Tomato growing in buckets - Burpee Big Girls.
Giving up on bad soil and limited sunlight...
Failed gardens on two previous attempts have brought me to this point. Last year I planted four different kinds of tomato plants: Two Jet Star, one Parks Whopper, one Early Girl and one Better Boy. I also planted three California Wonder pepper plants and two kinds of cucumber, although I can't recall what the cucumbers were. In 2005 I planted four Early Girl tomato plants. Neither was successful. In hindsight, there were several reasons why those gardens failed but chiefly among them was the fact the soil was just no good. Hard to grow stuff in bad dirt. By using buckets I could control the quality of the soil, giving them the best possible base to grow from. A least that's what the plan was.
I bought the 5-gallon buckets at a local nursery for a couple of dollars each. I also bought two bags of topsoil (I bought more than that but this is how much I used), four bags of potting soil (which has it's own fertilizers), one bag of cow manure for additional fertilizer and a bag of washed river gravel. In the bottom of each bucket I drilled about a dozen holes with a quarter inch drill bit, then dropped in three inches of the river gravel to aid in water drainage. The dirt mixing I did in the garage on the floor on top of a 6' X 8' tarp. It went quite a bit easier and faster than I'd thought it would... an hour and a half from the time I started mixing dirt to the time I finished planting the last tomato plant and getting its bucket situated in the yard.
While the primary problem I'd had in my previous attempts had been inferior soil, sunlight was also another factor that I'm sure had played into it. Neither my front nor back yard get full sunlight all day long so I don't have that "perfect" place to plant. Dead center in the back yard gets the most continuous light on any given day. That area would be impossible to till up because of the dense super highway of root systems that run beneath it. Planting there in the past hasn't been an option but with the buckets I can overcome that hurdle. With the buckets I've been able to place my tomatoes where they'll get the most sunlight every day.
I was checking the tomato plants this morning and noticed that appx. eight tiny tomatoes had begun to grow. They weren't there two days ago, or if they were I completely missed them when I did my every-other-day plant inspection. The smallest is the size of a BB and the largest one is at least as big as a half dollar... blew me away when I first saw them. Maybe third time really is a charm, eh? I've been saying a lot of good things about this bucket gardening system but the bottom line is that this is the first time I've ever done it. It's nice to see your faith being validated some times.
Updated tomato count: There are now eleven little tomatoes growing on my six plants. The largest one has literally doubled in size in the last three days.
This is the largest of my baby Big Burpee Girl tomatoes. For only a 45-day growing period (so far) I'd say that's not too shabby. There appear to be about thirteen growing now but the plants are so close together it's difficult to get an accurate count. Next year I'll need to remember to space the buckets a little further apart. This is the first year I've tried planting my garden in buckets and it's been a learning experience from day one. At least I'll know how to do it correctly next year...
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