container tomatoes

Decatur, GA

I have had trouble with the native tree rats, and maybe squirrels, getting all my yummy tomatoes the past few years so have decided to cage my plants this year.
I got some livestock watering tanks to use as planters and will cage them in with small mess chicken wire. The wire hasn't arrived from the supplier yet but the picture gives you the idea.
The tanks are 125 gallons, dimensions 2'x2'xx5'. Good size.
My question is how many tomato plants can I put in each tank? The wire cage seems high enough for vertical growth.
Also what does anything think would be the smallest size container one tomato plant might do okay in? Is a 5 gallon bucket just too small?
Thanks for any input and advise.
Helen

Thumbnail by helenchild
Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

Helen, this is my perspective from personal experience, nothing more. I would imagine that 5 gallon would be the smallest container one would want to use. Some of the "patio" tomato plants could actually be grown in somewhat smaller containers, but watering would have to be done frequently since the plants would soon become pretty root-bound. That is even true for the five gallon containers though. Tomato plants develop vigorous root systems and need a lot of water, particularly as our days become hotter.

If growing non-patio size tomato plants, I would put three plants in those 2x2x5' troughs. Even that might get a little crowded, but still doable. What is the width of the wire? You will need pretty tall wire IF you want to keep the entire plant under-wire. Some of my tomato plants easily get 5-6' tall.

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

Klrkkr is right -- depends on what type of tomato plant you plan to grow. I grow long-season beefsteak heirlooms, extensively, and, I'd only put two side by side in those tanks -- unless you plan on pruning the suckers to maintain only one main stem on each plant. Then, I'd go with three, but, that's still tricky.

You're gonna need some stout line to hold up the weight of the vines loaded with fruits.

Hugs!

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Helen I have grown in such a container as you have except mine was all rusty from many years of use as a water trough. I grew 5 tumbler tomatoes and they did well. Tumbler if you are not familiar with it is a cherry tom bred to be grown in a basket so it trails. So I would say your trough is good with five cherries of any type.

But following the rule of planting tomatoes two feet apart I would only plant two plants in the trough especially if they are big beef stake plants. Smaller plants like Siberian maybe three and Romas maybe four.

I grew about 20 plants in five gallon buckets watered them twice a day and for the most part had poor luck and poor production. The cherries did fine the beef stakes were just poor. I did this twice just to be sure I was right in my thinking. Now I plant everything but cherries in the ground and the cherries are planted three to a 25 gallon tub.

You didn't say but you will put a top on it won't you good luck.

This message was edited Apr 15, 2014 7:16 AM

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Linda that's the trouble with you Texans you depend on lassos for everything. Heck a good stake or steel fence post will support the plant best if tied with strips of an old sheet or used panty hose pcs.

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

Did you say "panty hose?"

I still wear them, and I still save them for the tomato patch, LOL!

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

Shucks Mam your making me blush lol

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

I had great luck with a cherry in a 5 gallon bucket. In fact it was a toss-away piece that broke off my main bush, and had only about 4 inches of soil to grow in. Of course, if I'd cosseted it, it probably would not have done so well, lol, but either way, we sure enjoyed them.
I grow mostly cherries, but even so I probably wouldn't have more than two in your containers. My cherry plants get over 6 foot.
Hope that helps, and good luck!

Decatur, GA

Thanks for everyone's input. I have put three Better Boys in one of the troughs. I put another in a 8-10 gallon flower pot. I have one more tomato plant, being held as reserve.
The second trough only have a few chard plants which won't last into the hot weather here. Not sure what I will use it for. Maybe more tomatoes!
I got the small meshed chicken wire in the mail yesterday. I will put it on the top since I can imagine the critters going right up and over get the the tomatoes.
Maybe I will try some butter beans in the other trough since they were routinely eaten as seedlings before….

Everson, WA(Zone 8a)

A pox apon the critters that stalk your garden.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Amen to that, sisters and brothers!

Olathe, KS(Zone 5a)

Years ago I had trouble with squirrels eating my tomatoes that were in the ground - they removed them, ate chunks. They did not bother the tomatoes in 11 gallon tubs. I had bird baths filled with water so it was not that they were just thirsty. I finally stopped them with plastic chicken wire found at Walmart in 3 ft tall rolls. Easy to cut and wrap. Not pretty but solved the problem. Last year at new house they ran off with the few peaches I had. Again it was not that they were thirsty - I watered a lot and had many bird baths. I may have to use that plastic mesh again.

Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

I too have to cage in a lot of my plants/raised garden. For some reason squirrels have never bothered my tomatoes, but birds do, just before they are ready to pick. Rabbits and deer love sweet potato leaves. Rabbits will also do a number on lettuce. I haven't seen anything that bothers my garlic, onions, or asparagus. Squirrels keep my bird feeders empty and will chop off a large jade plant at its base, dropping the leaf-laden stem and then ignoring it. They will sometimes do the same thing with my budded orchid stem, dropping the stem, buds and all to the ground and then ignoring it. I don't have a clue why squirrels do this. I now bring in my orchids when they are in sheath, not taking a chance of losing the stem before flowering.

