Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Container Gardening & Ponds

Grow Space-Saving Tomatoes (page 2 of 2)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Tomatillo

There are some interesting and tasty tomato relatives to grow as well. Tomatillo is a popular fruit that's used primarily in making salsa, salads, relishes, and Mexican dishes such as tacos. Unlike tomatoes, tomatillo fruits are produced inside papery husks that turn a tan color when ripe. The bushy plants produce a high yield of fruits rich in vitamin C.

'Toma Verde' - This plant grows 3 to 4 feet wide and tall. It produces large numbers of 2- to 3-inch-diameter green fruits.

'Purple' - This tomatillo variety is as decorative as it is edible. The plants produce 1- to 2-inch-diameter, purple-skinned fruits that add color to salads and salsas.

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

All the varieties mentioned here make perfect container plants. Ideally, choose a container with a 25- to 30-gallon capacity; a durable plastic pot or a whiskey half barrel works well. If your summers are very hot, use a light-colored container that won't absorb the sun's heat and burn the plants' roots. Don't use a container made of metal; it will get too hot for good root growth.

For proper drainage drill six 1/2- to 3/4-inch-diameter holes into the bottom of the container if it doesn't have any. Cover the holes with window screen to prevent soil from washing out.

Fill the container with a soilless potting mix. Don't add unsterilized compost to the soil or line the bottom of the container with rocks; both can introduce disease to the potting soil. Add a time-release fertilizer and 1 ounce of pelletized dolomitic limestone per gallon of potting mix to protect against blossom end rot. Keep the soil evenly watered.

Cage or stake plants that grow larger than 2 feet tall. Keep fruits picked. The more you pick, the more you get. Move the container to the sunniest spots on your deck or patio and protect it from fall frosts to extend the season.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Tomato Blossoms Dropping

Q. I'm growing 'Big Boy' plants. They're flowering well but not setting fruit. What am I doing wrong?

A. Tomato blooms may drop for a number of reasons, most of them environmental. When daytime temperatures are too hot (above 90 degrees F), the nights too cool (below 55 degrees F) or soil too dry or wet, the blossoms will often drop. Shade plants during hot days, place floating row covers over them during cool nights, and keep the soil evenly moist with mulch and soaker hoses.

Another possible reason for blossom drop is poor pollination. Tomatoes don't need bees to pollinate the flowers, but they do need motion. You might try shaking the plants gently once a day in the middle of the morning to see if that helps. You can also spray a commercial bloom set product to help fruits form.

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