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Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

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Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/4/2013, 3:46 pm

I just planted 9 of my tomatoes in buckets and still need to build 3 more buckets, but here's what we're trying this year:



Each bucket has two 6' pipes zip-tied to the inside with 3 zip ties on each side, then two elbows at the top and a 10" piece between them. The goal is to do a Florida weave between the two pipes in each bucket as its resident grows. So far they are pretty stable but we'll see what happens if they get too top-heavy. I'll follow up to this thread with more pictures as they grow and let you all know how they're doing. These were VERY easy to put together; between my boyfriend and I we made all of them in less than 30 minutes. One tip is to get the zip ties closed loosely in place, then slide the pipe down into the loops, then tighten. If anyone's not clear on the construction I can take pictures when I make the last 3. Smile
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Dunkinjean on 3/4/2013, 4:13 pm

Get idea!

Keep us posted....Very Happy
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I believe it will work

Post  Hardcoir on 3/4/2013, 6:49 pm

We are not that elaborate with our containers, but we have successfully grown indeterminate tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets using Mel's Mix. Your plan for keeping them vertical is light years ahead of ours.

We simply placed them next to a chain-link fence and tied them to the fence with soft thread.

I have seen others construct PVC piping around their containers to box in their tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans, and I see no reason why you cannot use the vertical netting Mel shows in his book. Place the containers next to each other and stake them like they are in squares in a raised bed.

Enjoy your harvest.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  quiltbea on 3/4/2013, 7:18 pm

Those are looking good.
I've grown determinates in 5-gal buckets with success but never interminates. I'm eager to see your results this summer.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/4/2013, 10:29 pm

I forgot to mention, you can also tie a string between the top cross piece and the bucket handle if you want to string the tomatoes. I might try it both ways and see which works better.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Hoggar on 3/5/2013, 1:29 pm

Looks great Coelli!

Be careful when they start to get tall, that the wind doesn't get them and knock them over. You can also just use a single length of twine and string them from the top that is how my toms are trellised in there box.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/5/2013, 2:38 pm

Yes, wind could be an issue. If that happens, I will either lash some of the buckets together into squares of 4, or put them up against a wall or fence. Luckily our strong winds are mostly seasonal and we should be past them. Smile

I'm going to try both ways, the Florida Weave or stringing them, and see what happens. I'm thinking the Florida weave might give the branches more support, but we'll see. This should be interesting!

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  JackieB999 on 3/5/2013, 3:11 pm

They look great, I hope you will give us updates Very Happy

I just had a thought. If, by chance, the wind gets to them, maybe next year you could put some nice rocks in the bottom. We only need 6" of soil anyway.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  crappie josh on 3/5/2013, 10:54 pm

they look great im going to give the ol'bucket garden a try this year but im going the self watering route i looked around and did a bunch of youtube watching and this guy has the best videos ( or at least i thought so)

youtube--> off grid self-watering container gardening system by LDSprepper

he starts the videos one way and as the videos progress he refines how he does it and makes it better and easier to use pretty cool

im also looking at doing a SFG this year or at least a raised bed garden
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  cheyannarach on 3/5/2013, 11:12 pm

Looks like a great setup, I am eager to see your updates!
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/6/2013, 7:27 am

Your bucket idea looks great.
Holy Cow! Is that grass real cyclops

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/7/2013, 6:22 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:Holy Cow! Is that grass real cyclops

Haha, no, that is the very cheapest astroturf you can get from Home Depot/Lowe's. We got rid of the lawn in the back, turned most of it into the vegetable garden, and put the astroturf down for the dogs on the rest. Smile
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/17/2013, 8:55 pm

Update - all of the tomatoes are now planted for a total of 12. The last two went in yesterday. There's not a tomato there that isn't blossoming already and the original 9 seem to be thriving. Smile

Unfortunately I guess I didn't see that my two Blue Berry Blends had each suckered and now have two main stems each. I'm not sure if I should nick them in the bud now (ha ha) and reduce them to one stem, or let them have two since they are cherry-type anyway?

Here are pictures - you can see the growth since the first shot. And a bonus of a Blue Berry Blend's buds, which I had to share because I'm really excited to grow these and have already bagged a stem of flowers for seed saving!





All in all I have:

2 Blue Berry Blend
2 Purple Cherokee
2 German Johnson
1 German Lunchbox
1 Red Grape
1 Pruden's Purple
1 Yellow Brandywine
1 Hartman's Gooseberry
1 Watermelon Beefsteak


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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  jazzycat on 3/17/2013, 9:16 pm

Oh I live that! I'm going to be growing some in buckets as well, and I was wondering how I would stake them. What a great idea!

