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4 plants/hole!

Helena, MT

Just read something which had me scratching my head. Although I have heard of multiple pepper plants per pot, I had not give thought to doing this with tomatoes or other plants until I read where commercial growers in California where planting four tomato plants per hole. The recommendation is to dig a hole 18" in diameter.a foot deep, and fill the hole with some well aged (steer) composted manure and a cup of organic fertilizer mixed in. However, the article suggests that placing two plants per hole will create stress upon the plants as they compete for the available nutrients, thus causing the plants to produce more fruits. You all buying into this concept???

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

There will be someone more qualified than me... but I don't think the stress will cause "more" total fruit in an ideal situation. It may cause more fruit earlier, which, depending on temperature, water, disease, and pests could result in more fruit than would have otherwise been produced under adverse conditions. I know that I have seen other ways of stressing the plants to cause them to produce more quickly. I would guess that competition for nutrients and sun might cause stress, too. On the other hand, the crowding could itself make the plants more susceptible to the temperature, water, disease, etc. If that's the case, then you've defeated yourself.

I wonder if the multiple plantings might actually produce substantially fewer tomatoes, but having four plants in one hole might concentrate the crop for harvest. Each one of the plants might produce only 50% of it's otherwise normal result, but having the extra plants would actually double the harvest. I can see that using that sort of technique might work if your are growing determinants, and most of the tomatoes grow and ripen in a short period anyway.

It would be interesting to see a trial, with a control of single plants per hole with the same preparation vs. the multiple plants.

David

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

Could you please give us a link to what you were reading? I have a hard time understanding why commercial growers in CA would do that, for several reasons.

Thanks,

Carolyn

Helena, MT

The source of the comment cane from Ed Hume Seed Company's library section. I believe it was the article about growing tomatoes in a short season. There are three articles about growing tomatoes which contain comments which I have not come across anywhere else. This company specializes in seeds for short season gardening much like Johhny's Seed Company.

There are DG members who plant several hot pepper plants per pot, but none of them ever commented on the stress factor causing more fruiting.

David, I'm wondering about your comment about stress causing tomatoes to produce more fruit earlier. In our short cool. climate this may be a plus. I plant and excess of tomato plants in order to get enough for canning. More than half of the remaining tomatoes are still green by the first fall frosts. I do a variety of things to extend the season like recovering cages and using 14 ml opaque plastic tarps on sprawled cherry tomatoes, but this barely meets our canning requirements. Earliest tomatoes are the caged ones in mid-August, and some cherry tomatoes. Peak production is later in August or early September, however frosts start by mid-August.

Our severe winters do a number on tomato insect pests, and the only other problem I have had was corrected by Carolyn's advice on my watering method. Gardener's here typically will not grow tomatoes other than hoop houses or green houses, so that may contribute to the lack of diseases as well.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

In my experience, when tomato plants are stressed they'll often produce ripe fruits earlier, they MAY produce more fruits than they would have otherwise, and the tomatoes tend to be SMALL. After all, when conditions are bad and a plant 'thinks' it may die, then the priority becomes getting lots of seeds produced for the next generation. The plant's resources will go into seed production / more fruits, at the expense of fruit size. That's my guess, anyway, after growing lots of golf-ball size Big Beefs in the extreme heat and drought we had this summer.

David, I got your email about the F4's and just haven't got back to you yet. Sure, you can give those a try next year if you'd like - I'll be in touch!

Helena, MT

My favorite and largest successful tomato is Stupice, Of the cherry tomatoes my favorite is the open Large Sungold Select form seed which you sent me Sam. I'm thinking of trying doubling up on some of these at the ends of the soaker hoses where I get more water. I did have one plant this season from saved seed the year before which produced a nice tomato about twice the size of the Large Sungold Select, yet smaller than the Stupice. Seeds saved where larger than both the Stupice seed and the other Large Sungold Select seed. I can't say what happened there, but I will be planting some of these next season as well.

Salem, NY(Zone 4b)

I checked the Library section of Ed Hume Seeeds and couldn't find anythingt about putting 4 plants in one place, either in containers or inground.

