Frugal Living 

BFP Garden Project: Need More Planters & Potting Soil

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This weekend we took our potentially financially viable crop and turned it into a 100% guaranteed financial loss (but no worries, we’re building for the future!). As it turns out, tomatoes need about a quarter of my body weight in dirt to grow to their full potential and we weren’t even close to having that much space for them with the existing planters we had. We knew that tomatoes grew best in the ground but we didn’t have anywhere in the ground to put them that actually got any sun, so planters were our only other option. We clearly did not have enough planters for them so we visited the local Home Depot to pick up planters and some more potting soil.

Trip damage cost: $61.20
Total cost: $90.20 ($29 spent on the kickoff of the BFP Garden Project)

We bought three big pots (two 20″ wide and one 16″ wide) for some of the tomatoes and the eggplant, plus six cubic feet of potting soil. It turns out we got potting soil that was really nutrient rich and had to be mixed in with existing ground soil (it was the type of stuff that had lot of compost in it), so we really only used about 5/6ths of the $23.31 of potting soil we purchased, but now we’re splitting hairs.

Planters for Tomatoes

As you can see in the above, we packed in 4 and then 5 tomato plants in each of the bigger planters and then stuck a tomato with an eggplant in the smaller 16″ planter. We’ll see how the packed in party goes… we didn’t have any other place for the tomatoes so we did the best with the space we have.

I considered doing the proper corporate accounting method of amortizing the pots to make the financials work a little better but what’s the schedule for plastic planter pots? Five years? Seven years? Thirty? 🙂

Anyway, it’s possible that our $90 investment can yield, in its first year, $90 worth of vegetables but who knows. We’ll keep our eyes on the little guys and you never know!

Anyone have any more gardening advice? Both of us aren’t experienced in the ways of the green so any and all advice is appreciated!

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “BFP Garden Project: Need More Planters & Potting Soil”

  1. Bill says:


    I like it! You may want to consider acquiring some plant rods (not sure if there is more specific name) for your tomato plants so that they can grow nice and tall.

    Great job…once I get some free time and energy, I’ll be right there with you.


  2. jim says:

    Ahhh yes, we do have three of those sitting on the side (not in the picture) and we plan on cutting up some old socks as ties.

  3. Sparkyk1971 says:

    Oh, boy… I do container tomatoes on my deck as I have no yard. You best not put so many plants per pot. Tomatoes require about 1 5-gallon pot per plant. Yours are going to kill each other. That’s partly why I only do 3 tomato plants every year – you may want to consider planting fewer plants. You might be able to do 2 plants in the larger pots (20″), but even that will be tight.

    Additionally, you need to stake those puppies before the root systems expand, not afterward. Good luck!

  4. Katrin says:

    Hey Jim,
    Did you consider buying a long rectangular planters (Home Depot has plastic ones that are pretty cheap) and you can fit more plants in each one.
    Good luck!

  5. jim says:

    We have the longer ones for other plants, I think tomato root systems are really big so they need to spread out as far as they can… I should really research this online. 🙂

  6. Patrick says:

    My wife and I are in the same situation (no yard w/ sunlight) and we planted tomato plants in large pots. I think we used a 5 gallon pot. We also used an inverted conical metal support that surrounded the plant and supported the leaves when they started to bear fruit. Our tomatoes tasted great, but we didn’t produce very many. I’m sure there are a few things we could have done better. My wife and I would love to have a real garden one day, but that will have to wait.

  7. Jason says:

    Hey Jim,

    You may want to consider maybe a little more complex container system to increase usable space and increase yields. I have used containers for the last three years to grow tomatoes and have had great results from the ones I made. There is a company that makes “official” versions called earthbox but they are very expensive. I found plans online that you can assemble 2-3 homemade ones for the cost of a “real” one. I did actually buy an earthbox but I think the ones I made work better. You just need to google “earthbox plans” and one link turns up a .pdf that has all the plans for a few different versions that may interest you.

    Any questions let me know!

  8. mike says:

    You definately might want to consider no more than 2 tomotoes per 20″, 1 would be ideal. Those suckers will get huge! You don’t want to choke them out.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Just to comment on what others have already said, but you need to get additional pots for those tomatoes. Tomato plants have a pretty extensive root system, and a healthy plant alone can grow 3+ feet tall and a few feet wide. And you need them to grow big and healthy to be able to support a high yield of fruit.

    I made the mistake of having crowded tomatoes my first year, and I was growing them in a garden, not even in containers. Give them their space so their foliage can absorb as much sun as possible and develop a strong root system. I have a feeling if you leave that many tomatoes in one pot, you’ll either wind up with dead plants, or just a couple fruits, which wouldn’t be very exciting.

  10. You may be able to get some big plastic food grade containers for free from your local grocery store/bakery etc-see this article at “You Grow Girl:

    I’ve also read that tomatoes are one of those plants that actually does well when progressively planted in larger pots. Each time you can plant it DEEPER than the last time (covering up part of the stem) and the stem will start to grow roots out of it-giving the plant a better root system. So if you decided to replant them one to a pot you may want to consider it.

    On the cost value, I usually ignore any kind of formal accounting and ignore the cost of things that will get reused ad infinitum.

  11. Jay says:

    Once you’ve thinned out the tomatoes, and before they get very big, I’d suggest a “cage” for each one. You can even just get some fencing or screen, something sturdy with big enough holes for your hand or a gigantic tomato to fit through, make a circle and anchor in the soil around the tomato plant. As it grows it’ll have something to rest the branches laden with fruit on. Do pinch back the little sucker branches, as they don’t produce fruit but take vital nutrients from the bigger fruit bearing branches. Obviously there’s a lot online onthe care and feeding of tomatoes. Good luck!

  12. Jennifer says:

    Consistent moisture and hot weather are the keys to successful tomatoes. Particularly if you have that many plants in one pot. Don’t let the soil dry out, but don’t keep it drenched. A happy medium.
    And use fertilizer. There are many brands available. A water-soluble is best, Miracle-Gro Food for Tomatoes.

  13. Thats an interesting garden idea and execution. But in all the case your tomatoes need staking in near future and have ideal moisture and liquid fertilizers. $90 out of tomatoes n egg plant – not big!

  14. Catherine says:

    I am so glad you are growing tomatoes…The first one will taste fantastic.
    This is seriously ugly but a very resonable way to plant: since tomatoes have fairly shallow roots and need area but not much depth is to use a tall kitchen bag with filled with soil.
    Use enough soil to measure 6 inches deep when on it side like a bed pillow. slice an X in the top and plant one plant in it. poke a few small holes in the bottom and put the whole assembly somewhere it does not need to move for the growning season. In times of wind or high heat the moisture is maintained under the plastic.
    Also free five gallon buckets are always a great option for planters. fill the bottom with your shredded junk mail and put in at least 8 inches of potting soil Plant one tomato plant in each. Great Blog too.

  15. Right, Catherine! Jim, you don’t need to buy pots at HD. Think outside the pot…er, box.

    The plastic bag idea is ingenious (your neighbors will love you if you put the things on a balcony! cackle!!!). If you try this scheme, use white ones, not black or dark green, because the dark color will absorb a lot of the sun’s heat and bake the roots.

    Look for cheap alternatives to pots: discarded boxes, old wooden crates, large plastic paint buckets (call a painter–those guys throw them out by the dozen), the inside holes of cinderblocks (tarragon and rosemary thrive in these, for unknown reasons), those concrete drainpipe pieces you can get at masonry yards, plastic tubs from thrift stores and yard sales, etc. Yard sales, BTW, are good places to find perfectly fine plant pots at bargain prices, BTW.

    Other commenters are right about the number of tomatoes/pot. Put in a tomato and then use some other small veggie, such as a butter lettuce plant or two, to fill in and maximize use of the soil. Radishes, lettuce, chives, green onions, and the smaller varieties of carrot will do.

    For hevvinsake don’t water those things on the deck. Get four or five small pebbles of about the same size and slip them under the rim of the bottom of the pot, so as to hold the pot up off the surface. This will really cut down on the growth of mold under the pot and on discoloration of the deck or concrete under the pot. Also it obviates having your pot sit in a dishful of water (rots roots, breeds mosquitoes).

    Wire “cages” to support the tomato vines are handy. Here are two more frugal alternatives:

    * At HD or your nursery, look for green, stiff plant supports about two or three feet high. They’re just green sticks–I think they’re made of plastic. They’re very cheap. You just poke them into the soil and then gently tie the plant to them as the plant grows.

    * Stack three or four cinderblocks, or flip an empty plastic pot upside down. Use this as a stand. Place your tomato pot on top of the stand, and allow the vines to cascade down. This keeps the vine and the tomatoes off the ground without your having to tie them up at all. A variation on this is to hang the pot from a beam, if you have one that’s sturdy enough to hold the weight.

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