CAROLE MCCRAY: Planting tomatoes in containers
April 28, 2013 3:50 AM

Container gardening has been on the uptrend over the past and continues to grow in popularity, especially in urban areas where green space can be limited.

The crucial part of container gardening is choosing the right pot. It is also important to choose a seed or a plant specifically developed for the compact container space.

With increasing interest in container gardening, seed companies are developing vegetable seeds specifically bred for container gardens. “Today’s container gardeners now have access to even more which are compact in size, yield more, taste great and feature unique colors and shapes,” said John Marchese for Seminis Home Garden Seed. Seminis Home Garden Seed includes innovative vegetables such as the Early Girl tomato hybrid sold to retailers for over 50 years.

“Just because they are using a smaller space to grow the plant doesn’t mean the fruit has to be small, explained Marchese. “For example, if container gardeners are looking for a compact plant that produces tasty tomatoes, they should try a new hybrid tomato variety called Debut.”

Container gardeners don’t have to sacrifice flavor for a more conveniently grown plant either. “We have also developed a cherry tomato version called Husky Cherry Red that has the potential to set lots of sweet, flavorful fruit,” Marchese said. Other compact hybrid tomato varieties include Patio, which produces about a 4-ounce tomato saladette tomato and a variety called Yaqui that produces large-sized fruit.

Regardless of the type of vegetable you plant, there are some guidelines to help you reap the best crops.

Choosing a container

That is anything that holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom may be transformed into a container garden. For vibrant plant growth, the containers must provide adequate space for roots and soil media, allowing the plant to thrive.

SOIL

Soil is next in importance once you have the container. Never use garden soil by itself no matter how good it looks. Container soils are often referred to as soilless or artificial media because they contain no soil at all. When using these mixes, moisten them before planting. Then fill a tub with the media, add water and lightly fluff the media to dampen it. When filling containers with media, don’t fill the pot to the top. Leave about one inch space between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot.

Fertilizer

A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well and attractive all season. The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you are growing.

High nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage, while flowering vegetable crops would prefer lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous types.

Plants that thrive in like soil, watering and light conditions make successful combinations. When combining plants, size, texture, proportion, color, setting and lighting all play a role.

Containers offer the advantage of being portable. As the seasons, temperature and light conditions change, you can move your containers to maintain the desired conditions for peak performance.

Most fruit-bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant require full sun.

Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach and parsley can tolerate more shady locations compared to the root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and onions.

The best way to tell if plants need watering is to feel the soil. And if the first inch or so of the soil is dry, water.

Use enough water each time so water starts to drip out of the drainage holes.

Going the container route saves space and helps control pests and overcome soil issues, enabling availability of homegrown fresh produce without a yard.

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