The "Tomato" Growbox

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My 2nd growbox was primarily dedicated to tomatoes - everything else grew around that priority. But, it was still quite cold when the growboxes arrived - indeed, the tomato plants I ordered from Burpee hadn't even arrived yet. And when they did, I still kept them inside, because it was still below 50 degrees every night. Eventually gave up and put them outside anyway - it didn't stay above 50 at night for another month.

I didn't grow the tomato from seed. The left tomato is Burpee's Supertasty Hybrid tomato (a semi-determinate) and the right was a Bonnie's Original indeterminate purchased at Home Depot, because I was a little nervous about growing all determinate tomatoes of the same age. I'd never grown tomatoes before, but every gardener should try it, right? 

While the tomatoes were little, I grew spinach and chard, and tried to get a quick crop of bush beans in - but they never got anywhere. I started the spinach and chard indoors from seed, waiting for the boxes to arrive. The chard, completely entombed in tomato plant all summer, is still going strong 6 months later. Unlike the tomatoes, it really liked the extra lime I put in the growbox in error.

week 0: tomato growbox - spinach, bonnie's original tomato, bush bean, chard (back left) week 1: supertasty tomato (left) planted week 2 week 3

week 4 week 5 week 5: closeup - flowering, but no tomatoes... week 6: still lots of flowers, no tomatoes happening...

week 8 (away on vacation week 7) week 8: ~dozen little tomatoes on Bonnie's indet - needed hand-pollination :( week 9: pruned left det tomato for light / air week 9: Bonnie's tomatoes - getting shady back there week 9: blossom end rot on the Bonnie's :( week 9: many little tomatoes on the supertasy (most internal)

week 10: before I figured out the soil wasn't wicking properly :( week 10: Bonnie's, no new lesions this week... week 11: losing lots of tomatoes to lesions, on supertasty too, and plants stopped growing...

Based on advice from others (inc. Peat, I think?), and experiment, I think what happened here was that the soil had too much lime (confusing, because blossom end rot is usually caused by too acid soil, not too base). And the moisture control potting mix stopped wicking water properly - had to douse from the top to get wicking working again, but in the meantime they had too little water. And in a foolish attempt to solve the too-much-lime, I added MirAcid fertilizer to the reservoir. Net : overfertilized. They didn't like that at all... It was also very hot at this time, so water misbehavior was very hard on the plants. Eventually flushed out the system, got a few good rains, added vinegar instead of MirAcid, scooped out the GrowBox fertilizer, and they gradually recovered. But I lost a lot of tomatoes to those lesions over the summer. (40? 50?) And from stopping & restarting growing, got a lot of cracked tomatoes. I'm told a lot of novice tomato growers make this too-much-fertilizer mistake.

Lessons learned :  don't add anything beyond the GrowBox fertilizer strip and what's in the potting mix. And don't use "moisture control" potting mix. When it's hot, it doesn't wick well, and the plants go thirsty despite a full reservoir. When its damp, it gets sodden and holds too little air. But... the plants gradually recovered...

week 12: starting to feel better, lot of rain helped week 12: supertasty still getting lesions, but suddenly setting tons of new tomatoes week 12: Bonnie's, first ripening tomato! week 12.5: first ripe tomato! plus cukes & zukes red through and through :) was delicious! next day, ripe tomatoes from each of three plants - plus another cuke

 week 12.5: ratatoille with my own home-grown herbs, tomatoes, and zucchini week 13: plants re-happy week 13: how many is too many? supertasty setting a LOT of fruit - 40? 50? week 14: supertasty getting heavy... week 14: overladen supertasty week 14: Bonnie's finally growing again - good, needs more light...

week 15 week 16: supertasty closeup week 17: hear the bamboo groaning? maybe 70 tomatoes on supertasty? week 18: trussed for a storm, and picked a bunch to bag-ripen week 18: also hung a green banana in the plant - it worked! ripening contagion! week 18: pre-storm harvest - bag-ripened tomatoes look better... week 19: supertasty no longer overladen, but ailing week 19: harvest - towel ripened on vine, table ripened in bag week 19: made caponata sauce - the battered tomatoes were good inside week 20: removed sick supertasty & moved in some greens - chard still there week 21: Bonnie's done too - put green tomatoes in bag & removed plant

Hey - despite misadventures, that was pretty good for the first time growing tomatoes. I got lots, and was giving them away left and right all September. Maybe 100 good tomatoes from 3 plants (2 in the growbox), in addition to 30-40 lost or diseased? That's not bad...

Greens season again. I didn't really intend to use this box for greens season (didn't know the tomatoes would get diseased). So just transferred some thinnings from the other box that might like the alkalinity. Then decided, what the hey they're quick, and planted ~20 toy choi seeds as well, thinking they might or might not have time to grow before a deep freeze... Might have to pick them a little on the small side, but looks like they're gonna make it!

week 21: transplanted bull's blood beet & spinach from other box week 23: planted toy choi, too - makeshift frost greenhouse (trash bag) week 24 week 25: growing very slowly... week 26 - half year point - toy choi might make it to harvest!

 The chard can take some feezes, as can the spinach and beets, I think. Those are being continually harvested, though it's pretty meager. (Well, I could harvest more chard, but haven't lately.)

Week 27: Final harvest for spinach (on Friday) and toy choi (today), but the chard lives on and on.  Some freezing is supposed to improve its flavor. Let's see.

week 27: spinach gone, toy choi harvest, chard still going week 27: railing planter chard, same vintage, same balcony (plus pansies & chives)

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