Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to Grow a Tomato Plant in a Bag

Note: Catch the first update here.

So when I planted my veggies a month ago, I wanted to plant a variety of tomatoes. I chose 2 determinate tomatoes - a Bush Goliath and a Roma - which because they don't vine and sprawl, I am growing in containers. Those were purchased in the larger single plant peat pots.

For the 4' x 8' square foot garden bed, all across the back row I planted indeterminate, vining tomatoes of the Better Boy variety; in the smaller 4' x 4' beds I planted another variety of indeterminate, Big Beef tomatoes, along with some cucumbers and melon. Both of these tomatoes were in 9-cell containers of smaller sized plants. There will be vertical supports all across the back (north) side of each bed to support all the vining plants.

Well, all these weeks, I have had leftover Big Beef tomato plants that I wasn't sure what to do with, so I had them sitting in their original container on an empty square by the squash and just kept watering them. Clearly not the ideal situation to get a healthy plant! They're very scrawny and leggy and not at all in very good shape.

Today, I decided to try the 'tomato in a bag' way of growing a tomato plant. While these 2 plants will be a little behind their brothers and sisters that have been sitting in lovely soil for over a month now, it'll be a neat experiment to see just how a tomato in a bag performs in comparison. So, don't have time to do a whole garden this year? Anybody has time for one of these. Want to join me?

Now, I'll be doing my tomato in a bag using a bag of Black Kow composted cow manure, because they are the ones who showed me how!

Place your bag where you want your tomatoes to grow, keeping in mind that they'll need a good 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to do well. Poke 12 holes in the bottom of the bag. A 3-prong hand cultivator is perfect for this.

Space the holes out across the bottom of the bag fairly evenly.

Flip the bag over and make sure that the soil in it is pretty level. About 8 inches from the top and bottom edges of the bag, cut an "X" into the bag.

Fold the edges up underneath, or cut them off. I just folded them under.

Do this on both ends of the bag so that you have 2 planting squares.

Scoop out some of the dirt from both holes, but set it aside. You'll need at least some of it to fill in around your plant.

Stick one plant into each hole and gently press it in. Return as much of the dirt to the hole as needed in order to bring the soil back level.

Grab some Espom salt...

... and sprinkle 1 tablespoon around each of the plants.

Mix up some good old Miracle-Gro. You'll need about 1/2 a gallon.

And pour the Miracle-Gro evenly between each of the two holes, watering in the Epsom salt. Go ahead and cut away any lower branches and small suckers that are coming up in the crooks of any branches. This will help to encourage growth and provide for larger tomatoes. Mine were pretty leggy so they didn't need much in the way of trimming.

Stick a tomato cage in the middle and carefully press it into the bag. As your plants grow, you'll need to tie them to the cage for support. By the way, I have found that nylon footies or old pantyhose cut into strips, works great for this. Doesn't cause damage to the tomato vine and holds fantastic.

Now, let's watch it grow and see what happens!

Next, we give the Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Plantera try. CHECK IT OUT HERE!

Oh, and Hubs and I will be putting together the vertical frames for the square foot beds over the next day or so. Keep an eye open for that post too!


  1. ooh, that's a neat idea! and I almost bought a tomato plant like that at lowe's when I was looking at seeds a while back. I like the concept!

  2. You sure have an amazing idea! I want to try that, too!

  3. Great idea! I'm a huge fan of Black Cow Manure - I have huge potato plants because of it!

  4. You were ahead of me in role call today, so stopping by from SITS.

    I've been bugging my husband for a tomato plant. A friend of ours got one of those upside down ones & they like theirs. We'd have to put it in our lanai so we're still up in the air about it. I love the idea of planting them in a bag like that too. Just wish I had somewhere to do it that the critters wouldn't get to them. I've had them chew through screen to get to plants I've had in the lanai.

  5. oh my..that is pretty cool..Looks easy enough..maybe it's something I can actually do
    Thanks for stopping by my blog with your kind words

  6. I haven't heard of the epsom salts, what does that do?

    We're trying the topsy turvey tomatoes this Spring too. I think we're growing some kind of striped tomato in that.

  7. wow, I really like this idea, how clever, and easy......great post!

  8. Hello ladies! I've been out in the garden so just gettin' to your comments. Today was fertilizer day for the veggies, so they all got a dose of the Pennington. More about fertilizing here

    Penniwig & Joyce, well... I can't take credit for the idea of planting in a bag - I heard about it years ago, but never with manure! I am anxious to see how it does. I just couldn't bear just tossing the remaining plants and I really had no other spot for them so thought it'd be an interesting experiment for the blog.

    Hi Kasey & welcome! I'm just doing small raised beds so mine are right by the house - I'm hoping that'll discourage the critters a bit. I have field mice, squirrels and racoons to contend with!

    Welcome to my little corner Lisa! Why not give it a try?

    Katherine, I have more about epsom on my fertilizer post, but basically epsom is really just magnesium sulfate. It acts as a booster for the plants, improving both the phosphorus and nitrogen uptake making your fertilizer work better, and makes your plants grow bushier. Since I started using it a few years back, I haven't had problems with blossom rot. Bugs, yes. But not blossom rot, which before I used Epsom salt, I did have.

  9. Mary, I love coming here!! I have been doing "patio tomatoes" for years. Some years' harvests are better than others, but I ALWAYS find it fun, and well worth the effort at least. I enjoy canning them too, when the pickin's are plenty! I have never heard of the epsom salt tip before. I'll try that! Thanks!

  10. Beansieleigh ... so sweet!! Hope you find some stuff here that you can use.

  11. Sounds like a good idea, but won't it smell bad? I hope it works out for you! Good luck!

  12. Stop by and pick up an award I left you on my last post:)

  13. We have extra plants after planting the garden too! Good idea!!

  14. Jeannie, no it doesn't smell. Black Kow is a composted form of cow manure so it's like really great dirt instead of well, plain manure.

    Oh Heidi, thanks so much! I sure will.

    Hey Bunny! I suppose I could have dug a hole and just dropped them there where I put the bag, but then I would have had to contend with weeds. This sounded so much more interesting! I'm anxious to see how they do, especially since they were suffering from a big of neglect in those little cells waiting for me to do somethin' with them!


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