I've got a tomato problem. Too many plants, not enough space. I debated whether or not to build some self watering containers this year. Water is never in short supply around here; I rarely have to water anything (even smaller containers). I never considered purchasing an eartbox at $60 a pop (I don't have that kind of cash). I did need more containers to plant tomatoes in since I can only fit about 16 tomato plants in the veg garden and I planted as many tomato plants as possible in the extra spaces in the flower gardens and in the large containers on the patio. I still had 4 plants left over: Coyote, Champagne Cherry (a trial to see if it's different from Coyote), Matt's Wild Cherry and Jaune Flamee. I was intrigued by the results of Ray Newstead in California (http://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/). Are his plants so crazy huge because of the earthtainer or because he's in California where everything grows bigger and better? Would the plants grown in earthtainers be any larger than those grown in non-swc here in WNY? I figured why not give it a shot. Being the green geek that I am I didn't like the idea of tossing out the better part of a whole container to make the aeration bench so I basically followed these directions:
I've read conflicting information on the safety of pvc pipe so I left out the watering pipe and I filled the reservoir by putting the garden hose in the overflow hole to fill up the container. I also don't have the time or patience to find specific soil and ammendments for the swc so I used Pro-Mix and fertilized with leachate from my worm bin. The Coyote/Champagne Cherry bin was planted on or about 6/2 from plants started from seed around 3/14. I just measured the plants. From the ground they are about 5'5" (the picture was taken about 3 1/2 weeks after putting them in the SWC-they've grown a TON), Champagne Cherry is a little bit taller, more robust than Coyote. It also bloomed and set fruit sooner. I won't have a true comparison between the SWC and regular containers because I didn't plant more than one of each variety. That being said...the plants in the SWC are going crazy! It's hard to tell from the picture but they are totally escaping the cages (I really should have shelled out the cash for a Glamos cage). I have blossoms and fruit everywhere. Too much to count. The plants in the regular containers are growing fine and compared to other years where I haven't fertilized with worm poop and aerated compost tea they are looking awesome but they aren't as crazy huge as those in the SWC.
(note about the picture- this is Coyote/Champange Cherry. The line of siding up above the top of the tomatoes is 5'4" from the deck. I took this picture a few days ago. The tomatoes were above that line today).