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Multiple plants in one pot?

Posted by chris18150 NY(LI) (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 1, 08 at 15:12

Hey everyone I am new to gardening and am just seeing if anyone has had luck with multiple tomato plants in one pot.
My situation: I have 8 plants growing in one 24" pot they are all about 4" high
My question: Can I leave them like this or do I have to Re-pot each one


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

One plant per pot is the general rule of thumb (5 Gallon container per plant minimum). But here is a interesting link, to growing multiple plants in one container.

http://roberttgasperson.com/articleblog/2007/06/07/how-to-grow-tomatoes-in-a-container-romas-in-2007/

Sumilea


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

I would put two in a large commercial tree pot, but 8 in a 24" inch container is 7 too many.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Agree with Trudi. Depending on the variety, if it is an indeterminate, even 1 plant may be too much for such a small pot. Please give each plant it's own container, preferably 5 gallon bucket size as a minimum. ;)

Dave


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Oh, I don't know ... a 24-inch pot is mighty big, in my opinion. In fact, I'd be interested whether the pot is 24 inches diameter or 24 inches tall ... or both??? And I'd like to know the volume displacement.

The recycled 10-gallon nursery tubs I'm using this year are just a mite over 14 inches diameter and about 15 inches tall to the top of the lip ... and a 2 cubic foot bag of mix fits one perfectly if you tamp it down lightly. The level of the filled and tamped pots is about an inch or so below the rim ... 2 cubic feet.

Now, I know some of y'all have seen two indeterminates grown cordon style in one grow bag ... 2 cubic feet of medium ... in greenhouses. In fact, I've seen two indeterminates grown quite nicely in a 5-gallon bag of coir so long as they're on auto-feed irrigation ... saw some really fabulous Geronimo vines over six feet tall yesterday and loaded top to bottom with green tomatoes. They had just picked a bunch of breakers.

A 5-gallon pickle bucket is just under 12 inches diameter at the rim and about 14 inches tall. It took me 30 five gallon buckets to unload a yard (27 cubic feet) of mulch the other day ... but that was a generous scoup and probably over a yard.

But to answer the question ... for a beginner ... I'd limit the vines to one per 5-gallon container filled with a porous soilless medium ... IF you intend to water them at least once per day during the heat of the summer and feed them once per week a light dose of soluable fertilizer similar or same as Miracle Grow tomato formula. You should also get some advice on how much Epsom salts and calcium to add to the fertigation solution ... and the frequency of those additives. My buddy with the Geronimos (he also has some great looking Trust (indeterminates) and Fabulous (determinates) told me his mix ratios and timings, but I forgot to write it down (CRS strikes again).

I'm growing two vines of certain tomatoes per 10-gallon pot this summer, but I intend heavy pruning and espalier/weave or cordon rigging ... and I'm growing that way mostly because I'm after seeds ... and pollen for crosses.

Bill


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

That was a great link to
http://roberttgasperson.com/articleblog/2007/06/07/how-to-grow-tomatoes-in-a-container-romas-in-2007/

I would say you could stick to one possibly two romas in that bucket but I doubt there would be much difference since they will compete for space. One reason why roots travel is to find water and nutrients. If you give it enough I expect less soil is needed. I had 5 romas and a beef steak in SFG single plots. I was cranking out 25 a day for a month on the Romas and the Beef steak was giving me about one a day for the season.The romas then woke up again in late summer and put out again at a rate nearly what I had in July for several weeks until cold slowed them down. That is 12 X 12 X 6. Romas are quite good for packing them in especially since they resist blight well.
I also did not use any fertilizer. I use compost and ground up egg shells. During heavy rain I imagine the worms flee to my raised beds and what they find there is heaven since there is leaf mold and coffee grounds in my compost. I found them the first year from new soil. They also love my cold pile so it is not surprising they like it when it ends up in the garden.

Here is an SFG site
http://allaboutsquarefootgardening.com/index.php?paged=2

These are large sprawling plants.

http://www.dianeseeds.com/tomato-purple-passion.html

I think I will dig up my photos from last year as well.

If tomatoes have rich soil that holds water you don't need the space many people assume you need. Romas are made for this anyway since they are compact and blight resistant. One other thing you have over the wide open space method. How often did that cat liter container need weeding?