I'll probably make them into self watering containers though, because of the extreme heat in July/August.

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 3/18/2013, 12:05 am

@jazzycat wrote:Oh I live that! I'm going to be growing some in buckets as well, and I was wondering how I would stake them. What a great idea!

I'll probably make them into self watering containers though, because of the extreme heat in July/August.

Yeah, I'm going to see how it goes here with the watering, and move to self-watering next year if it seems necessary. We get well into the 100s for days at a time during the summer so heat is a big issue. It should be pretty simple to convert these buckets, but still, time is always at a premium and there are 12 of them Smile
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 4/3/2013, 11:01 pm

Another update!

All is going VERY well and I added another 4 tomatoes - Great White, White with Pink Stripes, Black Zebra, and Black Brandywine. I was at a nursery with thousands of heirloom seedlings for $2 each and couldn't resist. Those 4 have been planted in self-watering buckets with the same support system as the rest. If that goes well, next year I will convert the other buckets to the same thing. We also have one more tomato germinating - a Vorlon - and it will be far behind the others, but we couldn't resist because of the name (my other half is a total Babylon 5 fanboy). About 8 of the 14 plants have open blossoms already and they're growing like weeds... or tomatoes. Remember too that these are planted almost all the way to the bottom of the buckets! So they should have massive root systems in the works.

After trying it out, I am not going to go with the Florida weave and am instead stringing them from the top of the support down to the flipped-up bucket handle. Some of the tomatoes are already tall enough to start the stringing. So far, so good - I really think this is going to work out.

Pictures below!

The rank and file (self-watering in the front):


Strung Red Grape:


Blue Berry Blend with Tomato Chastity Belt:

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 4/16/2013, 12:05 am

Me again Smile

Tragedy struck today as I was trying to string my Red Grape and broke the top clean off. Sad I could have kicked myself.



Such a beautiful plant, too. I'll let it sucker and that can be the continuation of the main stem, but it will set it back weeks. It already has a full stem of fruit set and another that has set about half of its blossoms! I'm such an idiot.

To prevent any further mishaps I'm going to do the modified Florida Weave instead. None of them are so tall yet that it's too late to un-string them and weave them up. I did one of my Blue Berry Blends as a test and am confident this will work for the rest of the season. At some point I might cut the pipes and add Ts and a cross-section for additional support, but we'll see how that goes.



Otherwise all is going well in the buckets, and the self-watering ones are fantastic. I will definitely convert the rest next year. Having the supports built into the bucket and having multiple options for stringing is great.

I don't know that I'll mulch with rice hulls again though; I'm VERY happy with them as a mulch, but they attract birds and there are rice hulls from one end of my back yard to the other because the birds like to dig and scratch in them. Well, ya win some, ya lose some... and I guess I'm winning because I must have at least 30 tomatoes already Smile One of the Blue Berry Blends has 6 or 7 of them (this photo is of the other BBB and you can see two tomatoes - they really are purple/blue!), and I'm actually starting to wonder how many tomatoes is too many for one plant to support?
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  jazzycat on 4/17/2013, 1:28 am

Your plants look amazing! I'm sorry to hear about the one that you broke, but at least it can grow another sucker and continue on. I really, really wish I had started my seeds a little bit sooner so I would have bigger plants now (and possibly some blooms/small tomatoes), but this is my first year and I've never grown anything from seed before, so it was a little intimidating. But rock on Coelli! What a Face (How long did it take for the plant to get that large anyway?)

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  FamilyGardening on 4/17/2013, 2:19 am

thanks for the update Very Happy .....im soooo jealous of your tom's.... they look so lush and green and sooo good!!!....congrats!!

sorry to hear one got broken....i have done that to plants as well....

happy gardening
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 4/17/2013, 12:18 pm

@jazzycat wrote: (How long did it take for the plant to get that large anyway?)

Thanks!! Smile I actually started some of these TOO early; most of them were started 12/29, then another 4 (including the Red Grape, which was one of the largest) on 1/20. I have a 4', 4-bulb shop light with daylight bulbs and they did so well that some of them were trying to set fruit before I managed to get them outside finally. What you see is only about 2/3 of the full height of the plants; they started in newspaper pots, then got buried almost to the bottom of Solo cups, then buried again almost to the bottoms of the buckets when transplanted. They were getting watered almost entirely with worm tea from fresh castings, so they were supercharged from the start.

