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Container Gardening: Earthbox plant spacing/numbers of plants for Tomatoes

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dreaves

dreaves
Hutto, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 30, 2014
6:43 AM

Post #9758706

I'm going to grow tomatoes in the standard Earthbox this year. The planting guides from Earthbox say to grow two tomatoes per box. That seems awfully crowded to me. When I compare the Earthbox size to the self-watering 5-gallon buckets I built, half the EB seems to be a good bit less soil than the 5-gallon bucket with a colander. The reason I'm concerned is that the tomatoes I grew in the buckets didn't compare in plant size, thickness of foliage, or productivity to the same tomato type grown in the ground.

Should I just plant one tomato per box? That makes growing very many plants pretty expensive. I have four EBs now, but I can't really justify the cost to buy more if I only get one plant per box. Has anyone directly compared the same tomato in an EB and in the ground (garden or raised bed)?

I'm thinking of growing some full-size indeterminate tomatoes, like Momotaro and the new Sweet Ozark Orange. I'd also like to grow a full-size indeterminate cherry tomato. I plan to grow some dwarf tomatoes in the buckets-- Husky Red dwarf and Gold Nugget.

If prepared properly, (with lime & fertilizer) is the Earthbox really more like hydroponics-- where the size of the container doesn't matter? Am I going to regret planting two full-size indeterminate tomato plants in one Earthbox?

David R

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

February 3, 2014
2:47 PM

Post #9761627

Hey, David!

Took me a minute to find you, here. Seems my forum watch was not activated for the container gardens, LOL!

The very first tomato plants I grew were in patented Earthboxes, looooooooooooooong before I knew anything about growing veggies.

As I recall, I grew HUGE heirloom tomatoes in the EBs, two plants per EB. It was a tangled mess because the foliage grew all over the place on these big plants, and I didn't know anything about trellising back then.

I also recall I grew the biggest, healthiest tomatoes in those EBs than I've ever grown since then. I believe the built-in reservoir definitely does its job of keeping those plants hydrated like they like. But, here're my words of caution.

►Make sure you have a STURDY trellis in place over those EBs! If you're growing large heirlooms, they will (on occasion) almost tip the EB over, LOL!

►Two large beefsteaks side x side will grow into each other, no matter what you do. Just not enough space to separate them, so I'd go with two of the same variety in each box...

►If there's any way possible, run drip a irrigation system on timers to the EBs 'cause, when the 'maters take off, you may be filling those reservoirs up to 3x per day (in the heat!).

►Over these very few years as a veggie gardener, I've grown ONLY beefsteak heirloom tomatoes in both the EBs and the eBuckets and, lately, in raised beds. If I had to compare, the EBs performed closer to growing in the raised beds. I used to compare the root systems at the end of the seasons, to see what I could discern about the plant growth. I figured out early on that MY tomatoes tended to send their roots out more horizontally (lateral) than vertically (deep) in the EBs, probably because they didn't have to go deep to access the water. This is the same growth habit as in my raised beds. The tomato plants growing in the eBuckets, however, did not benefit from a deeper vessel. In fact, I determined that a shorter but WIDER vessel would serve the tomatoes better, e.g., an 18 gallon rubbermaid tub vs. the bucket. I believe the tomatoes benefit from having enough space for their roots to spread horizontally...the water will always be there in either an EB or an eBucket, but it's the spreading room that seems to make a difference...

Season before last I grew tomatoes in 25-gallon cattle molasses tubs I got for free. The tubs had nice horizontal space and good depth. I grew only one plant in each one, and they did really well. My intention was to set those up as eBuckets, but I didn't get around to finding something I could invert as the reservoir platform. There would have been a HUGE reservoir if I had, LOL!

Hope this gives you some insight, D!

P.S. I still prefer to grow eggplants (small varieties), Broccoli, and Cauliflowers in 5-gallon eBuckets. Their deep but narrow root systems do VERY well in the eBuckets, and these water hogs LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the built-in reservoirs. These plants tend to send their roots down deeper, I suppose to help anchor the top-heavy crowns, so not having the horizontal spread of an EB doesn't make a difference in this case. In fact, the EBs were too shallow for these, and I did have plants tipping over before I shoved stakes into the ground next to the EBs, LOL!

Hugs!