If you don't garden because of weeds pack them in.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

I disagree with some of the posts. While 8 may be too many, 3 to 5 would be fine. There is alot of space in a 24" container. I grow almost exclusively in containers and you'd be surprised what they can do... Just make sure that the plants are as far from each other as you can afford, meaning right near the edge of the pot.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Hello wild_forager,

I agree. My estimate for 1 or 2 was for the litter container. 24" certainly could do 3-5. I think container gardening is a gardening sub culture and I only trust the opinions of such when spacing is suggested. I have seen opinions that there should be 1 plant in half barrels. I would have 3 or 4 in that space.. Otherwise it just leave space for weeds. I had bush Zucchini in an 18" circle by "6 container. The plant was just a little smaller and produced well. I had small water melon in a 12 " X 9" deep.
I saw one person's system with SFG and bush Zucchini using a stake and rope to pull up the leaves. The photos speak for themselves. Row gardeners usually can't give good advice on this.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Well when space is an issue, like a kid i tend to break the rules and crank more plants in to one container than I'm supposed to. This year is all trial and error for me and learning experience. I have both containers, with traditional spacing and a few containers jam packed with plants. My experiment is to see how the combined yield of the multiple plants in one container vs say 1 or 2 plant per same space container. I'm just having blast breaking rules (Started some plants back in Jan for zone 5 and did a 2nd batch around mid march)

My Progress (don't laugh)

Sumilea


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Sumilea,

That's a very nice balcony garden you have going there. I just moved into a new place with roof access, so I'm aiming for something quite similar.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

My thoughts fall into the middle of this debate.

Having grown 3 or more stem plants in excess of 9' in 5 gal buckets, its seems disingenuous to suggest that more is needed but the degree of care those plants required and the loss from blossom drop and BER from lrg varieties relative to smaller varieties has made me a believer in the idea that containers that small ideally, should be reserved for varieties not known for being very lrg. plants, and quite possibly determinants only.

A somewhat cooler climate with more rain than we get may produce drastically different yeild results but by seasons end even 5' varieties are root bound. Those larger, tend to have adventurous roots. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I think I can read that hint :-)

Its not that you can't, its just that much easier to do well with larger containers providing more uniform root temps, nutients and moisture. The same should follow to a leeser degree, for in ground. More sun, better air flow and I like a little room for myself to check for and treat problems and harvest.

The thought of fighting the skeeters in a SFG or tending for disease or pests ... In my shady, humid spot, I'd rather lay down more mulch and give em some room.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

I think container gardening is a gardening sub culture and I only trust the opinions of such when spacing is suggested.

I agree. Container gardening is a totally different approach to gardening. That is why Container Gardening has its own forum. So, if those are the only trustworthy opinions, perhaps that where such discussions should take place?

I don't think so because IMHO many container gardeners who post here are (1) new to gardening or at least (2) new to container gardening, (3) if not new to container gardening, are new to growing tomatoes, and (4) woefully inexperienced and have little understanding of how various plants grow. All of this is readily apparent from their posts.

Experience teaches. So try it and see what works for you.

Row gardeners usually can't give good advice on this.

Perhaps it is just possible that so-called "row gardeners" also have experience with growing in containers. ;) I know for a fact that many who post here do both. And just perhaps so-called "row gardeners" have gained some knowledge about how plants grow that could be of assistance?

As Dave said, Its not that you can't, its just that much easier to do well with larger containers providing more uniform root temps, nutrients and moisture.

No one is saying you can't do it. Sure you can. But you will do better if you don't. Do you honestly want the problems and reduced production that comes with using too small containers and over-crowding plants?

Dave


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

I break the rules alot when I container garden. Remember that soil temps, watering, and fertilizer are all easy to control in such a situation. If you go ahead with these in the large container, try letting them cascade over the edge to avoid shading each other out. That's the only thing I would find to be an issue.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Hello digdirt,

I am sorry you take offense but my comments are accurate.I used to row garden as well when I had space. Row gardening methods are not good general advice for container gardening especially when the goal is efficient use of space. What ever comment that one would make, as you say , may still be beneficial will be from their experience with containers when it applies.
Consider someone with limited space on a porch. Would you imply it is a grave mistake not to use maximum space or to abandon all hope of growing the big indeterminate when it is indeed possible? That is why I am here. I have a narrow strip of sunlight to use because I live in a forested area so I tend to use compact methods. When I was growing up I had a huge yard with plenty of sun and used traditional row gardening. But if I can grow an 8 foot Beefsteak in a square foot area with 6 inches of soil that produced reliably what should I say about 24" of deeper soil?
In another forum someone took a bush type Zucchini in an SFG plot in violation of even their space suggestions but cleverly used a stake and a rope and packed it in. He demonstrated it and seeing is believing.
If there is limited space one can use a much better soil with concentrated nutrients , precise water control, pest control, even micro environment that is otherwise impractical.
Row gardening has the one advantage of space and considering that there is a margin for error in space there is an advantage to this. If your goal is to grow the best individual plants possible then perhaps the more space the better. On the other hand for someone with little space or time for weeds will have a completely different goals and may well compensate for the lack of space. .


