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Great Tomato Experiment, Revisited

I’ve had a bit of a setback on The Great Tomato Experiement; I ran into a stretch of bad weather, followed by what I think was possibly an overdose of potassium.  As a result, all three plants are in sad, sad shape.  In fact, so sad that I am starting over!

What Will I Do Differently?

First, is that I have come across some nice 17-gallon containers, and I’ll use them instead of the 10-gallons I had been using.  I’ll sterilize and re-use the 10-gallons for some other tomatoes I have coming up for the summer (including two mystery tomatoes).

I’m going to add sphagnum peat moss and perlite to each of the containers.  I’ve found the original mixture I used compacted a bit too much for my liking.

I’m going to add the main dose of fertilizer to the soil before planting, then mix it in well.  I found with my raised bed tomatoes that when I did this, the plants grew more vigorously compared to the ones where I added the fertilizer as a side-dressing in the beginning.

Finally, I am using a different tomato variety.  For some reason, Pineapple doesn’t seem to like my growing conditions (I have a 4th plant that I am growing in the ground in another part of the garden).  It’s growing fairly well and putting forth tomatoes, but it’s not as vigorous as I would hope.

And the New Tomato Variety Is…

I have chosen Big Raspberry as the new tomato variety for The Great Tomato Experiment for the following reasons:

  • Big Rasperry is a potato-leafed plant, and I find that tomato plants with potato leaves generally fare better in my garden.
  • The tomatoes don’t generally  get large (maybe 9 ounces), so if I can get a tomato of this variety over 1 lb using the giant tomato techniques, it will be an accomplishment.
  • The plant is productive, but not necessarily tall.  So if I can get the plant over 6 feet using the world record tomato techniques, it will be a visible  accomplishment.  Especially since I am growing it in a container!
  • Finally, I’m choosing Big Raspberry because it’s an earlier tomato compared to Pineapple.  Since it’s already April, I need to play catch-up before the worst of the South Florida summer heat arrives.

If you’re still wanting to experiment along with me and can’t locate Big Raspberry, a good second choice might be Prudens Purple.  In fact, I would have used Pruden’s Purple as my first choice for this test if I hadn’t already had some growing in the garden.  My other choice would be Caspian Pink.

So, I planted my seeds today.  I planted 5 so I could choose the best 3 for the experiement.  The other two…well, I’m sure I can find someone in my neighborhood who might like a couple of plants!

So, while the first part of the experiment failed, I still have an opportunity to continue.  Onward!

GT Experiment Report 1

The Great Tomato Experiment is underway!  This is the first report of the series, and the race is just beginning.

While you can read the full story behind The Great Tomato Experiment, a summary is as follows:

There are three plants, grown from seed from the same packet (plant variety is the heirloom tomato Pineapple). 

  • One plant is the control plant; it gets treated the same was as my other (non-experiment) tomatoes.
  • Another plant is being grown for fruit size, per the book Giant Tomatoes.
  • The third plant is being grown for productivity of harvest, per the book How to Grow World Record Tomatoes.

All three tomatoes were planted in 10-gallon containers.  Because they are planted in containers, they get fed weekly, although about half strength.

(Note:  You can click on each of the photos to see a larger version.)

Fruit Size Plant

Tomato Experiment, Giant Tomatoes Plant

The first plant is the one I am growing for the size of the fruit.  This plant’s soil is about half and half compost and potting mix.  Fertilizer has been mainly Miracle Gro for Tomatoes (half strength), as well as some kelp spray and a little bit of fish emulsion.  Oh, and I did also add some worm castings.

This plant is by far the largest of the three, as far as height goes.  It’s also a little bit leggier, which I suspect is from the Miracle Gro’s higher nutrient count.  Because it’s in a container, the plant gets a little Miracle Gro liquid every week, at half strength.  It also gets some kelp liquid once a week.

The first blossom buds appeared on this plant, just this past week.  But per the book, I pinched them off — the plant needs to grow some more before setting the first fruits.  (Oh boy, was it ever hard to pinch those blossoms off!)

Harvest Size Plant

Great Tomato Experiment, Harvest Size Plant

This plant has been lagging behind, but now it’s starting to catch up some.  The mix in the container was 100% compost.  I also added worm castings, bone meal and blood meal.  The plant gets fish emulsion spray once a week, and now that it’s large enough, also a drink of some (slightly diluted) fish emulsion weekly.  It also got some kelp meal, and a once-a-week spray of kelp liquid (“Sea Magic”).

This plant is the stockiest of the three plants, even though it’s shortest in height.  The theory behing this is that while plants grown 100% organically take longer to “take off” as far as height, they grow better and healthier once they do start to catch up. 

And you know what was interesting?  When I walked out to the garden at lunch, this plant was noticeably larger/taller than in the photo (taken yesterday morning).  The top leaves now drape over the green bar!

Great Tomato Experiment, Control Plant

Control Plant

The control plant is growing along nicely so far.  It’s planting mix was about 70% compost and 30% potting soil. 

As far as fertilizer, it’s been mostly organic — worm castings, fish emulsion, kelp meal and spray.  I have also added some Tomatoes Alive! all-natural fertilizer.  I also gave the plant a shot of Miracle Gro for Tomatoes (diluted to half-strength) about a week after I planted it .  The reason I did this is because I saw the underside of the leaves had some purple veining — a good hint that the plant didn’t have enough phosphorus.  It’s doing fine now, though, without any extra Miracle Gro.

As far as height and stockiness goes, it’s somewhere between the fruit size and fruit production plants on both counts.  So likely I’ll quit using the Miracle Gro, and concentrate on organic methods from this point out with this plant.

When’s the Next Report?

I figure about every two weeks is a good time period between reports.  So look for my next one on The Great Tomato Experiment around the end of March.  Can’t wait to compare photos then!

Tomato Seeds

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