I think next year I might still start them that early, but will plan an interim step between the Solo cups and buckets. I also won't make the mistake of starting my peppers that early as they didn't handle the early start as well. Smile

I counted this morning and one Blue Berry Blend has 10 tomatoes already! Wondering if I should worry or if the plant will just pace itself...
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  jazzycat on 4/17/2013, 3:05 pm

That is awesome! Because I live in the humidity of the hot, hot south, I'm afraid the tomatoes may stop producing in mid summer until it cools back down. From what I've read, they will keep growing but stop setting new fruit after it goes above a certain temperature. I'm wondering (hoping) some shade cloth in the hottest months of July/August might help, but I have really have no idea. Next year I will start them much sooner. A few people I know here who actually garden started their seeds much later than I did, because of the wacky weather and later frost date. soooooooo... I'm more than a little confused about some of this.


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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  Coelli on 4/17/2013, 9:49 pm

@jazzycat wrote:That is awesome! Because I live in the humidity of the hot, hot south, I'm afraid the tomatoes may stop producing in mid summer until it cools back down. From what I've read, they will keep growing but stop setting new fruit after it goes above a certain temperature. I'm wondering (hoping) some shade cloth in the hottest months of July/August might help, but I have really have no idea. Next year I will start them much sooner. A few people I know here who actually garden started their seeds much later than I did, because of the wacky weather and later frost date. soooooooo... I'm more than a little confused about some of this.


Yeah, I am new to all of this too. Smile I only had 3 tomato plants last year and they did okay, but they were in terra cotta pots so I think they kept drying out too much. They also did stop producing when it got really hot, and started again when it cooled down. One of the reasons I put mine in buckets is (besides being out of room in the SFG) so I can move them if need be to where they'll get shade for part of the day. It gets SO hot here - not humid, but very hot and dry.

Hopefully we get some good tomatoes before then; and who knows, maybe they'll keep producing right up to our first frost around December, since they're in the sun still (last year, the 3 I had in pots were in the shade once the year got late and the sun got low).
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  jazzycat on 4/17/2013, 10:43 pm

Coelli, I lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, so I'm familiar with the weather. (I really miss the weather there! I MUCH prefer the dry to the humid! And I miss the mountains!) I had my first foray into gardening when I lived there back in the late 90s. I didn't grow much - I had a tomato plant, a zucchini, an eggplant and some herbs. I had no clue about anything. I did OK. Most things were in containers, and it was very easy, but it didn't "feed" me.

When I moved back here I tried again but the humidity is so high and there are so many more bugs and disease issues to worry about, I didn't have much luck with anything but the hot peppers, which produced LIKE CRAZY! That ended my gardening experience, until last summer, when my boyfriend and I started trying to grow a few things at his place in North Carolina. Mostly tomatoes, herbs and peppers.

One tomato plant (Black Prince) grew like mad, another had great tomatoes but didn't produce many (Black Krim). They were located in different spots so I think the Krim wasn't getting enough sun or something. The Black Prince was extremely prolific but the tomatoes kept cracking, probably because of irregular watering (it rained like crazy last summer in NC). But again, we didn't have the knowledge.

This year I was determined to learn as much as possible and try to do everything right. So I ordered some books and joined this forum and watched a bunch of videos, trying to learn as much as possible. I think the square foot method, along with permaculture, are the way to go. I'm going to be combining these methods in the future. Because with permaculture (which is what the Back to Eden guy does) you never have to worry about watering the plants, and I believe that is going to be an issue in the future, with the water crisis already going on in some countries, including here. It allows nature to do all the work for you. Or most of it anyway. I believe if you give nature what it needs, it will just become a self-sustaining ecosystem. You take something, you give something back.

It's funny. My mom was raised on a farm. My uncle had a farm. My ancestry is American Indian on my grandfather's side. Yet I never learned anything about farming or gardening. How sad is that?

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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  llama momma on 5/6/2013, 6:10 pm

It's been a couple of weeks, please give us an update with any hints please! I have 15 extra tomatoes that survived my beginner efforts from seed. All indeterminates and will need do something with these over the next couple of weeks. Currently growing crazy in solo cups with mel's mix. I am looking to your bucket inspiration efforts as my solution.
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Re: Indeterminate tomatoes in buckets experiment

Post  ArkansasSFGardener on 6/2/2013, 8:56 pm

I want an update! lol
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