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

~~~ But if I can grow an 8 foot Beefsteak in a square foot area with 6 inches of soil that produced reliably ... ~~~

An admirable feat. In my area grass wont grow well with less than a ft of soil. 6 inches ... How did you keep it cool enough in summer? I'd need to set up an automatic water and fert system, would doubt my odds of success of growing just a healthy plant (forget about production) of that size without it and am absolutly confident that I'd spend more time and money working on that than I spend weeding a well mulched garden spot.

Leaving them untended for a week sounds near impossible so no vacation trips I guess.

Almost anything is possible with enough inputs and no one ever said maximizing space was wrong headed but with everything there is a trade off and its not a one size fits all world.

Have Fun!


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

I have peat and vermiculite in the so soil it holds water well but yes that is the draw back to raised beds in general. I could not afford to have that kind of potting mix in a large in ground garden for sure. You do need to water more often or find a way to automate it. Since it is compact I simply have 75 feet of soaker hose. That and a timer is about a $100 solution. But again since it compact one can have very focused solutions.

here is a site about SFG.

http://www.urbanomnivore.com/2007/05/03/introduction-to-square-foot-gardening-part-one/
It has been proven over wide spread use that other than deep rooting vegetables like carrots and tomatoes 6 inches is all that is needed.


When I was younger I had done something similar in ground because I also thought plowed rows make weeds when section plots leave grass rows. I went 1 foot deep in those days. Its not needed with good potting mixes.

For my hanging wire baskets I am using gallon jugs and cotton cloth(old shirt) to wick into the wire basket. Some people use torch wicks while others buy self watering pots. For tomatoes it does not get any better than self watering pots for tomatoes since that is how they are typically watered in the wild, from mountain run off rather than rain.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

My comments of two per containers reflect something that no one else has mentioned. As you see, I'm also on LI. This is an environment I know well.

Crowding of tomatoes can result in very troubling blight problems because come August, the night winds seem to come to a halt and the air is foggy, still and very damp--it's mildew season on LI. You can reduce the effect with fungicidal treatments but if you have adequate airflow around the plants it's all the better for their health.

In our coastal zone 7 environment two plants in a 24" planter will fair far better than four or five.

T


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Tomato blight is a good point. Especially for a damp long growing season. In the litter bucket example however it is not a major issue as Romas are both blight resistant and determinant. Late blight on staggered determinate plants matter less if at all. I had virtually none last year in a section of six Roma plants 1 foot apart. Blight and other diseases are soil related but in a container the soil my be rotated out rather easily.

One can simply trim the lower suckers and train them up a trellis as a precaution for the vining types. Perhaps one can even root the cuttings in some cases.

But again how does this compare to a large garden? It does not. Soil solarization added back to the compost pile and back into the container is possible. Large row gardens do not operate this way. Hot compost piles are very well suited for this. Its another reason why I consider 5 gallon buckets to be my maximum size whereas half barrels are going to be standard crop rotation.

In SFGs or row gardening there is no reason why one needs to grow together 3 Toms or in a 24" container. What I would do in a 24" container is plant a Tom or 2 with basil lettuce parsley or onion companions etc. Tomatoes are know to have a lot of companions. That is en even better use of the space.



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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

solanaceae - What I take issue with is your implication that none of the rest of us know what we are talking about when we suggest larger containers and less-overcrowding of plants. You are basing that on invalid assumptions.

First, you imply that all we are giving is so-called "row gardening" advice and therefore anything we say must be wrong. That simply isn't true. When the question posed is based on containers, the advice given is container based advice - you are hardly alone in using containers - therefore the advice given is applicable.

I too live in the woods. I grow approx. 3/4 acre in-ground in rows.

North Garden

Photobucket

I also grow sq. foot in raised beds.

Photobucket

I also grow in numerous types and sizes of containers and have done so for many years.

Photobucket

As a result, I can easily compare plant stressors, gardening needs and work involved, and production from all three approaches. I also know that several others who post here regularly in response to container questions use both in-ground and containers for gardening and do so very effectively.

Now that advice given by others may differ from yours but that does not make it any less relevant or less accurate. So is it really necessary for you to critique the rest of us? If you truly believe we simply can't relate to container tomato questions, then may I suggest the Container Gardening and Square Foot Gardening forums.

Second, plant needs are plant needs regardless of how one grows them. Of course I wouldn't tell someone to "abandon all hope of growing an indeterminate variety tomato plant". Of course it can be done. But there is a big difference in doing it alone, in a proper sized container, than trying to do it with 3 or 5 or 12 plants to a pot.

And of course I would not "imply it is a grave mistake not to use maximum space". The difference is in HOW one uses it to get the most production with the least amount of unnecessary problems or work. One indeterminate variety tomato plant grown in a proper sized container will far out-produce (assuming it is tomatoes you are after) 3 or 4 plants grown in that same container. And if done properly weeds are no problem either. One zucchini plant grown in the proper size container will far outproduce 3 or 4 plants grown in that same container. And both will do so with far less work for the gardener and with far less stress, disease, and pest problems for the plant. So then the question becomes what are we after - lots of plants in pots or food production?

Neither Container Gardening nor Square Foot Gardening gurus advocate total disregard for the needs of the plant or the additional demands placed on the gardener. And neither approach advocates excessive over-planting as the most efficient use of limited space. Rather they advocate the proper understanding of plant needs and planting accordingly.

Dave


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

You guys are truly the BEST! =) And being a newbee tomatoe addict, I am thankful and very fortunate to learn from the pro's here for free, which is why i love ALL you tomato growers out there. Growing Tomatoes/other vegetables (in our Ghetto/small scale balcony) is hobby me and my wife both passionately enjoy. While I am guilty to stuffing more tomatoes plants in one pot (just as a experiment), i can see digdirt rolling his eyes... Most of my container boxes only have 2 plants in them (in 18 Gallon totes). Sometimes, curiosity gets the best of us!!! Worst part there being, so many tomato varieties to try with soooo little space you can understand my temptation to stuff more plants in to one container lol. Sorry!!!!

