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How To Grow Great Tomato Plants (Without Soil) Re-Do

Bearcarver

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How To Grow Great Tomato Plants (Without Soil)

I posted this many years ago, but I can no longer find it (Might have gotten lost in the Platform Change), so I got it all together, and found the pics again & put it together again. I hope I didn't miss anything:


Here’s the story

First of all, the type of soil you have in your area has nothing to do with it, if you use my method, because you don’t use any “soil”. We built our house on top of a small mountain near Macungie, PA. After a couple of years of trying to grow tomato plants in the rock & clay that surrounds our house, I decided to try a different method. First I chose an area that gets as much full sun as possible, in front of my house, between the porch & the sidewalk. That little 4’ X 16’ strip of ground is on a fairly steep hill, so I bought three “muck tubs”, which are flexible plastic 17 gallon round tubs. I then proceeded to dig with pick & shovel, three holes, each about 2’ deep & wide enough for the “muck tubs” to fit in the holes. Once the holes were the right size, I cut the bottom out of each tub (for drainage) and inserted them into their new homes. I positioned the tubs level, leaving the top 2 inches of them (at the low end) above the ground. The tubs keep the water from running down the hill when watering the plants. Here is my secret. Go to a plant store, hardware store, or any place that sells organic soil amendments. The one I used was “Bumper Crop Organic Soil Amendment – East Coast”. It is composed of peat moss, composted fish bones, lobster shells, composted chicken & cow manure, peat humus, blood meal, kelp/seaweed and aged bark fines. I filled the tubs all but the top 2 inches with this stuff (adding NO Soil at all), leaving room for a bit of mulch to keep the sun from drying things too quickly, after watering or rain. After that, Mrs Bear just waits for the right time to plant, and buys little plants at a local nursery or plant store (about $2 each). I don’t know much about which ones to choose, because I don’t think it matters much (they all seem to be OK to me). So, you stick the little started plant (less than one foot high) in the center of the surface of the “Bumper Crop”, at least as deep as it was in the container you bought it in. Then cover the top with an inch or two of plain old mulch.Now, unless it rains on them, we water the plants a little every day, and increase the amount of daily water as the plants get bigger, all the way up to a full bucket of water per plant. We do our watering within the last couple hours before dark. Once a week, for the first 4 or 5 weeks we add a little “Miracle Grow”. This seems to help get them in the mood to grow, but we don't use it after the first 5 weeks. From then on, it’s nothing but the daily watering. I have to warn you though, don’t go out & buy those little tomato hoops to support these plants. I got some heavy reinforcing wire mesh, the stuff they put above the stones before they pour a concrete patio or garage floor, to strengthen the concrete. It has blocks about 5 inches square, giving you room to stick your hands through. Then I got ½” steel rebar (also used in concrete) about 6’ long, and drove them into the ground about 2’ deep, leaving 4’ sticking above the ground. I put three of them around each tub, at equal distances around the tub, right against the outer edge of the tubs. Then I took the wire mesh and formed it into a tube shape (bending the ends of the wire to itself), the same diameter as the outside of the tubs. The reinforcing mesh comes in about a 5’ roll, so this makes the hoop about 5’ high. Then I slide this hoop (wire mesh cylinder) down the rebar rods (inside or outside—doesn’t matter), and fasten the hoop to the rebar rods at numerous places (with wire or zip-ties). This sounds like a lot of work, but if your plants grow like mine do, you’ll be glad they didn’t fall over in the midst of a great growing season. My one large tomato plant grew out the top of the 5’ hoop, hung out the sides, and grew back down to the ground on the outside of the hoop. The one cherry tomato plant grew out the top in no time, so I made a little ladder for it, from the top of the 5’ hoop, over to my porch railing. Then it kept growing, so I used bungee cords to hold it to the porch post, so it could continue to grow to over 17 feet high. I had to take my American Flag down to keep it from beating on my tomato plant in the wind. The next year, I added another 2 ½ feet of height to my previously 5’ high hoops (cages). I figure if I let them grow out & over the top, and down the outside, they’ll be 15’ before they touch the ground again. I since had exactly that happen.

That’s about it. Check out my Pictures, (Below).