So I'm a failure. ( smile)

I did read some of the question and answer sections and was quite disappointed at the answers. For instance, one person asked about blossom drop and was told to go buy Blossom set, which is not a good nor complete answer for blossom drop.

Oh well, as it's said.

Carolyn

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

Ozark,

I'll be eagerly waiting! We normally start seeds here in early January. That allows plant-out in late February or early March. With a little protection if cold weather hits, planting early gives us a good chance of tomatoes well before the 100-degree weather hits in May. There's not much that can be done if the heat arrives in April, as it did two years ago when we had more than 100 days of 100-degree plus weather. To stay on topic, the heat is why I'd been reading about inducing stress and increasing early production.

David

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I still have tomato plants in the ground and they are covered in green tomatoes. If I put my plants out before mid March it gets too cold here for me to keep them warm. The temps and the wind puts the temps in the 20s, or the average temp is too low and the plants just sit there. When I watch the local weather it's almost always warmer in the East. Really strange when it's Hutto not that far away from here. Hornstrider did call it Liberty Hill Alaska. Lol

Helena, MT

Apologies for the delay getting back to you Carolyn on the resource on my comment, "In fact, in some of the commercial fields in California growers are now planting four plants in the same hole where one was planted in the past." This quote was taken from Ed Hume's "Growing Tomatoes in a Cool Climate", paragraph five on PLANTING.
.....Fruit Section

I am a bit of a researchaholic and down load as many as 50 or more pages of garden information each night. It took a while to go back through my files and find what you asked me for. It struck me as odd at the time I read this, so I gave it some thought before consulting with you all.

This message was edited Nov 6, 2012 10:03 PM

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I was wondering if this method was more about increasing the naturally produced growth hormone available for each plant. I went to a winter forage seminar this past month and the ag agent was talking about broadcasting more seed per square yard or acre than recommended as he said each seed would benefit more in a crowded planting site due to the overall increase in growth hormone produced and then available for each plant. After the lecture I questioned him about this and he said there was new data out recommending this practice. Just a guess, probably not a good one.......

Helena, MT

terri, was this ag agent talking about a specific type of seed? My wife is responsible for planting carrots and she doesn't thin them out. The results is a six foot band of carrots sixty feet long. If fact that is the only thing left in the garden yet to be picked and they are still good in spite of the cold weather. Very curious, I'm starting to wonder if this would work for a number of things like bunching onions for instance.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

This was a cover/forage mix including rye grass, wheat, various peas, oats, New Zealand clover and purple top turnips. The ag agent had selected this mix for winter forage for dairy cattle/meat cattle and goats. He told me it would make a good mix for my veg garden as a non-specific cover crop. I also bought extra bags of purple top turnips as one of the goat people I went with said the goats really like those and it was cheap. And the turnips looked like a good cover crop for the veg garden as I felt I could grow some greens for the hens and then rototill in the spring for volume, etc. I also had two bags of sun hemp which went in with both area broadcasts. The sun hemp is suposed to be good forage for the goats and also add nitrogen to the soil. He was right, the goats do like the greens once the frost hit them and everything came in nice and thick. This is my first year with cover crop for winter forage so I can't really say if the good germination results was due to the weather or density of broadcast or both. Our pastures are mostly bahia and were very neglected and mistreated when we bought our property. Despite what anyone says, our goats do not like bahia and we are trying to diversity the pastures and then get the soil in the veg gardens in better shape. I still don't have any earthworms...... =(

Helena, MT

Well we may have stumped the panel here on the two tomato plants per hole, but I have decided to try this next spring on half my tomato plantings. I have been doing this with squash and cucumber plants which seems to be a common practice anyway, so I figure it's worth a try. I will report back anything of interest. .

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

It is interesting isn't it. The bottom line might be the answer......I might try it on half of mine as well if I can remember this spring. Always fun to learn something new!