Sumilea


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

digdirt,

Let me first say you have an impressive large garden on a completely different scale. My total current growing space is probably little more than the last picture on your deck. Do you think you have the same goal as another on a south facing balcony in a high rise for example? Do you think it might be different?

This advice :

"Agree with Trudi. Depending on the variety, if it is an indeterminate, even 1 plant may be too much for such a small pot. Please give each plant it's own container, preferably 5 gallon bucket size as a minimum. ;)"

Is wrong based upon my personal experience as well as many others. How much soil is in a 12 X 12 X 6 space verse a "minimum" 5 gallon container?

You said.

"solanaceae - What I take issue with is your implication that none of the rest of us know what we are talking about when we suggest larger containers and less-overcrowding of plants. You are basing that on invalid assumptions."

You don't seem to think I know what I am talking about. Why is that acceptable? Was I to assume that you were right for some reason without question? Should I just give up and not grow and enjoy larger Tomato plants because I don't have the room officially? Is this not a forum where we discuss such issues? Neither of us is an implied authority so it is open to debate. I simply disagreed with a single Tom to a 24" container as being necessary especially with limited space. You believe 6 inches is not enough? If so why bother with me? I am small potatoes go after Mel if himself if you want .

Here is another thread who also seems to not believe about six inches.

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/sqfoot/msg041954057656.html

People are going to disagree in a forum. That is its purpose. I will certainly discover something I should have done better again this year.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Do you think you have the same goal as another on a south facing balcony in a high rise for example? Do you think it might be different?

No, my goal is no different. The goal is fruit production, as much as possible given the growing environment one has. I happen to have a different gardening environment but the goal is the same.

Is wrong based upon my personal experience as well as many others.

And is equally right based upon my experience as well as that of many others. There have been numerous posts here from people trying to grow an indeterminate variety in a 5 gallon bucket and encountering problems ranging from the need for multiple daily waterings, nutrient leaching so feeding problems, root bound plants, stabilization of the container and plant, increased susceptibility to pests and disease, etc. And I qualified the statement above by saying IF it is an indeterminate (which we don't know) and it MAY be too small for just that reason. I am aware that many try to grow in 5 gallon buckets. I have too. And as a result I know fro a fact that neither plant health nor fruit production will be nearly as good as if that same plant is grown in a 10 gallon container. I did not say it can't be done, just that it will be easier and more productive if it gets a bigger container.

How much soil is in a 12 X 12 X 6 space verse a "minimum" 5 gallon container?

You seem to be equating container gardening with square foot gardening. They are not the same thing you know - some common elements, true, but some BIG differences too. Your question is only comparable and relevant if you assume that the plant roots remain in that 12x12x6 in sq.' space you alloted them. They don't. Your grid is only on the surface. It doesn't extend clear down into the bed to enclose the space - at least it isn't supposed to. In a sq' bed they are free to roam well beyond their alloted space for nutrients and water and they do so. In a 5 gallon bucket, they are confined so can't.

You don't seem to think I know what I am talking about. Why is that acceptable?

I never said that. I never questioned nor challenged anything you had to say on the question at hand. I may disagree with some of it but recognize your right to an opinion based on your experience.

I disputed nothing until you claimed that the prior opinions were not to be trusted: "I think container gardening is a gardening sub culture and I only trust the opinions of such when spacing is suggested." And that the other opinions, since they disagreed with your's, must be from "row gardeners" and Row gardeners usually can't give good advice on this.

All any of us have to offer is personal opinion and personal opinions differ. But it isn't necessary to resort to personal critiques of the other members - especially when they are based on invalid assumptions - to share one's opinion. You could very easily have shared your views on the original question without resorting to the critical and biased comments about the rest of us.

You believe 6 inches is not enough? If so why bother with me? I am small potatoes go after Mel if himself if you want.

I never said 6" was not enough. What I said was that 1 zuke grown in the proper size container - a pot - would outproduce 3 or 4 grown in that same container (pot). 6" is ok in a sq.' garden because as I have already stated - the roots don't stay there.

And I have no issues with Mel and/or Sq. Ft. Gardening at all, only with those who fail to understand it or mis-apply it. Square Foot Gardening and Container Gardening are not the same thing and it does a dis-service to both and to those who practice them to treat them as such. Sq.' beds are 4'x4' or 6'x6' or whatever size raised beds. They are not the same thing as a 5 gallon bucket or even a 1/2 whiskey barrel and there is not nearly the same limitations on them nor the same effects on the plants as there are on containers.

Dave


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

LETS EAT!


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

The 12 x 12 x 6 is only six inches deep if you've got concrete underneath it. There is a HUGE capacity for water retention and root growth in the soil under that first top six inches.

Google "Tomato in a Bucket", guess what you'll find. AND I think that anyone who has gotten tomatoes from WinterSown.Org in the last five years has gotten a "Tomato in a Bucket" brochure with their seeds. And that FAQ info and brochure was created originally for distribtution with the USO garden classes I taught, because at the bases in DC and VA where I taught they had balconies and needed to grow veggies in buckets. I grow toms all sorts of ways, rows, patches, evenly cubed out, tucked in here and there. It all works for me--and do you know why? Because I'm reasonable and I accept that some will do better than others and I've learned from my experiences and I tweak as I go along; and I share my observations.

We ALL share our observations.

Solanacea, there are a LOT of people here with a HUGE amount of experience in multiple methods of horticulture--this is not a black or white--or red or green--'draw your line in the sand' set of posters. A lot of us do it all, and if we aren't doing something now we've done it before.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Dave, Nice!!!

Solanaceae, Perhaps I should have read more carefully but I thought we were talking about_container_gardening. The differences between a 6" inch deep, earthen contact raised bed and a 6" deep container are material.