PS: I wouldn’t plant more than one cherry tomato plant like this, unless you have a lot of friends in the area, or a lot of kids. 3,600 tomatoes per plant is a lot of tomatoes!

Nothing beats a homegrown tomato!

Bear


This is a picture of the wrapper-----Bumper Crop (Organic Soil Builder):
Screenshot2012-04-15at115556AM.png



Here is how I put the three tubs in the ground, and a little plant started in each one:
Tomatoes2006-1copy.jpg



Mrs Bear picking Cherry Tomatoes when the plant was about half grown:
Lindapickingtomatoes7-30-05--1copy.jpg



Here you can see the temporary ladder I built to get the plant over to the porch railing safely:
Tempextensionladder-1copy.jpg



Here plants were almost full grown. Mrs Bear was full grown in this picture too, at 5' 9" tall: LOL
DSC01326copy.jpg



These were the ones I picked, when the Frost stopped the growing season. You will see in my Tomato Count (below) that about 2/3 of these ripened for us to eat.
DSC01396copy.jpg


Cherry Tomato Count (From one plant)

Date Picked
7-15-----------------------------2---------------2
7-17-----------------------------2---------------4
7-19-----------------------------6--------------10
7-20----------------------------11--------------21
7-21----------------------------10--------------31
7-22-----------------------------9--------------40
7-23-----------------------------8--------------48
7-24----------------------------38--------------86
7-25----------------------------34-------------120
7-26----------------------------37-------------157
7-27----------------------------18-------------175
7-28----------------------------17-------------192
7-29----------------------------12-------------204
7-30----------------------------25-------------229
7-31----------------------------44-------------273
8-01----------------------------29-------------302
8-02----------------------------92-------------394
8-03----------------------------15-------------409
8-04----------------------------55-------------464
8-06----------------------------25-------------489
8-07----------------------------41-------------538
8-08----------------------------24-------------554
8-09----------------------------25-------------579
8-10----------------------------98-------------677
8-12----------------------------35-------------712
8-13----------------------------15-------------727
8-14----------------------------45-------------772
8-16----------------------------15-------------787
8-17---------------------------111-------------898
8-18----------------------------42-------------940
8-19----------------------------26-------------966
8-20----------------------------12-------------978
8-21----------------------------50------------1028

Mrs Bear's prediction was 1,000
8-22----------------------------12------------1040
8-23----------------------------23------------1063
8-24----------------------------42------------1105
8-25----------------------------44------------1149
8-26----------------------------48------------1197
8-27----------------------------50------------1247
8-28-----------------------------8-------------1255
8-29----------------------------82-------------1337
8-30----------------------------34-------------1371
8-31----------------------------42-------------1413
9-01----------------------------13-------------1426
9-02----------------------------18-------------1444
9-03----------------------------34-------------1478
9-04-----------------------------8--------------1486
9-05----------------------------60--------------1546

Bear Sr’s prediction was 1,500
9-06----------------------------65--------------1611
9-07----------------------------46--------------1657
9-08----------------------------19--------------1676
9-09----------------------------31--------------1707
9-11----------------------------26--------------1733
9-12----------------------------78--------------1811
9-13----------------------------30--------------1841
9-15----------------------------40--------------1881
9-16----------------------------71--------------1952
9-17----------------------------24--------------1976
9-18----------------------------38--------------2014
9-19----------------------------15--------------2029
9-21----------------------------43--------------2072
9-22----------------------------58--------------2130
9-23----------------------------39--------------2169
9-24----------------------------27--------------2196
9-25----------------------------59--------------2255
9-27----------------------------71--------------2326
9-28----------------------------28--------------2354
9-30----------------------------37--------------2391
10-2----------------------------51--------------2442
10-4----------------------------91--------------2533
10-6---------------------------118--------------2651

Bear Jr’s prediction was 2,600 (He Won----Only missed it by about 1,000)
10-9----------------------------94--------------2745
10-10---------------------------23-------------2768
10-13---------------------------68-------------2836
10-16---------------------------24-------------2860
10-17---------------------------65-------------2925

Due to Frost, I pulled plant apart & saved unripe cherry tomatoes that were good size, but either green, yellow, or light orange. That was another 927 tomatoes. Counting them would give us 3,852 tomatoes from one plant, but I won’t count them unless they become ripe. Those 927 are lying on & covered with newspaper, in the basement. The count of ripe ones taken from the pile of 927 in cellar, that weren’t ripe when picked.

