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All About Raising Tomatoes in Pots April 21, 2009

Posted by samwyse in Gardening.
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Last year, I “enlarged” my herb garden to include a tomato plant in a pot. I learned a lot from the experience, most of it things not to do. Today, I was getting ready for the new growing season, and learned a bit more.
This weekend, the Webster Groves Herb Society will be having their Annual Plant Sale. Last year, I purchased a single Box Car Willy, and later I bought a 14″ azalea pot to hold it. One thing that I’ve since learned is that tomatoes aren’t self-fertilizing. I’ve assumed that this is one reason why my plant flowered a lot, but didn’t produce many tomatoes. This year, I plan to have at least two plants, which means I’d need another pot.

Last weekend, I went looking for pots, but didn’t see any at my usual haunts. So, this morning I went Googling, and found this:

GARDENING : Planters, Pots & Flower Boxes : Choosing Pots : DIY Network

The standard pot is as wide as it is tall (figure C), so one with a 6″ diameter is generally about 6″ tall. A standard-shaped pot is a good choice for most plants.

Another option is the so-called azalea pot, which is wider than it is tall (figure D). Azaleas have shallow root systems and thus don’t need deep containers.

Azalea pots are inherently stable because of their low center of gravity and thus less likely to tip over. And because less pot is visible, the plant makes more of a visual impression.

A rose pot is one-third taller than it is wide. It’s used for plants such as roses and tomatoes, which have deep root systems.

It’s that last paragraph that attracted my attention. When I bought my azalea pot last year, it wasn’t because of any research I’d done, it was because I wanted a pot with a low center of gravity. I did buy the largest azalea pot I could find, because I knew how large the plant could grow, but now I’m wondering if some of my problems were due to it being root bound. Time for more Googling:

Tomato Container size? – Container Gardening Forum – GardenWeb

Tomatoes can, if they’re in the ground and soil conditions permit, get roots up to 6 feet deep! So obviously just about any container isn’t going to be “big enough.”

Crikey! So, how many gallons of dirt do I have in my azalea pot?

how do you convert gallons to inches? – Banana Forum – GardenWeb

Generally a 1 gallon pot is about 6″ dia and 6-7″ tall. You can use something larger.

So, the volume of a container increases by the cube of it’s diameter, so a standard 14″ pot will be (14/6)**3=12.7 gallons. But, azalea pots are only three-quarters the height of a standard pot, so mine is roughly 9.5 gallons. However, a little further down the page, I see a more precise chart:

a 14″ pot= a 7 gallon

That would make my pot closer to 5.25 gallons, which several people said is the minimum size that they would use. So, another possibility for last year’s lack of production is that my plant was stressed.

I’d been thinking about trying some sort of raised bed gardening this year, and those plans just moved into high gear. I’d been procrastinating a bit, because the “best” place in my yard to put a vegetable garden is covered in small gravel, with a plastic sheet underneath. I removed the rock and plastic from about half of it the first year I owned this house, and it was back-breaking labor. I guess I’m going to have to do it, though. Wish me luck.

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