "potting mix". There is no "soil" or "dirt" in them. Thus experienced gardeners on this forum will emphasize that you want a soil-less mix for containers. True "soil" is too heavy for containers and will not drain properly.

So what is in them, if not soil? Typically a mix of peat, shredded bark, sand, perlite, and/or compost. They may or may not include added fertilizers.

Many people just buy the mix in bags, especially when they are starting out and if they don't have to fill a large number of pots. Others will buy the components and mix up their own, both to save money and control what goes into it. It depends on what quantities you need, how much money you have to spend, how much room you have to mix them together, and how much storage space you have.

If you visit the Container Gardening forum here on GW, you will finds lots of threads that talk about various recipes for mixing your own. I'm not sure what products are available in Tokyo, but I think the research will help you evaluate the products you can find locally and decide which direction to go in.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Gardening forum


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Also:

"I understand that determinates are more compact but due to my insane work schedule (usually over 60+hours a week) the whole plant would probably be dead before I had a chance to harvest and eat. "

Keep in mind that the care of the plants themselves, whether determinate or indeterminate, is pretty much the same. They will both need to be watered regularly -- every day or even twice a day when the temperature soars -- which is the most "labor intensive" part of container gardening after the initial planting. So if you don't think you'll be able to keep determinate plants alive, it's not going to be any different for indeterminate ones.

Indeterminate plants do tend to produce fruit over a longer time period, though, so that would be a plus for you if you have a really long growing season and you want to spread out the harvest. But I'm not experienced with that kind of long season nor with the climate in Tokyo, so I don't know how many months of harvest you could expect. But you can always freeze or can the extras - whole, chopped, or made into sauce - to enjoy when your plants aren't growing, either from excessive heat or cold.


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RE: Can anyone help me decide which tomatoes for container growin

Paradoxbox,
be sure to drill holes for drainage in the plastic garbage cans. I personally would try to find containers that are BPA-free (BPA being a endocrine disruptor that can be taken up by plants).

Given your work schedule, I really recommend Earthboxes or CityPickers or similar self-watering containers, if there's anything like that in Japan. I garden on a 10' x 20' deck and two Earthboxes (4 plants) supplied many more tomatoes than I needed (this year I plan to can). The soil used is regular potting mix (I use Promix BX but have used Miracle Grow in the past). After the initial setup, there's no need to fertilize and no guesswork about over watering or under watering. The water stored in the bottom of the self-watering container helps prevent splitting, and may mean you need to water less frequently. Though when it's 90F/32C, I still water daily.

I have grown only indeterminates so far. They get 8ft / 2m tall very quickly and do require a sturdy staking system and pruning every few days though. Otherwise they take off to your neighbors and you have to whack off a big branch full of blossoms to prevent tomatoes from falling on a neighbor's property. On the plus side, pruning is rather therapeutic after a day at the office :-)


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