Last Chapter: Pet Tomato Chronicles


October 18, 2014

It was a novel idea that bore exceptional fruit, a trial grow I never anticipated covering on the site until it was too late to provide concrete comparisons. Here it is – that lush first fruit from the ‘pet tomato’ featured in three previous posts this summer. It was probably the most delectable of most of those grown here this year. Not that any of the ones picked from this plant later were found lacking in flavor, it’s hard to compare anything to a Green Zebra – they’re in a class all their own. This fruit, like the plant itself, is very special.

If you’ve been following Garden Culture for a few months, you will instantly know what that last sentence means, as well as what my pet tomato is all about. If not, it started as a test to see how well plants do grown in heavy ground soil in a Smart Pot, but morphed into trialing the most complete natural fertilizer available… human urine. It wasn’t just the bonafide dirt, the pot, or the inputs that made this tomato so big though, or so scrumptious, a good deal of credit must go to the cultivar. Marietta’s Peace is an exceptionally large-fruiting heirloom tomato known for incredible flavor. Just growing such a plant to the point of bearing fruit is nothing short of a miracle at the 45th parallel, unless one has row covers or a greenhouse, so it’s safe to say that from the moment the seed was ordered this experiment was born in chaos.

There was no planning beyond tomato lust. The idea to plant it in a Smart Pot in heavy clay soil with lavish embellishment of dense composted cow manure sort of erupted on a whim. I really wanted organic compost and the aged cow pies was all I could find fast the day I needed it. But instead of retelling it all again: START HERE to catch up with the rest of us.

So what happened after August 8?

Well, that huge green tomato at the end of the last post didn’t get any bigger really, it ripened into that one shown above. Yes, it’s got a hole in it in this new pic. Punctured trying to free it from the tomato cage and branches. No biggie. Say hello to lunch. It was sliced moments after it’s photo shoot 🙂

Did the N-pee-K trial increase the fruit’s flavor? I have no idea! This is the first year I’ve grown this variety, but they have excellent old-time tomato flavor. It definitely did boost the bloom count, and in short order, which is why that secondary experiment started. Growing in real soil in a container though, Smart Pot comes through with flying colors. Not any special soil mixed to scientific perfection either. This stuff is so high in clay content that it turns into a brick in my flower garden that sheds water if I don’t scratch it up once a month or so. And I put it in a pot! Then I reduced it’s ability to drain substantially by adding composted manure – lots of it. I put that same mix in a plastic pot with some cuttings later on and the water just sat on top for quite a while, then the contents was goo when it did drain. In standard container growing this is the perfect environment for rapid plant death.

As you can see, the pet tomato is not suffering or hampered, but living large in it’s fiber pot despite my disregard for known container planting protocol. Excessive rain we definitely had this summer, along with colder than normal temps, and still it grew like mad. If my season were longer, it would have borne a lot more lovely fruits than it did, but knowing this going in, I am thoroughly satisfied with the results of the plant, the pot, and the highly controversial fertilizer added to the stew this experiment turned into.

Smart Pot Tomatoes: August 13

Smart Container Growing Tomatoes: September 19

Not only will I do this next year and add a control plant for better growing data, I’m considering putting all of my tomatoes – perhaps most of my expansive garden into Smart Pots. This isn’t just for urban gardens or small yard growing. Fiber pot growing holds promise for solving a lot of issues even a rural gardener faces like weed and disease control, as well as reducing the amount of fuel needed to prepare and maintain a substantial vegetable garden. If your ground soil doesn’t drain, putting it in a Smart Pot might just solve the problem without a lot of amending – but test it first to make sure.

I would say that fabric aeration pots are brilliant, and from my long experience in the green industries and commercial container growing that is something pretty profound. I gotta get some more of these things, and no matter where you’re trying to grow food outside, you really should divorce the plastic pot! The potting mix you use is really not that great. It only guarantees plants will grow in this alien situation. The very components of standard potting media lacks in terms of acidity control, floats away from young root systems when watered, and it robs plants of nitrogen inputs because that’s just the nature of the wood bark, sawdust, or peat moss included in the mix. These elements need nitrogen to break down, and can also tie up valuable crop needs like iron.

It’s only natural to grow your crops in soil. Soilless mix was invented for growing in an artificial environment. Smart Pots are totally awesome… so far. Now thanks to even more poor planning on my part, I’m going to test them to their longevity standing in the elements filled with dirt constantly through everything Mother Nature delivers in zone 4. (The pet tomato may have been tortured to death by frost, but this isn’t really the end of the Smart Pot Trials.)

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *