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Smart Pots or Self-Watering Planters for tomatoes?

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Smart Pots or Self-Watering Planters for tomatoes?

Postby Ephos » Mar 23, 2012 11:57 am

Hi all,

Last year I grew some determinate tomatoes in home-made self-watering planters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-irrigated_planter

They turned out decent, but after researching, I've come across a possible rival to this system: Smart Pots.http://www.smartpots.com/

The advantages of self-watering are the water efficiency and control over water intake. I live on the 7th floor with a cement balcony and full sun, so it's reassuring to know the plants are never (too) thirsty.

The advantages of Smart Pots (from what I can tell) are the cooling effects and the 'air pruning', making the root system more vigorous. I worry, though, about the plants drying out.

Has anyone here used both and chosen a winner? Does anyone have strong opinions, one way or another about Smart Pots or sub irrigated planters?

Trying to decide on the best home for the wee tomats! Hoping for a big crop this year! Much appreciated :)
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Re: Smart Pots or Self-Watering Planters for tomatoes?

Postby OGrubber » Mar 24, 2012 1:50 am

Welcome Ephos,
I skimmed through the smartpot lit, and the impression I get is that they are intended for perennials or tree/shrub stock that would be "containerized" for a lengthy period/more than a year and are designed to basically prevent or retard root binding.

Imo, they would be a waste of money for annual vegetables. I don't do a lot of container growing, so maybe I'm not the best person to make this kind of assessment. However, I do grow tomatoes in containers when I have a new variety, to ensure a good supply of seed for the following season. If your containers are large enough, root binding shouldn't be an issue, so root pruning wouldn't be necessary. If you are not satisified with the results of the system you are already using you could try a larger pot or lightening your soil by mixing in organic matter or coir [either of which will also help in upping the moisture retention as well as "aerating" the density of your soil]. As to "cooling effects" placing your growing pot, inside another [a decorative pot, maybe]would give the same effect - or you could try wicker matting or wooden boards under the pots to deflect some of the bottom heat.

You also mentioned that you were growing determinates. Determinates have a very limited time for fruit set/harvest, so if you were hoping to have tomatoes for the length of the growing season you might want to consider growing indeterminates instead. You will get less numbers of ripe fruit per harvest, but they will continue to fruit until frost.

So. Sorry I haven't really answered your question as to which system I think is better. laf
Market Gardening - Just another day at the plant.
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Re: Smart Pots or Self-Watering Planters for tomatoes?

Postby Ephos » Mar 25, 2012 11:29 am

Hi OGrubber,

Thanks for your input :)

Last year I used 5 gallon buckets. This year I'm planning on growing cherry tomats with the same size bucket/smart pot so there should be plenty of room. I'm worried the indeterminates will be too much to handle in my tight space. As far as lightening the mix goes... definitely an idea. Last year I used 60-40 potting mix and compost.

In case you're curious, here's the site where I found out about the smart pots: http://www.grow-it-organically.com/cont ... ening.html

Thanks again!
-Ephos
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Re: Smart Pots or Self-Watering Planters for tomatoes?

Postby OGrubber » Mar 26, 2012 11:36 am

Not a problem.
Very interesting site. Quite indepth too, from what I read. Thanks for the link.
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