Tomatoes! Spring 2013 Master Gardener Newsletter

by Joseph Bernardo

At the 2012 Master Gardener Plant Faire Extravaganza, I bought five Hybrid Early Girl tomato plants. I planted each one in a different planter or location. I planted one in the ground the old fashion way. I dug a large hole, about nine inches deep, and put some of the stem in the ground. I planted the second one in my greenhouse in a large container. I trenched the container and planted the plant. It sat on the floor of my greenhouse and stayed there its whole life. I planted the third one in an 11-inch-high raised bed. It was planted in a trench and bent up like we learned in the UNCE Master Gardener Training Program classes. I planted the fourth one in a new nine-inch-high raised bed. I trenched it and planted it right in the middle of a four-foot square planter, placing the plant about one foot above the ground. The fifth plant went into an upside down hanging planter. I put it under a fruit tree on the sun side so it got about six hours of sun every day. All five plants were watered using automatic sprinklers and received the same amount of water.

As of November 5th, I have gotten tomatoes from all of my plants. There wasn’t any doubt the one in the ground got the best results, for it produced more than a bushel of large, juicy, ripe tomatoes. They were some of the bigger tomatoes that I have ever grown. Although they were big, they didn’t have as much flavor as some of my other smaller hybrids. The plant was huge and covered about six to seven feet across and four to five feet high. I only found one tomato hornworm on this plant. I have covered it, and I received tomatoes from it into November.

The plant in my greenhouse grew well also; it has grown up to the vent windows which are about nine feet up on the roof of my greenhouse. I have been getting fruit from this plant since October. The fruit was just a bit smaller than the ground plant. I was quite satisfied  with this plant.

The plant in the raised bed grew quite large also; it grew out of the planter up onto my fence! It produced lots of flowers yet very few tomatoes. I was not satisfied with this plant. The tomatoes were small and didn’t do well. I think my planter wasn’t as deep as it could be. I will build it up higher next year. This plant was planted in the middle of a five-foot square planter with my turnips in rows in this box.

I put  the fourth plant in a raised bed and trenched it. I put it under a tree, and it grew to a large size but produced very little fruit, maybe because of the shade from tree. I got only a small amount of fruit and small tomatoes. My  opinion was that I didn’t get enough sun on this plant. I wasn’t happy with this plant.

Last of all I planted one plant in the upside down planter. It was the worst of my five plants. I only got two tomatoes, and they didn’t get big. The plant was sparse and not worth the time to grow.

Note: this is one year of looking at the different methods of planting tomatoes. Next year I try other items to experiment with.