Linda


This message was edited Feb 3, 2014 4:55 PM

dreaves

dreaves
Hutto, TX
(Zone 8b)

February 4, 2014
2:53 PM

Post #9762439

Linda,

I'm planning on growing either one or two of the same type tomatoes in each Earthbox™ so mixing shouldn't be a problem. I will brace them appropriately. I will be planting Sweet Ozark Orange, Momotaro, Isis Candy and Husky Red Dwarf (4-ft determinate) in the boxes. I also have Gold Nugget (gets about 2-feet tall) to plant in the e-bucket.

I'm trying to decide if it is worth buying the Earthbox™ brand specific staking system or not. I will be placing the containers on the driveway, so I can access them in my wheelchair. Since they are on concrete I won't be able to drive posts. The staking system has a wider platform for the wheels, which I think would be nice. By the time the staking system ($30 x 4), the extension set ($20 x4), and the auto-watering set ($80 for four boxes) are added I am growing VERY expensive tomatoes. The total cost would be about $400-- not including soil, fertilizer, or the lime.

Maybe I will build a 2x4 framed base, put the rollers on that and use it to support a frame made of either schedule 40 (thick) PVC or electric conduit. I'm pretty sure I can do that for much less than $200. I may still buy the auto-water setup, though. I wonder if I could add the sensors to my buckets? If that would work, I could buy the 12-sensor system. I have a 20% off Promo code, so that would cut the cost some.

It would be much simpler, and cheaper, if I could just walk. Then I could grow the tomatoes in the dirt, no muss, no fuss. : /

David
DonShirer
Westbrook, CT
(Zone 6a)

February 10, 2014
6:07 AM

Post #9766268

I've grown 2 tomatoes per container for several years. I got a standard EB first but thought it might not be deep enough for tomatoes, so I'm using that for peppers and constructed home-made EB's from storage boxes that are about 3 inches deeper than the commercial EB.

I constructed a frame from PVC 3/4" pipe around the box about 5-6 ft high and just lopped off the tops of indeterminate plants that grew above it. Gymgirl is right that the plants will intermingle. I made sure that if I planted two different varieties per box, they were different colors so I could tell which was which. This year, I am going to experiment with some of the newly developed dwarf varieties in the boxes.

Those filled boxes are heavy, almost too much for me to move alone, so if you are going to move them after the season, some sort of wheeled platform or rollers would be necessary. Good luck with your project. My tomatoes cost more than I would spend in a store too, but I get a kick out of growing better varieties than you can find in a grocery.
CricketsGarden
Nauvoo, AL
(Zone 7a)

February 23, 2014
6:50 AM

Post #9774900

I didn't like growing two tomato plants in one earthbox. I did like growing One tomato plant in the earthbox but I don't like all the smaller secondary vines producing smaller tomatoes.
So I grew 8 single vine tomato plants in one earthbox and I Liked it. More earlier tomatoes and more larger tomatoes. BUT
The earhbox holds about 15 gallons of soil and when growing single vine tomato plants, you should only have 1 single vine per 2.5 gallons of soil. = Should only grow 6 single vines per earthbox but 8 did good too. Those 6 single vine tomato plants will produce About 75 pounds of maters give or take.
The plants were easier to manage... and more air circulation...and neater trellis system.

Thumbnail by CricketsGarden
Click the image for an enlarged view.

CricketsGarden
Nauvoo, AL
(Zone 7a)

February 23, 2014
6:58 AM

Post #9774904

a later picture of the brandywines producing that were in the earthboxes (8 single vines per box)

Thumbnail by CricketsGarden
Click the image for an enlarged view.

dreaves

dreaves
Hutto, TX
(Zone 8b)

February 23, 2014
8:41 AM

Post #9774959

Cricket,

That is a crowd of tomatoes, but they look really good. I may have to learn more about trimming to a single leader. I usually put cages around them and let them grow as they will.


David
Tplant
Pembroke Pines, FL
(Zone 10a)

March 4, 2014
12:44 PM

Post #9781807

Hi Everyone
If any of you remember me I grew many tomatos in 23 EBs and introduced many of you to EBS. Two plants per EB always worked as the roots fill the bottom and really enjoy the space as they do not have to travel for fertilizer and water and that is the prime reason for roots other than support. I do have pictures of all my work but I am having difficulty retrieving them. .If you grow on concrete you will need their staking system.

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