Weatherford Democrat

March 29, 2014

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: Tips for tomatoes


Weatherford Democrat

— Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to pcmgaquestions@gmail.com. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.

I want to grow tomatoes in a container garden. Can you give me some pointers?

Tomatoes will produce in a container, but there are important things to consider. Your pot should be at least 24-30 inches in diameter and 12-18 inches deep. You need very good drainage, which means many drainage holes or a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot.

Choose a plant with a compact growth habit that produces well in our area. Determinant plants will stay at a manageable height and produce fruit packed tightly on the stem. Stay away from the giant or jumbos because they won’t produce well in our short growing season. For Parker County, I recommend Celebrity, Cherry, Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, or Juliet. 

Plant the tomato in a good quality soil with the pot filled 2/3 full. As the tomato grows and uses up the nutrients in the soil, you will be able to add fresh soil to the top of the pot. Place the pot in full sun and provide a cage or stake to support the plant. As the roots fill the pot, watering will become critical. You may need water once or twice a day during the heat of summer to prevent wilting.

 

I am new to Parker County. What is the soil like and what should I do to improve it?

The soils in Parker County vary widely, ranging from sand, sandy loam, to clay and rock. Depending on where you live, you could have one or a mix of these soils. Unless you live in one of the higher elevations where the soil consists mostly of caliche rock, you probably have a clayey loam mixture. All Parker County soils tend to be slightly alkaline and are low in organic matter.

Your first step should be to get an analysis of your soil. A test kit can be obtained from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office. Instructions for taking the sample are included with the kit. In the meantime, you can improve any soil by adding organic matter such as compost, peat moss, rotted manure or similar materials. This will help lower the pH and improve soil texture. Once the soil test results are obtained, follow the recommendations for adding any needed fertilizers.