Helena, MT

terri, I am still interested in learning more about increased growth hormones and how they affect various plants. Although crowding may work for some plants it may not work for others, and I think schools out on tomatoes. But like you, I think it's definitely worth a try. I have considered two methods for trial purposes. Method 1: Double up on alternate plantings in each of the sprawled rows; and Method 2: Groupings near the ends of the soaker hoses which typically receive more water. The later method isn't exactly a controlled test, but if it works then at least this test group won't be stressed by a shortage of water.
Using both methods however should answer the question as far as I'm concerned. May even go to 3 or 4 plants in the last two holes of the rows. If it works for me terri, I should be able to see results as early as July which has never happened here before. Would be nice to compare results in eight or nine months.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I finally signed up for GrowVeg.com as I never really plot out what I plant in the veg garden and I think it is time for me to start recording information, comments, and results. I think I'll log on and put in what I want to do with the tomatoes so I don't forget. If haven't figured out if I can do GrowVeg on my Kindle, but that would be perfect! I think I'm going to go with two plants per hole for half of my planting. I have T-tape system so everyone will get the same amount of water regardless. And I use Florida trellising with the determinates I grow in the spring so I should be able to tell fairly quickly if I am getting better production for the east or the west end of the garden.

Helena, MT

I don't get that east/west vs. north/south. thing about row plantings. My rows are east/west and neighbors are north/south which is what I think is recommended, but my crops are usually better than his. There are too many other factors to be considered to make a judgment call.

I use excel to keep track of what I plant each year. The main garden has twenty risers, but I use multiple hoses per riser. Corn and potatoes have four rows per riser, and much of the rest of the garden has two soaker hoses per riser. Peas and sometimes beans will only have one hose per riser. Keeping track of each yearís plantings is essential if you want to have a four or five year rotational plan, especially if you are concerned about companion planting.

I know some people till in their vines, and other debree back into the garden, but I have never done that. I take it all to the back of the yard, get a burn permit and torch it along with the weeds which have been pulled. Purslane being my biggest headache.I have collected about 100 pages of information on weeds common to my garden and have started to preview this information for nest season. One of the most interesting things about weed control I have read is the use of diluted vinegar to kill the tap roots of plants like dandelion, thissle, and several other weeds with long tap roots. I bought a Hori Hori (Japanese for "dig dig") to remove these plants, however if you don't get all the tap root they just come right back. So now I take a trigger spray bottle with some vinegar and water and shoot the hole a couple of times after removing the weed. Seems to be working on those bigger plants which get hidden sometimes in the plant foliage, and doesn't seem to bother the surrounding plants.

Vista, CA

Raider,
Your first post in thes thread concerned increased production from a plant under stress.

I did have some first hand experience with that. I grew thousands of Flowering Crabs and other Ornamental trees over in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, growing the trees for about 5 years before harvesting them. A few times, maybe a half dozen times, i had trees that produced a lot more blossoms and foliage then other trees in their rows, and then die later that year. It was just a minor loss so i never took the time to investigate why, but i always wondered if it was the extra production that caused the stress or the stress that caused the extra production.

As we were raising specimen trees for the quality market, the trees were always well watered and fed, and the trees described were one of a hundred in each row.

Your reference to the article was the first time i have ever seen it mentioned.

Ernie

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

mraider3, I think that really keeping track of what I plant, the results, the fertilizing and amending of the soil, etc. is my next step in keeping a good veg garden. It seems I can keep track of my roses in my head but adding the veg garden in there is just too much. I am always up for the odd experiment and so I really feel I need to record what I've done so I can better judge the results.

ernie, one of my big experiments is espaliering fruit trees. I'm only just learning so I'm reading all I can find. Most people describe espaliering as concentrating the trees energy on fruit production. But I've read a few descriptions as creating controlled stress for the tree thus causing increased fruit production. I just think it looks cool and have wanted to try it since I was a kid, so I've never really researched why some people describe espalier one way and others another way. I'm just trying to get the hang of how to do it properly. But now will try to find more research into the why of concentrating energy vs stress to produce more fruit. I suspect it is a little of both. Do you think perhaps the trees you described had some sort of virus which put the tree under stress thus causing increased fruit production?

Vista, CA

Teri,

I would suggest for espaliering, that you select trees that have pretty square branching patterns where the branches leave the trunk. Some varieties do and some do not. I sold some flowering pear trees to the Spokane Parks Department for that purpose. So what ever fruit you choose, check the different varieties of that fruit, and you will find different growth habits.

