growing tomatoes in eco-friendly containers

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By Broccoli Billy

Many of us here in Cedar Key do not have garden space as such and naturally turn to container gardening. The most talked about vegetable grown in containers here in the gardens is the tomato. Most of us go to a transplant supply outlet and purchase what is available, place them in a container and care for them, not knowing exactly what to expect except fresh red tomatoes.

Most often these plants are placed on porches, decks, and perhaps even sidewalks to grow. There are a few considerations that we may not give much thought about concerning tomatoes. Are they determinate? Are they indeterminate? What do these terms mean? Determinate plants grow to a determined size usually within three to four feet, whereas indeterminate plants often grow six to eight feet or more.

One thing that I have noticed in my new seed catalogue is the “Tumbling Tom” series of red and yellow cherry tomatoes. This variety is bred for hanging baskets and raised containers. It appears to be dwarf in habit, cascading to 20 inches or more with huge amounts of tomatoes for their size. Keeping in mind that cherry, grape and plum tomatoes withstand higher summer temperatures, “Tumbling Tom” would seem to be a great bet to plant along side the larger “Standard” tomatoes in containers. By using successive planting with this 70 day to harvest tomato, a long growing tomato season should be assured success.

Container size is directly related to plant size and root mass. The terms dwarf and semi-dwarf are often mentioned in seed and plant catalogues, referring to plant size. There are a number of ways to restrict plant size including: nutrient restriction, water and sunlight restriction, root system restriction, genetics, and more. A good rule of thumb would be looking for roots growing from drain holes and lifting the plant from its pot to see if the roots are growing around in circles within its pot. If these conditions occur, place the plant into a larger container. Here in the gardens maximum root development helps assure that that plant reaches its full potential.

Now that I have another green house I have a subscription to a magazine devoted to greenhouse products. Some of these products are quite supportive of our USA green movement. I am happy to report that our “New Age” containers for plants are made of such things as imported rice hulls. These containers are made from waste fibers and contain no heavy metals or petroleum-based products. Polylactic Acid (PLA): these containers are corn based, 100 percent non-fossil fuel, 100 percent renewable bioresin derived from corn starch and sugar canes. OP47: a biopolymer that is starch based and meets environmental standards of the European Union. It is biodegradable and compostable as well.

One of the great things about growing vegetables is of course eating them along with sharing them. Occasionally, friends share recipes and I have one for Turnip Root that a dear neighbor shared with me.

2 four inch turnip roots

1 small onion

1 cup sliced carrots 1 can mushroom soup

2 Tbs. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Boil first three ingredients until cooked, add butter and mushroom and reheat for five minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Chill your cucumber,

Broccoli Billy