Can I grow tomatoes in my yard?
April 6, 2015 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Is there any good reason why I can't grow tomatoes in area with grass? Snowflakes inside....

For the past several years I have had very good luck with growing tomatoes in a regular tilled garden. Where I live has very poor clay soil so a friend introduced me to the idea of basically growing tomatoes like you do in a container, only in the ground.

In my tilled dirt area, I'd dig a hole about 2' in diameter and 2-3' down with a post hole digger. Fill the hole with a mixture of compost, regular soil, fertilizer, etc. and then put the tomato plant in this hole. I have fantastic results growing this way and I normally plant around 30 tomoto plants and 10 pepper plants like this. I grow beans & flowers just in the regular soil without the holes.

This year however, I am having to move the location of my garden. The place where I'd like to move it to is currently a grassy area. Is there any reason I couldn't do the same thing with the holes but not till up all the surrounding soil? I'd be planting the same except with putting what would effectively be a weed/grass barrier around the periphery of the hole (like 12" or so of a 5 gallon bucket), where I could run a weedeater right up next to the bucket and not disturb the plant. Here is a couple of pictures of a guy that grows hops (vine that has flowers for bittering beer) this same way..he apparently has been doing it this way for years with no problems - he's not far from where I live.

Picture 1
Picture 2

As I see it, I end up hauling mulch back in to cover the bare dirt in my 'traditional' garden to retain moisture and block weeds & erosion, so the grass in my yard would be the same sort of thing only it's already there.

Good/bad/ugly?..........
posted by dukes909 to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't see any reason this wouldn't work.
posted by caryatid at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2015


I don't see why this wouldn't work either. You're essentially making a bottomless container garden. As long as you amend the soil, it should be fine. Last year I had volunteer tomatoes growing straight from the lawn near my compost pile.
posted by Think_Long at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2015


I think that looks great and it should work fine. You'd certainly keep all the worms and whatnot under the sod pretty closeby, to say nothing of holding water in during dry spells.
posted by jquinby at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2015


I assume you don't spray your lawn with weedkiller or pesticide? It should be fine. Heck, even pesticide is probably OK as long as you wash everything well. Weedkiller, that probably won't work well.
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2015


Nope, no pesticides or herbicides used at my place.
posted by dukes909 at 9:32 AM on April 6, 2015


It's pretty much what I have done in the past, and seemed to be popular among engineering-minded tomato hobbyists always looking to build a better backyard tomato.

They also had very strong opinions about whether one must put fish heads down the hole first, but tomatoes seemed to happen either way so I'll leave that as an exercise you can conduct or not.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2015


Basically you'd be going from a 24" diameter tilled region to a 12" diameter, but otherwise treating the same? That's probably okay. Depending on how incredibly dense and clayey your surrounding soil is, the finer tomato root fibers would probably not penetrate, so it would be very equivalent to growing in a hard-walled bucket. In general, tomato plants in a 5-gallon bucket can thrive and generate good fruit, though the same plants in a nonrestricted volume might grow to a bigger height or produce slightly more fruit. But it'll definitely work well even if it's not perfect.
posted by aimedwander at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2015


Oh actually the one thing I would add - we built raised beds last year and our tomato plans did OK but we had a lot of blossom-end rot. New potting soil or compost may not be high enough in calcium to support the fruit. So throw in some fish heads or some commercial tomato fertilizer in the bottom of the hole before putting in the plants.
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 AM on April 6, 2015


The one thing to keep in mind is depending on the variety of tomato you grow, 5 gallons is not a lot of soil for tomatoes. Even Roma tomatoes are cutting it close with that amount of soil. I tried to grow big boys last year in 15 gallons and it became obvious very quickly that I needed more soil for them. My advice would be to cut the bottom out of the bucket and possibly drill some holes around the side to give the root system ample room to grow.
posted by lpcxa0 at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2015


Were you going to cut the bottom out of the five gallon bucket? My only concerns would be whether it was deep enough as Ipcxa0 says and drainage. If the bucket is intact (and even if you cut the bottom out or drill holes, clay doesn't drain very well), be a little cautious in how much you water and look for yellowing leaves.

Good luck! I hope it works. Clay soil is a PITA. And thanks for the idea. We are expanding our garden into a heavily grass/clay soil pasture. I'm going to give this a try in a few areas.
posted by Beti at 10:18 AM on April 6, 2015


We did this last year and had nice tomatoes. I would recommend spacing them far enough apart to now around them wit the pushmower so you don't need to weedwack at all. I didn't use any type of barrier but only had a tomato lattice for climbing.
posted by waving at 10:35 AM on April 6, 2015


Yes I was going to cut the bottom out of the bucket. Sorry I didn't make that clear.
posted by dukes909 at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2015


Basically you'd be going from a 24" diameter tilled region to a 12" diameter, but otherwise treating the same? That's probably okay. Depending on how incredibly dense and clayey your surrounding soil is, the finer tomato root fibers would probably not penetrate, so it would be very equivalent to growing in a hard-walled bucket.

I gotta echo others' concerns that this is a bit tight, even with the bottom cut out of the bucket. It'll work, but I expect you might have a harder time getting your vines sturdy enough to support the ripe tomatoes, and you'll have a greater risk of nutrient deficiencies if the plants are getting rootbound. I do all my gardening in containers, and the only tomatoes I grow in 5 gal pots are cherry/grape tomatoes, the medium-size varieties want more room.

I'd just advise digging your holes a few feet deeper so that your plants have a little more room to wiggle their toes.
posted by desuetude at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2015


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