Virus and other diseases are always something we watched for, and treated, and would not bother just one tree. I worked closely with Idaho University but as the "fatal flush growth" i guess you could call it, was such a minor problem, i never bothered to ask them about it.


Ernie

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Fatal Flush sounds soooo Orwellian (SP?)! LOL!

Vista, CA

Terri, I thought it went nicely with the late summer flush of growth, but I can see now it will fit in different places.

Ernie

Helena, MT

Ernie, I too was taken back by this concept. Several years back Farmer Dill recommended spacing my corn seed 14-inches apart in the row and now I am receiving three times the corn for a third of the seed. This gave me the mind set which after reading this article just boggled my mind for a few days. Posting this concept has lead me to the conclusion as you say is somewhat surprising to a number of people. Even Carolyn did not respond after I listed the posting, so I presumed this was something new to her as well.

We all have our own reasons for doing something unusual. Mine is the cool/short season we have for growing tomatoes in the garden. I have ample space to grow tomatoes, but never seem to harvest before mid-August no matter what I do. Our yearly green crop of tomatoes is far more extensive than the ripened fruits and we have learned to make a green tomato relish which is much better than the cucumber relish in my opinion. Our main problems are usually just enough ripe tomatoes for canning and they all seem to ripen at the same time which means conflicts with other harvesting vegetables. We spend repetitive 14 hour days during harvest which lasts about a month and it's beginning to take its toll on both of us. If we could stress these tomato plants to produce in July it would reduce the burden of harvesting tremendously.

In another thread on companion planting there is a digression to the coddling moth and their effects on my apple trees. Some interesting side reading on the subject lead me to a discussion on thinning of the blossoms to reduce the effect of the apple trees only producing on alternate years. This may not be a stress related issue, but it sure seems that way to me. But this thought brings me back to how you can stress certain plants, and I was thinking about my neighbor who thinks that stressing his tomato plants by holding back water until the leaves start to wilt is good for the plants. His tomato plant pale in comparison to mine and yet he continues to use that philosophy.

My only response to that issue is that by planting multiple tomato plants in each hole the stress comes mainly from competition for nutrients, which may be why the plants would produce fruit earlier even though quantity might suffer. I can live with that.

Terri, I start my next season with a journal of sorts on things I want to do for the growing season. Most of the entries are catagorized by the crops to be planted and where I plan to do the planting i.e., raised bed, garden, berries or trees, etc. This journal gets pretty extensive from researching various subjects and by planting time I have 50 or more pages of condensed material. I also do a yearly calendar on days to sow or plant; transplant; and harvest. II start with the Farmer's Almanac which some people scoff at. Most of this work is done on my 'dark side'. I live a double life sleeping for only a couple of hours between the dark side and the light side and reverse. Thus I am able to dedicate time to do all this which is not possible for most people who hold down a day time job. I still consult, but consider myself semi-retired at seventy. But that is what keeps me going. I can't think of a better hobby for an old fart other than maybe fishing.

morgan



Vista, CA

Morgan,

On your problem with tomatoes ripening slow, at your latitude, the sun may be hitting your plants at less than a 45 degree angle, and since degree/hours are so important for ripening, have you tried putting reflecting mylar or plastic on the north side of your E/W rows? Of course it would need to be low enough not to shade the neighboring row, but those long hot sunny days up there generate a lot of heat, even at the low angles.

I was about the only one that could ripen grapes around Bonners Ferry, [similar latitude] and the only spot on my place i could do that was on the South Side of a Metal shop building, where the heat was reflected back onto the grapes.

Ernie

Helena, MT

Good idea Ernie. Should try that on my grapes as well.

Vista, CA

Morgan,
Ironically, living here in Southern CA, I could not get my tomatoes to ripen the first year, because the little valley i live in draws a cool afternoon breeze in from the ocean as the inland hills warm up. so i had to build a Cold Frame with four foot walls to break the breeze, so i did have ripe tomatoes this past summer. Oten times some minor changes in our micro climates do make a big difference.