10-23----------------------------70---------------2995
10-28---------------------------107---------------3102
10-31---------------------------130---------------3232
11-03--------------------------- 97----------------3329
11-06----------------------------70----------------3399
11-09----------------------------62----------------3461
11-13----------------------------27----------------3488
11-19----------------------------32----------------3520
11-24----------------------------26----------------3546
11-28----------------------------20----------------3566

As can be seen, 641 of the 927 tomatoes I picked when I pulled the plant apart ripened OK in the basement.


THE END
 
Last edited:

gary s

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Cool !!! Nothing like fresh Matters

Gary
 

chopsaw

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That's awesome . I've picked one pepper this year . Might get a couple tomatoes today . Just been to hot I guess . Crazy how tall those cherry maters get .
That's a great yield .
Mrs. B get hazard pay over a certain height ?
 

atomicsmoke

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Wow....that's impressive...so the tub's role is only to hold the water around the plant?

I dont have he "bumper crop" soil amendment available here. What else can i use?
 

GaryHibbert

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That, John, is what I would call fantastic!!!!
Great write up and pics. I haven't seen this post before, so I'm sure glad you reposted it. Not sure if I can source that soil builder locally--the name doesn't ring a bell.
My one tomato plant is growing like a weed, but the summer has pretty much only been rain, so everything is real late. The plant flowered like crazy, but to date I have 6 baby maters just getting started on the vine.
Likewise, my bell pepper plant only has about 7 medium size.
Gary
 

timstalltaletav

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I like that idea with the remesh and rebar. Have to remember that for next year. Every year I have at least one plant blow out the cage and fall over.
 

chef jimmyj

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Pretty Amazing! We have had horrible luck with tomatoes. Tried 5 gallons buckets, in the ground, but with so much rain, we're getting terrible results...
 

atomicsmoke

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Judging from the bush and number of fruit i guess you don't prune them.
 

Bearcarver

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Cool !!! Nothing like fresh Matters

Thank You Gary!!
And Thanks for the Like.

Bear


Gary
That's awesome . I've picked one pepper this year . Might get a couple tomatoes today . Just been to hot I guess . Crazy how tall those cherry maters get .
That's a great yield .
Mrs. B get hazard pay over a certain height ?
Thank You Rich!!
Now maybe people will understand when I say We quit growing Maters, because I can't be dragging a ladder out every day to pick them.
That 17' Cherry ended on the roof, and we couldn't even reach the top ones from standing on the front Porch.
And Thanks for the Like.

Bear
 

siege

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Cherry tomatoes ? Maybe you could call them Chernobyl tomatoes . That is just amazing. I do a small salsa garden in 5 gallon buckets on my deck. Just tomatoes and a variety of peppers, some onions, garlic, and herbs. I'll try your potting mixture next year. I never get a big crop of tomatoes due to the amount of wind we get, blowing the flowers off, but it sure is nice to go out and pick a big warm beefsteak tomato, and slice it up for a meal that is cooking right then.
 

Bearcarver

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That, John, is what I would call fantastic!!!!
Great write up and pics. I haven't seen this post before, so I'm sure glad you reposted it. Not sure if I can source that soil builder locally--the name doesn't ring a bell.
My one tomato plant is growing like a weed, but the summer has pretty much only been rain, so everything is real late. The plant flowered like crazy, but to date I have 6 baby maters just getting started on the vine.
Likewise, my bell pepper plant only has about 7 medium size.
Gary
Thank You Gary!!
See my answer to "atomicsmoke" Below.
And Thanks for the Like.

Bear


Wow....that's impressive...so the tub's role is only to hold the water around the plant?

I dont have he "bumper crop" soil amendment available here. What else can i use?

The tub keeps the water within the Plant area, and the bottom is removed, so it can drain. The tub also keeps the good stuff in the plant area, because my soil was crap. Also the tub being put in the ground keeps the sun from baking the plant, like sometimes happens when you put a plant in a pot or bucket.

