Each winter I plot out how many tomato plants I have room for in my garden, and then whatever space is left can go to other herbs and vegetables. That’s because ripe garden tomatoes are by far my favorite vegetable (OK, fresh sweet corn is a close second; I have eaten ears raw standing right next to where they grew, and it’s good, brother.)
So I put five times as many seeds from the best of last year’s crop as I have room for, down into small pots, on the idea that I’ll just keep the best sprouts and go from there. Of course, I cannot help myself and always find two or three new varieties to try, so I pot up some of their seed, too.
Then, in late winter, like right about now, I survey all the very best sprouts that I saved, all growing thick and strong, and I realize I probably only have room for half of them in the main garden, and I still don’t trust the nematodes in the back garden. (OK, I’m never going to trust those nematodes; those nematodes are not to be trusted.) Thus comes the question, what will I do with the rest of these plants?
Chances are they will be too good to cull. Chances are a few friends will want a couple here and there. Chances also are that I’ll work two or three into the landscape out front.
But for the rest this year, I may just try to containerize them again. You can grow small-fruited tomato varieties in a large pot, as long as you watch closely to see that they have enough – but not too much – water, and you provide a fairly heavy feeding of the soil nutrients they need. That means don’t go too heavy on the nitrogen.
Plants’ main needs, provided by organic or non-organic fertilizers, are (N) Nitrogen, (P) Phosphorous, and (K) Potassium. If you buy packaged fertilizer, you’ll see the N, P and K listed on the side label somewhere, along with a % mark showing the percentage makeup of each element. A standard non-organic fertilizer might show 30-30-30 on the label, meaning 30% of each element. That’s OK in very small doses maybe once a week when the plants have just been placed in a pot, but after a couple of weeks, switch to something gentler with more P in it. Better yet, go organic.
In my case, I am going to be growing very vigorous tomato plants in trash cans. Yes, (and I know my neighbors think I’m crazy) 30-gallon plastic trash cans. Continue reading