Ernie

Helena, MT

That's incredible Ernie. I have been fighting with Mother N to get tomatoes to grow in our short/cool climate. Living in the middle of a valley has some sever drawbacks to growing certain crops as well, but primarily tomatoes. I didn't cage any tomatoes this last season, going for four rows of sprawled tomatoes instead, and barely getting a decent harvest crop. If we didn't have 50 to 80 mph winds I could possibly do some sort of clouching system, but it's highly doubtful it wouldn't end up blowing away. The alternative of using a cold frame might work since I have several 4' x 8' raised beds which are dug down about four feet. I tried a 12' x 8' hoop house which only lasted two seasons and it didn't fare well for anything except maybe hardening off a few plants. I was just watching a video about foliar sprays with a compost tea which may work to hasten the development process along with your suggestion for using a silver reflective mulch on the south side of the rows. I'm logging in as many ideas as I can come up with for next seasons tomato plantings. I greatly appreciate the suggestions Ernie.

Vista, CA

Morgan,

Those 18 years i ran the Nursery gave me a lot of time to study the high latitude problems. The longer days are a benefit, but it seemed to me that the Sun rays striking the earth at a forty five degree angle just did not warm the ground up, like it does farther south. We could pretty well count on 100 frost free days, most years.

An old trick to trap warmth you might try if you have room, is to throw up a dirt border or berm, about like they used to use for flood irrigation, and then plant on the south side of the border. I have noticed more growth on the south side than on the north side. Maybe even put your plants down in the furrow if your top soil is deep enough.

My property up there was partly South facing hillside, for house and pasture, and bottom land for growing trees, and i soon learned to take advantage of that South exposure, but it also had to be protected from those Northeast winds.

But these problems we run into, no matter where we are, helps us old folk keep our minds working.





Helena, MT

Interesting idea on the berm concept Ernie. I like.. I have a pull behind tiller for my lawn tractor which is fine for early spring and after fall harvest tilling, but my rows were too close together to use it for cultivating after planting. so I purchased a Mantis tiller for that job. I added the plow attachment thinking it would work for planting potatoes and it did a fine job, cultivating and mounding as well for potatoes and corn. I can see where this southern mounding idea might be helpful with several other crops as well. Very helpful Ernie..

.

Vista, CA

Morgan, i hope the idea works for you. I have only been to Helena a time or two, so am not familiar with your climate, But I still sit my whiskey glass on one of the heavy leather coasters from the Great Northern Hotel there. When I was checking out i tried to buy them but they just gave me a couple.

Ernie

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Morgan, actually I am a fan of the Farmer's Almac too.

Helena, MT

Ernie, I planed on giving my favorite brother-in-law the bird for thanksgiving. A coaster would be a nice addition. I will check and see if I can get a couple. Will let you know if I am successful. As for weather here it is about as strange as it comes. Our local reports are for town which is on the side of Mt. Helena, but five miles away in the center of the valley conditions are no where similar. Winds can be three times higher, and moisture levels about one third. The valley can be like a desert in the summers with temperature swings of 40 degrees very common. The challenge for gardeners in town is completely different than here in the center of the valley.

Terri, Hoo Yah, I think the original formula for predicting weather by sun storms or spots is still a well kept secret which has been modified somewhat with current meteorological data. I keep a daily record of soil temperature on my planting calendar and notes on weather conditions. Seems to me the Farmer's Almanac is more accurate than local weather reports in a general sort of way. We are predicted to have a somewhat cooler and wetter spring this next year which will make things a bit more difficult than usual.

I have been considering some addition ideas on the two tomato plants per hole for next season. I spoke with my neighbor when we were considering a CSA for next season about using four rows in his garden. He seemed agreeable since he hasn't much time to keep up with gardening and work as well. Since his garden rows run opposite of mine I though about sprawling cherry tomatoes in one or two rows using the red plastic film mulch. There are pros and cons on the effectiveness of the red mulch, but I thought it would be fun to experiment. Figured I might even trench the rows on both sides as well.

I also figured I would solicit his four kids and teach them some things about gardening. At their age I had our four kids making fishing lures for private label. Since we are located on a high way we could put out a sign on Saturdays and the kids could sell some of the harvest. Sort of like the lemonade/popcorn stands we did as kids. I figured we could plant some summer squash and green beans as well. Just need one more easy to grow item like radishes, or green onions, or cucumbers, or whatever. Suggestions???

