Through years of trial and error, we have found what we feel is the best way to grow Tomatoes, peppers, and many other vegetables with little maintenance, and amazing, consistent results. (we often end up with very productive 8 to 9 foot plants.) What we affectionately call the "tomato Tainer"
To get started, you will need a few tools, and a few materials. Here is the list.
Materials and tools:
6" to 8" U.V. resistant zip ties (Wal mart is a great source.)
A Sharpie, or other permanent marker. (easy to find.)
A small bucket (We get 1.5 gallon empty food grade buckets from Wal Mart's bakery for free)
A 55 gallon food grade barrel (Tree top sells their empty barrels near us for $5.00 each.)
A Electric ( or battery operated) drill, with a 1/4" bit
A skill saw, or other saw to do some surgery on the barrel
A Jig saw
A piece of 1 1/2" PVC (Schedule 40 or thin wall), about 14" long
About a half hour of free time to accomplish the project
Step 1: Cut the Barrel, and Prepare the Bucket.
First, make sure your barrel is washed out, and well rinsed. If there are two lids, remove one.
We cut about the bottom 6" off the barrel, this becomes the base of your tainer.
Next, cut the top 12" off the barrel, this will be your "pot"
Using your drill, drill holes all over the bucket, to allow water to wick into the compost in your plant pot.
Place your bucket (right side up) on top of what was the barrel top in the center, and use your sharpie to mark a line around the bottom of the bucket.
Next, use your jig saw to cut out the circle that you just marked. I suggest cutting about 1/4" outside the line, to make it a little bigger, so your bucket will fit snugly into the bottom of the container when we are done.
Drill holes in the top piece of the barrel around the hole you have made for the bucket, this will allow for aeration to the roots of the plant(s)
Step 2: Mark and Drill Some Holes, and Put Your Tainer Together.
Place the top of the barrel upside down, on the bottom of the barrel we cut off earlier, and make marks on top and botton (lined up, as this is where your zip ties are going to go). The easiest way I have found to keep it lined up is to make your first mark a long one, so that you can line them up easily after drilling your holes.
Mark both top and bottom (Right under the ridge on the "top" of the barrel, angled down to make it easy, and straight in on the bottom section.) These marks should be around 4" to 5" apart. The more zip ties you put in, the stronger it will be).
Drill your holes.
After drilling all the holes, place the top of the barrel (inverted) on the bottom, match up your marks, and start putting zip ties in, DO NOT ZIP THEM DOWN YET! Once all your zipties are in, you can go around and tighten them, tucking the tail into the top hole to keep it looking neat.
Step 3: Add Bucket, and PVC, Fill, and PLANT!
Push your bucket all the way down in the hole, (it will be SNUG). and place the length of PVC into the open bung.
Fill with soil, making sure to pack it down tight as soon as the bucket is full, to keep it from washing out later. Top off your tainer,
I suggest a good top watering before plants go in, and then put the hose into the pipe, and fill until the water overflows out of the zip tie holes.
Now it is time to plant! Tainers accomplish a couple things, for one, your tainers will only need to be filled about once a week, maybe even less in the beginning of the season, by the end of the season, with a inderterminate plant, you may need to fill it every couple days, but that is a small price to pay for a 8 to 9 foot tomato plant!
In addition, tomatoes specifically, do not like their foliage to be watered, so by watering at the root level, you make your plants super happy!
As a side note, the row of tainers in the 2nd to last picture have 8 foot cages, and you can see that the plants are getting close to the tops.