Ken

Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

I had good results with Bush Tomato in a 5 gallon bucket and they produced a lot well into fall.

Thumbnail by cytf
Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Nice photo cytf.

Staten Island, NY(Zone 6a)

Thank you 13Turtles.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

You may want to look into the dwarf tomato plants from the dwarf project. The plants are small but the tomatoes are regular size, and they grow great in containers.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

I have something munching on my adolescent kale leaves. No visible aphids or other visible bug sins, on leaves or soil surface, probably not slugs/snails unless they've learned to fly. Bed on legs with copper legs, no such damage there last year that I remember. Ideas?

Turtle

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Rabbits?

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Flying rabbits? I've never seen a rabbit here, plus the bed is 4 feet from the ground. I appreciate the idea though, and will keep a sharper lookout.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Didnt realize it was that high off the ground. Lol

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Yeah, I figured! Made me laugh though. Bet I'd be the first to report flying rabbits. Not warm enough here for flying monkeys. Thank goodness.

Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

Deer?

Decatur, GA

My kale, spinach and swiss chard regularly get eaten from my containers on the deck. I think its squirrels or nocturnal rats - the tree rats I mentioned in the beginning. Funny though they don't touch the lettuce.

Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

That's funny. We often call our squirrels "Tree Rats". Apparently you are referring to a different critter.

Ken

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Squirrels it could be, but no deer here. Funny that squirrels never occurred to me.
Thank you.

Decatur, GA

Here is a picture of the culprit on my tomato plant last year. I had several tomato plants growing on the porch. My dog cornered it on the plant.
I thought it was a native but now I am not sure. Another name is roof rat.
Maybe I'll post the picture in the wildlife form and see if anyone care ID it for sure.

Thumbnail by helenchild
Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Wow.

I've never seen such a critter here, but that doesn't mean they aren't here.

Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

It is a rat/mouse for sure. We don't have that particular rat but have plenty of others.

Ken

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

Helenchild,

We have that same rat in Texas. It is a sub-species of the Black Rat, 'Rattus rattus'. It is often called a tree rat, roof rat or fruit rat. Its scientific name is Rattus frugivorus Rafinesquse. Here it is frequently a problem in attics.

A drawing of the variant and the normal Black rat is at the link below:

http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/40?indice2=Photos%2FRongeur%2FMyomo%2FMurine%2FRattRat0.jpg

David R

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I remember that pic from last year, I have just recently gotten over it. Lol If you get a positive ID please let us know.

Decatur, GA

Thanks David, I think you are right. Luckily the ones around here haven't gotten in the house yet. I did have a terrible infection of the big brown Norway rats several years ago. It took some serious work to rat proof my house but so far so good. These little guys just eat my tomatoes and I suspect some greens. And I should say cactus and succulents too. Though the regular squirrels could be guilty as well.
Helen

Decatur, GA

I did some more searching and came up with this description which I think is worthwhile.
I would say the rat on my porch is a roof rat but apparently it isn't a native to N.America.

http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/RoofRats.asp

Decatur, GA

Someone in the Wildlife form I think ID'ed the critter as a woodrat or packrat.

http://www.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/easternwoodrat.pdf

The only thing I don't see on the one in my picture is the white feet. But its a much closer description than the others.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

I thought your picture looked a lot like the gerbils I used to keep, but I didn't say that since I'm pretty sure they don't run wild in Georgia. 🐀

Decatur, GA

My little critter doesn't have a tuft at the end of its tail, but otherwise they are similar to a gerbil. But I haven't heard of feral gerbils in these parts so I doubt it's one.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

If your tank will still hold water, you will need drainage hole(s). Your plants could drown in wet weather, and be overwatered in dry weather ( top of soil looks dry but bottom stays so wet it starts to smell like a swamp).

Decatur, GA

The tank has a drain hole. I put about a 4 inch layer of packing peanuts on the bottom then covered them with landscape fabric before I put the soil in. I think this will allow for drainage. The peanuts should separate the water that will accumulate in the bottom of the tank separate from the soil. I think about 2 inches of water could fill the bottom 2 inches before the drain hole allows for drainage. I hope this set up works.

Starkville, MS(Zone 8a)

Rather than one drain hole, you would have better drainage with several. Also, though 4" of the Styrofoam peanuts is fine, with the weight of the soil they will compress, maybe even compress 1/2 their depth. Thus if 2" of water remains in the tank, that water may in fact be in contact with the soil.

Ken

Decatur, GA

Good pointers Ken. Thanks. I see what you mean about the peanuts being compressed…etc. I will have to think about cutting holes in the tank… it is stout and if I did decide to add more I am not sure how I would do it.
Helen

Post a Reply to this Thread

You cannot post until you , sign up and subscribe. to post.
BACK TO TOP