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

mraider3, I tried the red mulch the year before last. I had around 100 plants (tomato) planted out with this mulch before all was said and done. I really did not notice much in the way of increased production; however, it did make a very nice weed block. And I also used the green and silver mulch for the pumpkins and squash, etc. Combined it all looked kind of cool--like a patchwork quilt. I should mention that we had a killed drought that year and that all the garden was under irrigation. So water was not really the factor, but the extreme heat might have been.

Helena, MT

Terri, I have read reports as well which didn't seem tho think the red mulch was that effect, and some which stated that since it was clear weeds grew up under it. Ernnie's idea on using silver reflective mulch may work on the north side berms as well as the south side trench, so I may go that route for my plantings and just use black plastic mulch for the north/south rows in the neighbor's garden.

Helena, MT

For what it's worth here's and update on the four plants per hole idea. Actually i did three plants per hole, about two feet apart, and three rows 60 feet long. So that turned out to be roughly 180 tomato plants or ten flats of tomatoes. I used plenty of vermicompost in each hole so there was ample nutrients and I sprawled each row using a soaker hose. Got lots of vines but tomatoe vines were slow to put on buds and I only started picking a couple of weeks ago. Probably less tomatoes so far than plants.

I had excess plants which I gave the neighbor who planted them individually and his produced more per plant than my 180.

So just of this experiment is 'forget about it'! Next season it's back to one row of fourteen covered cages.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

This was an interesting experiment.

Terri

Helena, MT

Interesting yes Terri, but fruitless! Although I try to do several things each year outside the box, this was probably my worst disaster in quite some time. With our short cool season I have managed to grow quite a few tomatoes using my covered cage method and as the saying goes, "if it works don't fix it.". Or, "Stupid is as stupid does" in this case. Also, it takes 100 Ataboys to cover one dumbshist.... So take your pick.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I was kind of wondering if some of the issue was the sprawl technique. I have nothing against this technique as my uncle used it with his tomatoes for some years. He decided he didn't like it because too many tomatoes ended up very close to critters mouths. And also my aunt didn't like the way the mud splashed on them during heavy rains. But I was wondering if tomatoes are like some roses. They have to have their canes growing a certain way, vertically or horizontally depending on the rose, in order to get maximum blooming. And with tomatoes blooming turns to tomatoes. Just a thought. I saw an episode of "Victory Garden" some time ago in which the owner of the subject garden claimed that his tomatoes fruited best when he wound them around the outside of the tomato teepee/trellis. I often wondered if that was a wives' tale or true.

Well, I don't think yours was a dumb experiment as you learned something from it and also you shared your results with the rest of us. I usually use cattle panels in a straight line and combine that with Florida Weave. But this next spring I'm going to still do a few of those and also some cattle panel tomato cages with the perforated plastic around the bottoms. We'll see how it goes...☺

Helena, MT

terri, I have had success both ways; sprawling, and caging which is more like staking when growing tne indeterminate cherry tomatoes. Stupice is my primary short season tomato and although indeterminate they seldom outgrow my three foot tall cages.

Carolynís earlier recommendation for using straw mulch for a problem I was having has been a great addition to growing tomatoes here since for some reason the majority of the production is at the bases of these plants particularly in the fall. As you mentioned terri, straw has kept the bottom tomatoes from rotting as well as attack from other critters.

The 14ml plastic wrapped, three foot diameter cages provide ample support for even a single plant so staking is not a requirement. Come the first of August I trim all the outside vines and any which have grown over the tops of the cages before rewrapping the cages in their plastic covers which were removed around mid-June. These vines contain lots of flowers and small tomato buds which are useless since they donít have a chance of survival. Heavy frosts can come any time here in August. I have had several seasons where the covered cages have produced tomatoes into late October by recovering them.

Although I have given thought to trying a couple of tomato plants in one cage next season I am not convinced this continued experiment would produce any different results in a covered cages.

terri, in conclusion sharing ideas is what we do here. I know of no better place to exchange ideas and learn new things to try. Iím always on the outlook to find some new idea to experiment with. I think of Edisonís comment about all the mistakes he made when inventing the light bulb. So I believe itís a good thing to pass on those mistakes so others may learn something from them as well.

morgan

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