GreenStalk is a great vertical planter to use to grow tomatoes if you are limited on space or are looking for something easy to maintain. There are a few tricks to growing such a large viney (is that a word?!) crop so that’s what we are going to talk about today.
The easy route is to grow a container variety tomato like this one that I will be testing this spring. (UPDATE: I loved growing the “Red Robin” variety from Territorial Seed. It was definitely one of my favorites – We grew it from starter plants and seed and both did really well! The plants stayed really compact and pretty all season long while producing tasty tomatoes.)
We have grown both determinate and indeterminate varieties at our office so it is possible to do both. If you want something that looks more “groomed” and maintained then you’ll definitely want to stick with the determinate variety that only gets to be a set height. The indeterminate can take over a GreenStalk if you let ’em!
The key to keeping your tomato plants healthy in a GreenStalk system is staking and watering well. Thankfully, the GreenStalk is easy to water and provides some help with staking. If you are growing multiple crops in the same planter, it’s important to check the largest fruit producing plant pocket to see if it needs to be watered. For example, if you are growing 2 tiers of onions and tomatoes and 2 tiers of lettuce, the tomato and lettuce tiers will go through water faster than the onion tiers generally.
Another tip is to plant the large tomato plants in the bottom tiers so they are easier to stake as they grow “up.” An easy way to add stability to your plants is to insert wire hangers in the tier above the plant and allow the vining plant to grow through the hanger providing support for larger stalks. We have also successfully grown large indeterminate tomato plants by wrapping the system in twine to keep the plant from falling over.
Last year, we grew our tomatoes with onions which allowed the tomato plants to “take over” without harming the other crop. Growing root vegetables is a great idea if you want big healthy tomato plants since it gives the tomatoes maximum root space while still utilizing all planting pockets.
The tomatoes shown here were grown from seed at our office under grow lights then transplanted outside into the GreenStalks. This year (2016) we have direct sown our tomato seeds and they are growing great! As long as you have a good potting mix in your containers and fertilize well, there’s no reason why you can’t get a great harvest growing in the GreenStalk. To see what kind of soil we used this year see this post.
Another thing to keep in mind is that indeterminate tomato plants will generally produce more tomatoes than a determinate tomato plant. Personally, I prefer smaller more manageable plants so I plant the determinate varieties in my home GreenStalk vertical garden. If you do choose a larger plant, you can prune to help keep their growth “in-check.” An easy way to do that with tomatoes is to prune the suckers. Basically, you have two stems that make an “L” shape and the sucker is the stem growing between the two existing stems. If you do that once a week in the summer, it should help keep your tomato plants more manageable. Some people find it easier to grow their tomatoes in hanging baskets. If you’re interested to learn more about what else could be grown in hanging baskets check out the article from Tastefully Inspired titled: Full Sun Hanging Plants – The 12 Best Choices out there. It could help you figure out what could go with your tomatoes when looking to expand what you grow.
I will also be sharing how my tomato plants are growing this season so stay tuned for that on our blog.