Posted by: locaphile | May 13, 2013

Tomatoes 2013: Time to get growing

Tomatoes Planted Out 2013

Tomatoes Planted Out 2013

I read about someone who feels that they grow an “unreasonable” number of tomatoes and I am starting to understand that feeling.  I suppose it depends on one’s circumstances and gardening situation but I think I may be pushing into the unreasonable for us, here in suburban Maple Ridge, BC.  We have just spent the better part of a week mixing soil-less mix and special tomato fertilizer for the containers.  The 33 plants are now out and ready to get growing.

Starting the bulk of tomato seeds back on March 7th and adding a couple more varieties through into the beginning of April was fine (though starting two weeks later in late April would have been fine too).  We are growing old favourites this year – they are lovely and we have the seeds on hand: Angora Super Sweet, Azoychka, Black Cherry, Black Ethiopian, Blondkopfchen, Boxcar Willie, Costoluto Genovese, Cream Sausage, Hillbilly, Indigo Rose, Orlov Yellow Giant, Paul Robeson, Purple Russian, and San Marzano Redorta.  Quite the exotic collection.  There are two hanging buckets awaiting a couple of tumbling tomatoes that haven’t been sourced yet.  Note to self: grow your own tumbling tomatoes from seed next year.

Dropping the mushroom manure we used last year and adding non-renewable peat moss (sorry world), we are trying a new soil-less mix recipe this year, the 5-1-1+:

  • 5 parts composted bark mulch
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part coarse perlite
  • + dolomite lime to adjust the mix’s Ph and add calcium.  One recommendation was for about 1/3 cup lime for each 6 gallon of mix.  The lime must be mixed in a let sit for a week to let the Ph settle.

We ordered in 2 cubic metres of composted bark mulch and spread out tarps all over the driveway to mix three batches of about 700 litres each.  It was a bit of a mess and an awful lot of soil-less mix to stir around but in the end almost all of the mix found homes in the tomato containers.

Soil-less Mix Production 2013

Soil-less Mix Production 2013

Soil-less Mix into Tomato Containers 2013

Soil-less Mix into Tomato Containers 2013











While the soil-less mix sat around adjusting its Ph, I was at work stringing tomato trellises, hardening off the tomatoes and gathering the ingredients for this year’s tomato fertilizer recipe.  This seems to be an unending work in progress, particularly around getting less nitrogen into the tomatoes to avoid excessive leafy growth and concentrate on fruit production.  Last year’s recipe was all right – see Spring Gardening: Too Busy to Blog Part II – but reading about other people’s experiences with organic fertilizer recipes on Tomatoville made me wonder what would happen if I took out the bone meal and added kelp meal and greensand.  I took out the lime that I usually put in the fertilizer as it was added to the soil-less mix already.

Organic Tomato Fertilizer 2013

Organic Tomato Fertilizer 2013

Tomato fertilizer recipe for 2013:

  • 1 part fish bone meal (Gaia Green 4N-22P-1K)
  • 1 part rock phosphate (Guano Rock Phosphate 0N-12P-0K)
  • 1 part kelp meal (1N-0P-2K)
  • 1 part wood ash
  • 1/2 part greensand (0N-1.5P-7K)
  • + 1 t epsom salts per 4 1/2 cups of fertilizer

Each tomato plant received 4 cups/1 litre mixed into its container, making the garden smell moderately fishy for awhile…  It will be interesting to see how this works out.

It is now pouring rain and blowing up a gale outside – I hope the tomatoes don’t resent it too much as I am looking forward to a great tomato season.  Fingers are crossed.



  • TomatoFest (tomato seeds with compelling descriptions, all of the above mentioned varieties except Indigo Rose)
  • Johnny’s Seeds (Indigo Rose tomato seeds)
  • Tomatoville (tomato obsessives’ site, “world’s largest online community of tomato growers!” – must join)


  1. Good luck with the tomatoes, can’t wait to see more pictures! 🙂

    • Thanks. We are looking forward to them too. Cheers.

  2. Just wondering why you use a soil-less mix.

    • We had a horrible case of late blight one year and have been forever scarred by the event – all the tomato plants and fruit rotted in the garden. It was a disaster and the garden became contaminated. Late blight is a challenge in this climate (Pacific Northwest). The nasty lives in the soil, is activated by water, and loves tomatoes as well as potatoes. If our growing medium has no soil and is mixed “fresh” every year then we greatly decrease our risk. We water the plants carefully to avoid wetting the foliage and all our containers sit under the cover of the house eaves or the little greenhouse which further decreases the chance of late blight. When the tomatoes are done in the autumn, we cycle the soil-less mix into non-tomato uses in the garden. Take a look at this information sheet:

  3. Don’t worry about too many tomatoes. They are easy to keep….just put your extra’s into zip lock bags and freeze them….you will have great tomatoes for sauces and soups all winter,

    • I so look forward to too many tomatoes! It is a couple of months away but I am already growing my plans for lots of sauces, salsas and pastes. I will make sure to freeze a few this year too. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Good luck with your tomatoes… I am only growing two types, just about 6 plants or so…

    • I think we started out with six plants in pots a few years ago. I keep finding spots to squeeze in more pots but we may have reached our maximum now. Best of luck with your tomatoes.

  5. […] vines enjoyed scrambling around in the hedge over the summer.  The bed is full of our homemade soil-less mix that was recycled from the tomato bins and had been busy growing the zucchini and pumpkins during […]

  6. […] soilless mix and fertilizer that I mixed last year did work very well so I will try to recreate it.  At the moment I am about a third short on […]

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