In an impressive display of proactiveness and organizational skills, I finally, three weeks later than planned, put the tomatoes in their final home. The containers I purchased to do this are nothing less than Calgary’s answer to the infamous Earthbox, the much less famous Maxi-kap. Designed by a Dutch company the Maxi-kap is exclusively produced by Garden Retreat garden centre, although a couple of other stores in Calgary carry it. The idea is about the same as the Earthbox – a self watering, self feeding container that has several advantages over regular container gardening.
First any container grown vegetable will be weed free. And until you’ve spent your afternoon weeding, you have no idea just how appealing that is. Secondly, it’s self-watering. Since some plants, tomatoes in particular are heavy drinkers this will eliminate daily watering. A light container will not overheat the roots of the plants requiring even more watering, the containers are very space efficient fitting three tomatoes and two cucumbers per box, and of course they are reasonably mobile allowing you a bit more leeway as far as placement.
They’re not all sun and roses though. I’ve seen some of the disadvantages first hand, my primary concern being tomato cages. More specifically the lack thereof. Since the containers are Styrofoam, you can’t exactly attach one to the side or on top without wrecking the box. One local gardener simply inserted the cages into the soil of the box, but mine promptly fell over when the slightest breeze blew, threatening to topple the plants in the process.
Secondly, the containers themselves should probably be on a platform of some sort, say one with wheels. The Earthbox has optional casters, as well as tomato cages that attach to the sides of the plastic box, plastic obviously being much more appropriate to the task. There are pretty cedar boxes on wheels that are sold separately for the maxi-kap, but at roughly a hundred dollars each, they ain’t cheap. If I get motivated I’ll build just a simple plywood platform and screw little wheels onto it. But that’s in the future – I’m nothing if not lazy.
The planting was easy enough:
Open the box and insert plastic liner inside.
Replace the lid and drop a cute water level ball into the watering hole.
Place bag of soil on top of the lid.
Reading that tomatoes do really well with a red mulch, I added a layer of that as well. We’ll see if it helps.
Cut holes out for the plants.
Root around the bottom of the bag of dirt and cut an X at the bottom of the bag over each planting hole.
Push the earth from the bag into each hole, make sure it’s packed reasonably well. You don’t want air pockets or they will prevent the water from reaching the roots.
Plant a tomato plant in each space. Get dirt all over you – it’s fun. Try not to destroy the tomato roots as you go.
Ta-da! Admire your handywork. Lament the lack of cages. Tell yourself you have a few days to rig something up. Pray the tomatoes do well.
My tomatoes didn’t get a chance to get hardened off properly. Between me being at work and not being able to babysit them, and the winds and the snow eliminating two weekends, they got perhaps three days of life in the shade outside before moving out. I know sun can burn delicate leaves that have never felt it unfiltered, and prepared some shade cloth to cover them (somehow?) if necessary, but for once the gods of weather were on my side. It’s been overcast yesterday and today in Calgary, with moderate temperatures, the odd drizzle but no harsh sun or overwhelming wind. If this keeps up for just a few more days, they should have an easier transition. Here’s hoping.