Amazon has what looks to be the same stuff (below), but when I got mine years ago, it was about $20 for 2 Cubic feet. This stuff is $23 for 1 cubic foot. It lasted for years though, in the bucket, in fact my tubs with that same old stuff in them have shrubbery in for the last few years. That is still all I have in the tubs.
amazon" style="max-width:120px">
Bear
 

Winterrider

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That looks like a fantastic idea . I just had to pull another of my plants due to what some call tomato blyte or blossom rot. I haven't had a lot of luck. Is on a timer for watering for 4 Am every other day so I know it isn't lack of water.
Will have to try this next season, bookmarked...
 

Bearcarver

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I like that idea with the remesh and rebar. Have to remember that for next year. Every year I have at least one plant blow out the cage and fall over.

Thank You Tim!!
Yeah, if you stood next to one of these plants, with a regular Tomato cage in your hand, you'd have to laugh.


Bear
 

Bearcarver

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Simply amazing. Love the spreadsheet.

Thank You!!
And Thanks for the Like.

Bear


Pretty Amazing! We have had horrible luck with tomatoes. Tried 5 gallons buckets, in the ground, but with so much rain, we're getting terrible results...
Thank You Jimmy!!
Yeah, All the rain we've had the last couple years has been very hard on Mater Plants, at least in our area!

Bear
 

Bearcarver

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Judging from the bush and number of fruit i guess you don't prune them.

Yup---No pruning!!
Years ago I tried pinching the suckers off, and I didn't see any advantage, so I never did it again.

Bear
 

Bearcarver

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Cherry tomatoes ? Maybe you could call them Chernobyl tomatoes . That is just amazing. I do a small salsa garden in 5 gallon buckets on my deck. Just tomatoes and a variety of peppers, some onions, garlic, and herbs. I'll try your potting mixture next year. I never get a big crop of tomatoes due to the amount of wind we get, blowing the flowers off, but it sure is nice to go out and pick a big warm beefsteak tomato, and slice it up for a meal that is cooking right then.

Thank You Siege!!
We never had much luck with Mater plants in 5 Gallon Buckets.
I figured the buckets got too hot from the Sun.

Bear
 

Bearcarver

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That looks like a fantastic idea . I just had to pull another of my plants due to what some call tomato blyte or blossom rot. I haven't had a lot of luck. Is on a timer for watering for 4 Am every other day so I know it isn't lack of water.
Will have to try this next season, bookmarked...

Thank You Rider!!
We don't grow any more, but when we did, and the plants got big & were really producing, and it was Hot & Dry, we watered every day.


Bear
 

waynl

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Great write-up on your 'mater growing. Wish I had the time and diligence to document my garden feats as you did.

My Dad used mesh cylinders and rebar 50 years ago in his garden for the tomatoes. We lived next to a lake and after filleting our catch we'd bury the carcasses in the soil. And of course back then we burned the leaves in the fall and we did it right on top of the plot. He had Burpee Big Boy tomatoes growing, just like yours, out the top and cascading down to the ground again. Mom would can and can the things, and the neighborhood ate tomatoes until frost.

I use concrete mesh and rebar in my garden these days, although I make a straight line "fence" and train the plants by weaving the vines through the mesh. Works Ok, but as I get older and my back gets worse I'm thinking of going the mesh cylinder route and growing fewer plants.
 

Bearcarver

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Great write-up on your 'mater growing. Wish I had the time and diligence to document my garden feats as you did.

My Dad used mesh cylinders and rebar 50 years ago in his garden for the tomatoes. We lived next to a lake and after filleting our catch we'd bury the carcasses in the soil. And of course back then we burned the leaves in the fall and we did it right on top of the plot. He had Burpee Big Boy tomatoes growing, just like yours, out the top and cascading down to the ground again. Mom would can and can the things, and the neighborhood ate tomatoes until frost.

I use concrete mesh and rebar in my garden these days, although I make a straight line "fence" and train the plants by weaving the vines through the mesh. Works Ok, but as I get older and my back gets worse I'm thinking of going the mesh cylinder route and growing fewer plants.

Thank You Waynl !!
Sounds like you're doing Great !!
And Thanks for the Like.

Bear
 

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