As an engineer, Richard Chapman of Niantic, Conn., appreciates a smooth-running system. When he started growing tomatoes in containers on his deck, he discovered a high-yielding, low-input system that produces tomatoes by the basketful: the Tomato Success Kit.
Richard has grown vegetables his entire adult life, and has lived in his present home for the past 20 years. His backyard vegetable garden, a 20 x 30-foot raised bed, has always produced well, but as the trees on his property have grown, the yard has become shadier. "I grow many different vegetables in my garden including lettuce, shallots, onions, radishes, and peppers. They grow well, but recently I've noticed the tomatoes weren't producing as much as in the past," he says. Then he discovered Tomato Success Kits. "I've always had good success with other Gardener's Supply products, so I thought I'd try growing tomatoes in containers on my 1,000-square-foot deck," he says.
"I tried two Tomato Success Kits about four years ago," he says. The difference in production between the tomatoes grown in the garden and those in the kits was amazing. "I produced probably four to five times more fruits in the kits on my deck than in my garden and I could start earlier in the season," says Richard. Each year, Richard has added two more kits, and as of last summer he had a total of 10.
Richard has experimented with a number of tomato varieties in the success kits. "I've whittled it down to some favorite heirlooms, such as Green Zebra, Brandywine, and Garden Peach and some favorite hybrids such as Big Boy and Lemon Boy," says Richard. For most of the summer his deck gets plenty of sun. Later in the season, when parts of it get shaded, Richard simply rolls the containers to a sunnier spot. (For more information, read How to Choose Tomato Plants.)
What really appeals to Richard is the foolproof nature of the Tomato Success Kits. "I followed the instructions exactly, using the GSC soil, fertilizer, tubs, red plastic mulch and metal cages and they produced wonderfully," says Richard. "As an engineer, I appreciate a system that works as advertised," he says. The proof is in the eating. Last year Richard produced 50 pounds of Brandywine tomatoes from one kit (which contained two plants). "Everyone who visited was impressed with the plants. I even gave a success kit to a neighbor and now he's growing tomatoes on his deck," he says.
Because Richard has to travel with his job, he particularly likes the self-watering system that's built into the success kits. "Between the water reservoir and the wicking mat, I can leave the tubs for three to four days in summer and the plants don't even wilt," he says. He also likes the Plant Caddies. "I can move the containers around for the best sun location or to protect them from frost. I'm usually picking fruit until the end of October," says Richard.
Richard has even tried growing cucumbers in the containers. "Last year I grew enough cucumbers in one tub to make 30 pints of pickles," he says. For more on this topic, read Growing Vegetables in Containers and Container Gardening How-To.
So what does Richard do with all this produce? "I love to cook, so between making sauce, making pickles, canning tomatoes, serving tomatoes fresh at dinner and giving them away, everything gets eaten," he says.
Because his deck is now almost filled with containers, Richard is considering growing vertically to create more gardening space. "I may experiment with growing other plants, such as zucchini, in the containers and trellising them up," he says. Whatever Richard grows, he knows the best part about gardening is coming home, relaxing and decompressing after a long day of work. "For me it's truly a labor of love," he says.
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