The Real Soil Experiment

I call it my ‘pet tomato’, because it’s special. A distinction that brought the local progressive garden shop owner to think that I have just one tomato plant this summer. Heck no, I have 30 other ones out in the garden. This one is distinctive. The heirloom fruits are supposed to hit 1-2 pounds, and because of that getting a vine-ripened harvest means protective cover for at least a month, maybe six weeks. Only the unexperienced grow 85-day tomatoes outside in the north end of the northern states without giving them shelter from early frost. Temps can hit the freezing point here as early as mid-September.

All of that aside, it’s the real soil growing in a container that is the big experiment here. Not potting mix. Though there is a wee bit mixed in to loosen up this topsoil I got last summer, which turned out being more clay than sand. Not the greatest soil, but a far sight better than this super sandy loam to straight sand soil that exists naturally on this property. And then I added compost with manure to sweeten the pot so-to-speak. The lady at the plant place warned me about being careful using this in a container. She was right, it is some heavy stuff… but I didn’t realize how heavy until my pet tomato was planted in this huge container, and I got out the hose to water it in.

The water stacked up on the top. Hmmm, not good from my experience. BUT this isn’t a plastic pot, it’s a Smart Pot made out of fabric. So, like what’s the worst thing that can happen here? It’s an experiment. It’s not like I absolutely NEED this tomato plant, though harvesting tomatoes that big will be a nice thrill. In the end, I decided to just leave it be and see what happens. I can always shovel most of the soil back out again and adjust the mix with more sand if the plant starts looking under the weather.

Hah! This plant is so happy it’s glowing, and growing like a weed. None of the other tomatoes out back are this delighted. Of course, they’re not living in such posh conditions. Which is part of the reason that I need 30 of them, but that’s another story. It’s also what led me to starting the pet tomato project, well that and I’m going to succeed at growing Marianna’s Peace tomatoes to vine-ripened harvest stage.

Now this plant has not been given any fertilizer until just yesterday, after realizing it could use a little bloom booster juice. The composted manure in that bag or organic compost was all the nutrient it’s had beyond whatever is available in this soil. Also, it is important to note that it didn’t get out of it’s seed starter cell pack until June 27th. I was too busy with garden planting until then. Doesn’t seem to matter much. Look at this bad boy grow!

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Planting Day: June 24

Planting Day: June 24

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6 Days' Growth: June 30

6 Days’ Growth: June 30


An outdoor grown tomato with fruit already? Yes! Look closely at the June 30 photo. In Zone 4b-5a? Totally awesome 🙂

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3 Weeks' Growth: July 16

3 Weeks’ Growth: July 16

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28 Days' Growth: July 21

28 Days’ Growth: July 21


Awesome Growth

For this climate anyway. We have chilly nights and some pretty cool daytime temps too. None of the tomatoes out in the big garden had any fruit by June 30th, but my pet tomato does, and it’s good sized at that. In just 5 days from planting, the seedling doubled in size – a starter that wasn’t very big at that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty impressed with Smart Pots. They drain just like the ground, and may actually improve growth over growing in the ground for a lot of people whose soil isn’t the best – like mine. Th stuff I have mixed in this container is really heavy, and water moving from the surface through the soil in this pot is slow, but it does drain. Obviously the tomato is pretty besotted with the situation. I do see signs of a lack of nitrogen as of today, so it’s time to give it more nutrition and I scratched in some Happy Frog tonight to cure that before it becomes an issue.

That tomato in the image at the top of this page is getting huge. It should be ready to eat along about Labor Day. Betcha a slice is bigger than a piece of bread 😉

Stay tuned for a Pet Tomato Chronicles update.

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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.