~~~ I consider 5 gallon buckets to be my maximum size ... ~~~

Please, I'd love to use smaller, less expensive pots and less money spent on fresh mix but I don't want to have to water it multiple times a day or feed it more than monthly, or have more than half the blossoms drop and suffer BER on half of the half that didn't but thats what happened when I tried growing lrg. plants in 5 gal containers without doing all of the above. Even as at least a semi tomatoholic, I do have other things that demand my time, money and passion :-)

Smaller plants did very acceptibly but not the larger. If you've got the trick down, lay it on us.

P.S. I'm not one of them but there are bona fide tomato experts, published and unpublished that post here.


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Due to very late freeze and frost which was then followed with extremely heavy rainfall, I was not able to get all of my tomatoes in the ground or in the permanent containers as planned.

I did, however, repot them to a 5x5 inch square pot. By the time I could get them into their permanent location they had already filled that pot with roots and the plants themself were only about 2 feet tall.

I am a long time gardener but I am new to container gardening so it really made me have second thoughts about some of the containers I had put tomato plants in. The smallest pot I used was about a foot across for the determinates, and larger for the indeterminates. Because of the cost of container mix I was trying not to use huge pots (and I planted a lot).

Dave - Your gardens are beautiful and I appreciate the knowledge you share with us. Carol


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RE: Multiple plants in one pot?

Digdirt,

I loved your last post. I read your posts leading to the one where you had to explain yourself to those people that take your advice but seem to add their own meaning to your responses. I agree with you as I practice both types of gardening and try to break the "space" rules for each. Container gardening works well if you supply the plants with good food such as compost. The space restrictions work both ways. While the roots cannot go outside the container you can supply those roots with a better underground living environment which also cannot go outside the container (except excess water running out the bottom). No other plants will be able to access this.


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