The two indoor tomato plants have shot up and they are really desperate to be transplanted into bigger pots. Look how big this one is!
We have been reluctant to transplant them because we are eager to move to our own flat and take them with us. Unfortunately the plants cannot wait any longer so, at the risk of becoming nomadic gardeners rather than urban gardeners, we have bitten the bullet.
Self-watering containers make a lot of sense for tomatoes because they will need a lot of water when they start to fruit. We are very happy to get up a bit earlier to water them every morning. But seeing as we are both out at work all day there is no chance to water them again in the afternoon, if necessary. Therefore self-watering containers can help us make sure they always have enough.
After studying the subject a bit we decided a reservoir system is the most straightforward. We went out to search a few shops for the necessary implements to make our own. This is all the stuff we bought today.
In our quest we found this commercial model. It cost £7 so we decided to give it a go. It is not exactly cheap, but it is much better value than any of the other similar pots we saw for sale. As we have two tomatoes to transplant we have decided to try one in the commercial model and one in our home made model. This container has a reservoir for water. Over the reservoir is a ‘false bottom’ with holes in it to allow the water through. Finally a pipe comes up through the soil to facilitate getting the water into the reservoir. There are also two overflow holes in the reservoir to avoid water logging.
We filled the container up half way with compost first. As we now have a couple of mint plants, and mint is supposed to complement tomatoes very well, we decided to add a mint plant to this container. On account of mint’s tendency to spread we cut the bottom off a small pot and put this down into the container first.
This is the bottom of the mint from the pot it was in. it certainly made itself at home since we plantedit. It has moved into a slightly bigger pot now. Hopefully this pot will be big enough. The roots will be able to go down into the soil below the pot but it should still be constrained from spreading and taking over.
After the mint the tomato was next. Happily it looks less pot bound than I was afraid it might be. We planted the tomato down deep, up to its first set of leaves. This means it is probably about an inch deeper than it was in the small pot. This is OK to do for tomato plants and it should allow it more stability. We also added a stake beside the main stem. The stake was tied in loosely with a piece of wool.
Finally, on a whim, we decided to add some basil seeds to the compost. Basil and tomato are also good companion plants and basil probably doesn’t have very deep roots, so it should be alright. This pot will be left outside, under glass for a while, to harden it off. It is likely that it will not be warm enough for the basil to grow but it is worth a shot. I can’t imagine that it is possible to have too much basil if it does all sprout!
The very last step was to fill the reservoir with water and water a bit from the top to settle it all in. this immediately showed the first design flaw of the commercial container. The overflow comes out the bottom of this container so it was necessary to lift it off the grass to see if there was too much water in it and it was overflowing.
Tomorrow we plan to put together a homemade version of the same type of container. Hopefully that goes well. I will keep you posted.