Wouldn’t it be great to have a large greenhouse or polytunnel and grow tomatoes directly in the soil. On the other hand, would the results be better than when growing tomateos in containers?
Here is aa article about the benefits and disadvantages of both – Direct Soil Planting vs Container Growing.
Direct Soil Planting
There would be no containers to clean and fill with costly new compost and no watering valves or other systems to try and create a healthier root zone.
in other words, less worry about watering and the amount of oxygen in the soil and less work!
While most hobby growers use containers and grow bags for growing their tomatoes, there are some growers, growing on a small commercial scale, who grow directly in the soil!
Advantages with Direct Soil Planting Under Cover
One major advantage when growing directly in the ground is that roots can spread out over a wide area. This means that surface roots have access to plenty of oxygen. Also, large root systems are not as vulnerable to extremes of wet and dry periods.
The grower is able to water using a pipe system which delivers water/nutrients to the base of each plant just by turning on a tap. Plants can be watered once, twice or three times daily depending on the weather.
Tomato split and other conditions caused by extremes of soil moisture and Blossom End Rot can be more or less avoided. Being under cover, Blight can also be kept at bay.
Disadvantages of Soil
Of course soil does need to be changed every few seasons to avoid disease and nematode build-up (microscopic worms that are destructive to roots). However, if plants are kept healthy, diseases carried over to the following season can be kept to a minimum.
Soil & Grow Bag Combination
Some home growers find that using grow bags with holes in the bottom works very well. Plants are started in the fresh grow bag soil, then after becoming established, their roots can grow out through the bottom into the greenhouse soil. The old soil of the greenhouse seems to have little negative effect.
Another way to grow in used greenhouse soil is to use grafted plants. These plants have greater disease resistance and plenty of vigour – although grafted plants are expensive to buy unless you graft them yourself!
Grafting is tricky and requires a heated propagator with thermostat.
Of course it is possible to grow outside in garden soil, but in a UK summer with plenty of rain, the possibility of Blight is high.
If you are growing Crimson Crush this season, how have they coped with the wet periods – any sign of Blight?
Other Growing Systems
I regularly mention the Quadgrow Planter and Autopot systems, but here are two other ways to grow tomatoes in containers.
Bato Buckets and the Earth Box
Bato Buckets, also known as Dutch Buckets, are becoming a popular way to grow tomatoes with very successful results too!
Basically, a Bato Bucket is a large pot with a reservoir in the bottom. There is an overflow pipe that takes the water/nutrients back to a water tank and the solution is re-used and pumped around again.
Perlite is one of the most popular mediums for this method, partly because the perlite can be flushed, cleaned and used again.
The Earth Box
Another reservoir container system is the “earth box”. This is more traditional in the sense that it uses soil.
Both systems are easily copied by a DIY enthusiast.
The last newsletter of the season is next Saturday – doesn’t time fly – the seed brochures will soon be dropping through the letter box!
PS If you have any comments / experience of Crimson Crush this season, we would love to hear them below – thanks!
This article “Direct Soil Planting vs Container Growing” is taken from Nick’s Tomato Growing Newsletter.