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How To Grow Fast Tomatoes in a Container
Part 1 & Part 2

2009 Growing Journal: Early Girl Tomato vs. Jetsetter Tomato

2010 Growing Journal Start Page:

- Siberian Tomato vs Stupice Tomato

- Bloody Butcher vs Gregori's Altai Tomato



Early Girl vs Jetsetter
Comparison of Two Early Season Tomato Varieties

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 -

Here in Northwestern Oklahoma (Hardiness Zone 6 close to 7, last frost April 1-15), temperatures between July 15 and Aug 31 can soar above 95 F, and stay there for weeks. It can even get above 105 like it did in 2007 and stay there for 2 weeks. Experienced tomato growers understand what these high temperatures mean. For those who don't, I'll explain. The ideal blossom setting temperature for tomatoes is around 85. They can still hold their blossoms up to 95, but it will decline in that range. After 95 for any length of time and the blossoms fall off before they can produce a tomato, and your fruit production goes downhill rapidly.

For tomato growers who begin in February, this can be disheartening to say the least. Unless you have planned ahead and grown some special cultivars, there is not much you can do about this period except to wait until September when it starts to cool down. The real kick in the pants is that many mid to late season tomato varieties would be hitting maturity and fruit production during this critical time, if it wasn't for the heat! Ack!

So what can you do? Well, actually there are a number of defensive to proactive steps you can take to resolve this problem. But in order to stay on theme with this website, Early Tomato.com, you guessed it, planting varieties that mature early (early season tomatoes) is one way to beat the heat, so to speak. [ok, I'll just mention this other method/topic fast - another way is to plant heat resistant varieties such as Arkansas Traveler, Super Sioux (heirlooms), and the hybrids specially developed for hot temps = Florida 91, Homestead, Solar Fire, Solar Set, Spitfire, Sun Leaper and Sunmaster].

  Back to early tomatoes, I like them for beating the heat (maturing before mid-July here) and because I am just a spoiled baby who can't wait all summer just to get some tomatoes that I've been nurturing since February!

Well, it would have been February if there wasn't that train wreck of a fiasco. I started some Early Girls and Jetsetters on Feb. 7 but a highly complex experiment involving a home made solar box without enough air holes - cooked them. [Without experimentation, where would we be?] - So, I replanted at what I thought was an impossibly late date = March 20.

Here's where the story takes an unexpected and happy turn. Like I said, I thought March 20 was late but as it turns out, it didn't make a difference thanks to these fast growing early season cultivars. The Early Girls and Jetsetters I planted on March 20, were just as big as the beefsteaks, brandywines, paste and grape tomato varieties I planted on Feb. 7, - 6 weeks earlier! - Boy was I happy about that, but then it got better!

On April 20, I planted everything outside and by May 10, 21 days later, my 7.2 week old Early Girls and Jetsetters were taller/larger then the beef's and brandy's that were 13.1 weeks old. Although planted late, they have now outgrown the larger, later season varieties planted 6 weeks earlier. See the image below.

The Jetsetter (seeded March 20) on the left is clearly taller than the Beefsteak (Feb. 7) on the right. Date: May 10, 2009

Why am I growing in 5 gallon containers? I'll get to that in a minute. Next, let's compare the Jetsetter to the Early Girl.

In these 2 photographs, the Early Girl is on the left, and the Jetsetter is on the right. As you can clearly see, the Jetsetter is taller and has heavier foliage. Even so, the Early Girl (March 20) is still a respectable size, and compared to the Beefsteak (Feb. 7), is about the same size despite it's age difference. (Date: May 10, 2009).

Short explanation on why I'm growing these tall, indeterminate plants in buckets. In this part of Oklahoma (Tulsa area), the soil is really bad. It is sandy, permeated with clay, and filled with sedimentary rocks and other pebbles. It is horrible for a garden. Therefore, we have to buy our soil and compost. I would prefer a raised bed garden, but we'll be moving from this small, starter home to a larger house with acreage soon - as our family grows. Therefore, why invest $$ in a big, raised bed garden?

It's perfectly fine to grow tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets, lots of people do, (those kitsch, upside down tomatoes are in smaller containers) - but don't expect to get as many or as large of tomatoes. If you are going to grow tomatoes in a container, I would recommend larger, 10 to 25 gallon containers for indeterminate varieties such as these. Five gallon containers are more suited for the smaller, bushier, determinate types of tomato plants like Roma Tomatoes, grape and cherry tomatoes, or some of the bush size, compact cold season tomatoes.

During these cooler months, May through June, I'll water once a day. The temps are nice and there's plenty of rain. (It's rained for 2 weeks straight and wants to rain some more). In the summer, these buckets will heat up faster than raised bed/ground tomatoes so I'll water them twice a day and lay down a 3 inch layer of mulch. I might also try some blossom spray from Burpee's to try to keep them from falling off. Not sure if it'll work, but I'll give it a try.

Back to the Early Girl vs. Jetsetter competition. Okay, the Jetsetters are impressing me, and really growing fast, but keep in mind they don't mature for 64 days after transplanting. The Early Girls mature in, well, there is a lot discrepancy among the different seed companies who claim 52 to 62 days, but I expect these to mature at approximately 54 days - around mid-June. I hope.

Young Jetsetter Tomato in 5 gallon container
Close up, Jetsetter, 7.2 weeks old. Looking pretty good for so young.

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Disclaimer: The following Growing Journal is just one way to grow a Early Season tomato plant. There are many different methods, tips and do's and dont's on growing tomatoes. The following method is right for our climate zone, requirements, and situation. We hope that it will be helpful to readers. Also, tomatoes grown in containers larger than 5 gallons, (10 to 25 gallons) will produce more and larger fruit, but 5 gallon is what we have to work with this year.

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