Overall rating – 5 stars (out of 5) for results/effectiveness, 4 stars for the product and value
I am a long time gardener with lots of experience growing tomatoes (as well as peppers and eggplants – more on those later). When we moved into our Raleigh home 25 years ago, I hand dug a garden in the side yard, Over the years, the surrounding trees grew to a point where the garden no longer received enough hours of direct sun. The best sun location turned out to be our driveway, Moving the garden there meant learning all about container gardening, a perfect alternative to traditional dirt gardening. The main challenges are providing sufficient water and feeding, particularly during hot summers, and figuring out ways to keep the plants upright. Let me tell you....I've found a perfect solution! Read on....
After publication of my book, Epic Tomatoes, I was asked by Gardener's Supply Company to test and evaluate their Gardener’s Revolution Classic Tomato Garden Kit. My plan was to test the product using three types of crops that achieve similar height and provide similar challenges for successful container gardening. The product instructions clearly designate that it is not suitable for indeterminate (tall growing) tomatoes, so I tested an eggplant and sweet pepper in one set up, 2 dwarf-growing tomatoes in a second set up, and 2 determinate tomatoes in the third planter.
Components of each kit: Large box with the planter and support components, planting medium and plant food. I noted that some of the plastic parts had some damage in shipping, but it didn’t hinder functional set up of the planters.
Assembly: Complete assembly of the planter ranged from a bit over an hour for the first to a bit less for the next two, with most of the time spent on a soon-to-be-redesigned clip mechanism. The top rim did not fit snugly on the planter, but it wasn’t necessary for proper use and function.
Seasonal crop maintenance: The self-watering design is a wonderful feature, and the effectiveness of keeping the plants healthy and productive in relation to my typical 5 gallon grow bags or pots was clearly evident. Occasional feeding and watering was a breeze, and the supports kept the plants easily upright.
Results, general: The seedlings grew quickly, at a significantly increased rate and vigor and health compared with traditional containers. Fruit set and yield and crop quality were superb. The planters were set up on May 1, and as I write this on August 3, the plants continue to thrive and produce, with exceptional fruit yield and quality.
Results, by specific plant type:
Dwarf growing tomato: I placed two tomato seedlings in the planter, but one of them went down quickly to tomato spotted wilt virus; this was a random event, a disease spread by an infected thrip, and was in no way due to the planter. The remaining dwarf tomato variety grew spectacularly, reaching 4 feet height and 3 feet width within a few months. The plant was easily double in scale to similar varieties planted in 5 gallon containers. Quite simply, the dwarf variety in the planter showed the potential of this class of tomatoes; the tested variety is a recent release from a new breeding project that I co-lead. If one wants to maximize production of a dwarf stature tomato, this is the way to do it.
Determinate tomatoes: Two Martino's Roma tomatoes are excelling in the planter. Everything observed for the dwarf tomato, noted above, holds true for the determinate tomatoes.
Eggplant: Wow. I’ve never seen an eggplant produce so heavily. From one single plant, at least 20 perfectly healthy, delicious fruit were harvested, with more on the way.
Sweet Pepper: Again, as with the eggplant, the pepper (a notoriously finicky crop to grow in a traditional garden) became a production machine. Both pepper and eggplant achieved 4 feet in height, perfectly supported by the planter structure. The pepper plant has a minimum of 20 fruit, with some on the cusp of turning to its ripe color.
Overall assessment: Yes, there is some cost involved, and a few wrinkles to work out, primarily around the integrity of the device and how it makes it through the shipping process, and assembly of the support clips. But if one is looking for success – for ease of maintenance and for high yields of excellent quality produce, this is a superb product. Once purchased, they can be a fixture in the garden for many years.
Below you will find series of pictures of the progress of the planters. Click on the pictures to advance the carousel.
Set up and planting - early May
Early progress - into early June
Further along - into July and harvest time