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I wanted to report on how the garden is progressing thus far, specifically, on our tomato plant incident.  I’ll go over where things went wrong and why, and share what I have learned from it all, in the hopes that you can also learn from my experience.

Tomatoes

Let’s talk about our beloved little tomato plants.   After trying, unsuccessfully, to grow tomato plants from seed (I didn’t start early enough) I purchased and planted five small tomato plants in large  containers.  In those containers I used a mixture of topsoil, manure, perlite and peat moss, plus some Osmocote for good measure.    I also tried some new tips to prevent issues with water consistency and calcium depletion.

I found the below gardening video that instructs you on how to create a container garden, and it instructs you to place a baby diaper in the bottom of the container instead of the product Soil Moist. The diaper contains polymers that release the water over several days, keeping the moisture levels constant.  So, I took the advice, adding a diaper to the bottom of each container.

I also had a problem with blossom end rot in the container tomato plants last year – what happens in the container tomato plants is when you water them, and the water drains out, it takes the much needed calcium along with it, making the plants more susceptible to this  fungal disease.

Tomoatoes with blossom end rot

Tomoatoes with blossom end rot

A friend of mine told me that I could add a few Tums into the soil mixture.  She had done this in the past and it helped matters, so I did that as well., figuring it couldn’t really hurt, so why not? Since the containers are so large, I didn’t want to fill them entirely with the soil mixture, as that would have been quite costly, so another trick I used was to add a few water bottles to the bottom of the containers and I poured the soil mixture on top of them, filling the pots the rest of the way (you can also do this to heavy large ceramic pots, to make them less heavy in your container gardens).

Unfortunately, we had a late frost hit around late May, and the frost nearly demolished the tomatoes. They shriveled up, lost their leaves, turned yellow – it was a mess. But I nurtured them and babied them and they slowly but surely came back, sending tiny green shoots and leaves up to replace the frost damaged ones. Whew, crisis averted. Then, about a month or so later, we had torrential downpours for a good week. I was thinking, “Oh this is fantastic, they are getting their much needed water.”  Then, one evening my husband says, ” Something crazy is happening to your tomato plants.”  I turn to look and find what looks like Mount Vesuvius erupting out of each pot – or as the nice lady in the video said, “a floating garden”.  Apparently, thanks to all the rain, the stupid diapers expanded so much that they forced the soil, and plants along with it, up and nearly out of the pots. The only way I could rectify this was to lean the pots over to pour out the excess water surrounding the soil.  While attempting this, things went from bad to worse,  each one of the water bottles I had placed at the bottom of the containers started popping out of the pots like evil jack-in-the boxes.  An utter and complete mess! As it turns out, that the drainage holes on the bottom of the containers weren’t nearly large enough to allow  the excess rain water to drain, so it had no place to go but up and out.

After all was said and done, I had tomato plants in containers that looked like they were only half filled with soil, so I had to purchase potting mix to backfill the mix and volume that we lost with the water and bottles. These poor plants had been through the wringer, with the late Michigan frost and what I lovingly refer to as the “diaper incident”.

Alas,  my plants are stunted, and just didn’t produce many of the cherished yellow flowers that eventually turn into tomatoes.  At present, there are a few small green tomatoes on each plant. I believe they are a bit behind schedule for Zone 5.

Lessons learned?

  • Make sure you have adequate drainage holes when using containers, if you are going to use diapers in place of Soil Moist – maybe use only half a diaper
  • Partially fill the containers with something that doesn’t float!
  • Use the Tums. Happily, that tip seems to have worked quite well, as there are no signs of of blossom end rot.

We’ll shall  see how many more tomatoes actually grow, after what these poor plants have been through.  Do you have any tomatow growing tips or ideas you’d like to share?

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