Thursday, November 5, 2015

Growing tomatoes, 2015, Part 2 soil mix for containers

Tomatoes are heavy feeders.  In the ground they may develop root structures as deep as eight feet.  The plants can easily grow eight feet above ground.  Containers will limit the depth, of course.  With a good soil mix and careful feeding at least two of my plants exceeded eight feet this year in containers.

I used a mixture of one half potting soil and one half of a mix of amendments that I made myself..  Several brands of potting soil were used, depending on what friends found at local nurseries as they shopped for me. (Potting soil  is one thing that I could not find online--way to heavy to ship!) Here are pictures of two of the brands.

The second half of the mixture is made from one third coir fiber compressed in a block and re-hydrated. Pictured here

I bought this from Greenhouse Megastore on line.  Their prices seem reasonable and their shipping time is reasonable as well.  They carry a wide variety of containers and soils amendments.  Here is their url

The next component of my mix is perlite, about one half the amount of re-hydrated coir fiber.  Perlite expands in water and holds water for the plants. It is available at most nurseries and home supply stores.  It is also available at the Greenhouse Megastore and on Amazon.  Seedlings especially love this and will send rootlets out from the main root to connect to the perlite.

The last component of my mix is vermiculite.  Vermiculite also holds water and releases it to the plant.  It expands like a sponge when it is wet and will help transfer water to the roots of the plant so that plants have a good source of moisture.  It is available from the same sources as the perlite.

I used a bucket to make my mix in. Hydrating the coir fiber first is essential, because that will give you the base for your measurements of the next ingredients.  Either hydrate the whole block in something like a wheel barrow, or water the block and scrape off the hydrated amount into the bucket.  I could not handle the whole block and I did not want to waste water wetting it down over and over in between making the mix, so I chose the slower method of scraping it off.  Fill your bucket a little more than half full.  Add more water until the coir fiber is well saturated but not gloppy.

Now add the perlite. It is a very good idea to wear goggles and a mask when you do this for the perlite is dry and dusty.  Water it slightly and then stir it in.

Do the same with the vermiculite that you have done with the perlite.

These measurements aren't precise; it was all done by eyeball on the bucket.

Make sure the mixture is well mixed.  Use it to start seedlings or to transplant plants.

(edited on November 7, 2015)

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