Thursday, October 29, 2015

Growing Cherry Tomatoes with Less Watering and Less Work

No suburban garden is complete without tomatoes.  Tomatoes are a great joy to grow, especially with a raised bed garden.  However, we have had the problem of tomato splitting and frequent watering needed by tomatoes in the past.  We were hoping we could overcome that with the Groasis Waterboxx

We planted a roma and cherry tomato in our raised bed garden on May 2, 2015.  These tomatoes had been grown from seed inside prior to that.  We then placed the white evaporation cover which comes with the Waterboxx around the base of these and carefully placed the Waterboxx over the tomatoes, with the tomatoes poking out of the "Figure 8" central opening.
Here you see a roma (left) and cherry (right) tomato planted in a raised bed on 5/2/15.  The  Groasis Waterboxx was placed over these and filled with 15 liters (~4 gallons) of water.

This Waterboxx has had 2 wicks inserted in it.  We filled the Waterboxx with ~15 liters of water, and capped them.  We will not fill the Waterboxx again unless it is needed.  If the Waterboxx only has one wick, no refilling is needed.  The tomatoes grew very well with the Waterboxx and had no transplant shock due to the blanketing effect of the Waterboxx.

The roma (left) and cherry (right) tomatoes on 5/19/15.  These have not gotten any watering except that provided by the Waterboxx.  Because the Waterboxx refills itself with dew and rainwater, it will likely be able to go the whole summer without needing to be manually refilled, even with one extra wick. 

Seventeen days passed between initial planting and the photograph above with a great deal of growth.  We are already well ahead of where we have been in previous years and hope to have tomatoes within the next 3-4 weeks.  As you can see, we have previously hung a string trellis behind the tomato plant and the raised bed.  You will want to make sure any string trellis you hang is to the north of your garden beds to prevent blocking sunlight from reaching your plants (assuming you are in the Northern Hemisphere).

On the evening of May 24, we checked the water level in our Waterboxx.  It was going dry after 3 weeks without any significant rainfall.  We received a very small amount of rain (less than 1/8 inch) the next morning, but this was enough to add over once inch of water to the Waterboxx reservoir.  We do not plan to refill the Waterboxxes manually with water but will note here if we do.  If the Waterboxx only has one wick, it generally will not need refilled during an entire growing season, but these Waterboxxes have 2 wicks.

Over the next few days, we received about 1 inch of rain.  This has kept the Waterboxx from drying out.  We did not add any water to the Waterboxx reservoir.

The Roma (right) and Cherry (left) tomatoes are now so large that you can hardly see the Waterboxx.  No water has been added to the Waterboxx manually since planting, but it maintains water in its reservoir.  If we didn't use the Waterboxx when planting these tomatoes, we would have needed to water every 2-3 days and mulch them to keep soil moisture consistent - but the Waterboxx does both of these functions with no effort from us.
The Waterboxx holding these tomatoes has still never been refilled with water.  So, these tomatoes have grown for 6 weeks so far with no human watering.


The Roma (left) and Super Sweet 100 (right) tomato plants, completely covering the Waterboxx at their base on June 18, 2015.  No water has been given these plants since early May when the Waterboxx was placed. 
We have begun seeing large numbers of tomatoes for the first time over the past two weeks.

Roma tomatoes on June 30, with no Water added after planting with the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon®
Now you can see why the Waterboxx makes it so much easier to plant tomatoes.  These tomatoes have not needed any work except attaching to a trellis - no weeding or watering - since planting.

The Sweet 100 Tomatoes on June 30 - no water added after planting with the Waterboxx Plantcocoon®
We did add 4 small Jobe's organic fertilizer spikes to the soil around the Waterboxx sheltering the plants on July 1.

In early July we had a series of severe storms here in Indiana which did damage our tomato plants somewhat even though they were in a protected location.  This storm did destroy our roma tomato plant, but less than 5% of our cherry tomato (Sweet 100) plant.

We have harvested 1544 cherry tomatoes in total this year  Although this variety of cherry tomatoes is renowned for splitting if not picked in time, we had less than 1% of our cherry tomatoes split because the Waterboxx provides such consistent moisture.

Our final harvest of cherry tomatoes grown with the Waterboxx.  We harvested 1544 cherry tomatoes this year from one plant, which was never watered after Waterboxx set up (and initial filling with 4 gallons of water).
You can buy the Groasis Waterboxx here.  We are growing several other plants with the Waterboxx, a complete list is available here

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