Photo/Illustration: Nancy King
When my husband retired from the Navy and we set about gardening on Florida’s panhandle, tomatoes were high on our list of things to grow. We tried valiantly to rise above our soil, a highly acidic and wormless sand. We built raised beds, added organic fertilizers, and spread rock powders. We made compost as fast as we could gather leaves and grass clippings.
We planted our tomatoes and tended them carefully. They grew, sometimes to astounding size. But they always fell victim to the bacterial wilt endemic to our soil. The tomatoes of our dreams, meaty and juicy with a balance of sweet and acid, always eluded us.
We knew that growing tomatoes in the usual way would never produce anything but frustration. Thus we began to experiment with growing tomatoes in pots. The work came to involve not just soil but also tactics to fend off high humidity, broiling heat, frosts, and insects, insects, insects. Our efforts evolved into a system that works well in our small space.