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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Weekly Express-News Article

By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist

Saturday, March 22, 2008

“Tomatoes and Peppers in Containers”

With the change in the weather, gardeners start thinking tomatoes. Most of us think of growing them in raised beds or enriched native soil, but they also do very well in containers. Consider the following recommendations to increase your chance of success.

Although you can successfully grow a tomato plant in a five-gallon container, it is easier if the container is larger. A container of the size of a half-whiskey barrel works better because there is more soil reservoir for the root system. In such a container, watering once per day or every two days is usually enough. A plant full of fruit in a five-gallon container may have to be watered several times a day to avoid stressing the plant. A tomato plant in a small container is also top heavy and prone to blow over.

Find a spot in full sun for the container. It also helps if it is out of the wind, but that is not always possible. Fill your container with high quality potting soil. Avoid $.99 cent specials, they are usually mostly sand. Enrich the soil with Osmocote or a similar slow release fertilizer for containers.

Almost any recommended variety will work as a container tomato, but I have two favorite choices. Surefire is becoming harder and harder to find, but a few plants will be available at area nurseries this year. It produces a firm, tennis ball size fruit on a relatively small compact plant. For cherry tomato lovers, look for the new “dwarf cherry surprise” tomato. It is one of Jerry Parson’s tomatoes that has shown outstanding warm weather and pest-resistance performance in preliminary tests. It is especially desirable for container culture because it is entirely determinant, it grows its foliage and when it reaches its full size, stops growing to concentrate on fruit production. Use Surefire or Dwarf Cherry Surprise and you are assured that your container plants won’t be eight feet tall without any fruit.

Patio tomatoes marketed for containers are also available. The foliage is very lush and attractive; unfortunately, the fruit quality is not very high.

Support your container tomato with an aluminum tomato cage. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. In addition to the Osmocote, provide an application of a soluble container fertilizer dissolved in water every two weeks.

Watch for insects. Stinkbugs and caterpillars such as hornworms are just as likely to attack container grown tomatoes as they are those planted in the garden. Spinosad is a new organic option for caterpillars, but you will probably have to rely on Sevin or malathion for stink bugs.

A second good vegetable for summer container culture is the pepper. They are more drought-tolerant, more attractive, require less fertilizer and make more compact plants than tomatoes, but will do very well with the same basic care.

Peppers also produce over a longer season than tomatoes. In most cases, your pepper will make a good show and produce until late fall while the tomatoes should be replanted in July.

My favorite pepper for containers (and the garden) are the mild bananas because they are wonderful to eat fresh, in salads, or cooked and they are showy; but there is a very large choice of varieties. One habenero or jalapeño plant will provide all the hot peppers required for most small families. Ornamental peppers can also be eaten and they make a great show with their selection of colored fruit.