Creative ways of growing tomatoes have appeared in recent years in hopes of serving different purposes. Some actually work quite well while some others leave a lot to be desired.
However, despite recent developments in the variety of tomato growing methods, the more traditional ways of doing so still remain to be as effective as ever. Using tomato growing rings, for example, has become slightly less popular, but is still one of the most successful techniques in growing tomatoes.
If you want to know how to grow tomatoes in grow rings, you can continue to read as we discuss everything there is to know about tomato ring culture.
What is a Tomato Grow Ring?
Grow rings are plant pots that are mostly used for cultivating tomatoes. They are bottomless and are meant to be placed on top of an opened grow bag.
We use these rings due to a method we call the ‘tomato ring culture’. According to Wikipedia, the main goal of applying the ring culture is to grow two sets of roots that reach out to two different directions. One set should grow inside the ring, while the other should be on the outside.
This happens because the grow rings or the ring pots act as a natural barrier between the compost inside and the soil outside. With two separate areas, the tomato plant is conditioned to grow roots that reach both of them.
How to Grow Tomatoes with Ring Culture
Knowing about the method is one thing, but actually doing it is another. Fortunately, the method is actually pretty straightforward and it nets you some excellent advantages. Furthermore, it is certainly much easier than other gimmicky ways of cultivating like planting them upside down.
Read more: Hanging Tomato Plants
Step 1: Preparation
To start off, you naturally have to prepare all the materials necessary. You will need:
- A tomato seedling – No, you should not plant the tomato in a ring system starting from the seeds. Let it flourish in a grow bag first. After a week or two, some leaves should appear, and that is when you can transplant the plant to the ring.
- A tomato growing ring – Naturally, you will have to prepare the ring pot.
- High-quality moist compost – An excellent compost will nurture your tomato even more.Growing bag – This is where you will place your pot and tomato plant.
- Shears/Knife – You will need this to cut the growing bag open
Step 2: Setting Up the Ring
After making sure that you have all the materials necessary, you can now fix your ring pot unto the growing bag.
First, place the growing bag in an open area where you intend to grow your tomatoes. Keep in mind that it is not recommended to move the growing bag after transplanting the plant. Therefore, while the process of transplanting still has not started, make sure that your growing bag is already secured in place.
Next, cut a hole in the growing bag. The hole should be large enough to fit the ring and some additional space.
Afterward, you should firmly affix the ring into the hole. Keep in mind that the pot is bottomless so the support is somewhat lacking. If it’s not secure enough, it may get knocked over by heavy rain, strong winds, or some small animals.
Lastly, you can add some compost inside the ring ahead of time. Just make sure that you do not fill it up entirely. At most, it should be about two-thirds full. This is an optional step because you can also add the compost later at the same time as the plant itself.
Step 3: Transplanting the Plant
This step should be self-explanatory. There are only a couple of things you need to remember. First, when you transplant the tomato seedling, make sure you do not damage the roots. This is extremely important since the roots are still forming and damaging any of them can lead to the plant dying.
Next, if you have not added some compost in the ring already, do it now. Again, do not fill the entire ring up.
Step 4: Maintaining the Ring Culture – First Part
You are finally done with the transplanting. Now, the only thing left is to maintain the setup. For the first couple of weeks, it is recommended to water inside the ring as per normal. This is to help the plant adapt to its new environment after being transplanted.
After the initial two weeks, this is when you should start to add some additional compost to the ring. You only need to add a sparse amount every time. Adding a 2-centimeter layer of compost to the ring should do the trick. This adds some fresh nutrition to the tomato plant.
You should repeatedly add some compost like this every couple of weeks until the ring is filled entirely.
As for watering, you should already stop adding it inside the ring and do it outside instead. This will force the roots of the plants to spread and reach the water outside the ring. Meanwhile, roots will also grow inside the ring to absorb the nutrients given by the compost.
With this, your tomato ring culture setup should start to form in shape.
Step 5: Maintaining the Ring Culture – Second Part
As your tomato plant grows, one thing you should never forget is to put a support system in place. Short determinate plants may not require much, but the larger indeterminate ones certainly do.
Learn more: Determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes
Also, a problem with growing tomatoes is the potential diseases that they may contract. Blight, for example, is one such serious problem. Fortunately, ring culture is set up to avoid blight as much as possible. Moreover, there are many things you can do to avoid them as well.
For instance, you can make sure that the leaves are not overcrowding the place. Pruning the tomato plants’ offshoots is a good way of doing so. You can tell these shoots apart from the rest because they grow in-between the main stem and the branches.
When you do this, the air will freely circulate around the plant. With this, you are one step in the right direction to preventing the blight from affecting your plants. This is due to how the disease operates.
Learn more: Blight on tomatoes
Finally, once your tomatoes start to bear fruits, you can apply some liquid fertilizers to the base of the plant once or twice a week.
Advantages of Using Tomato Growing Rings
Tomato ring culture naturally has its advantages, or else it would cease to exist in present times. Here are some of them
1. Encourages root growth
The most obvious advantage of using grow rings to cultivate tomatoes is the growth of the plant’s roots. The roots grow more because they are encouraged to reach out to the sources of nutrients. One source is the compost inside the ring, and the other is the water outside it.
The growth of a plant's roots is highly correlated to the growth of the entire plant. This is because having a wide network of roots means being able to absorb more nutrients. Furthermore, if a part of the roots is damaged for some reason, it would not be as devastating to the plant.
2. Avoids root rotting
Watering is actually a complicated task when it comes to tomatoes. This is due to how sensitive the plants can be. If you give them too much water, the roots may rot as a result.
The ring culture is designed in a way that the plant is less exposed to wet soil. If you remember, after two weeks, you will only need to water the outside ring. Therefore, the water will actually not touch the base of the plant directly. This significantly decreases the risk of the tomato plant’s roots from being damaged.
3. Prevents early and late blight
Early and late blight have some differences between each other. However, they also have some similarities. One of which is that they are both fungal infections. And two, they both start to infect moist areas starting from the leaves nearest to the plant’s base.
Because of how the water does not directly touch the base of the tomato, the lower parts of the plant in a ring culture remains almost always dry. Hence, they are less susceptible to contracting blight and almost any other plant fungal infection.
4. Liquid fertilizers become more effective
One of the biggest advantages of using tomato growing rings is actually not too obvious at first glance. Using ring pots makes the use of liquid fertilizers even more effective.
But how? The answer lies in what usually happens in a normal setup. When growing tomatoes in a standard way, liquid fertilizers is fed to the plant along with the daily watering sessions. The fertilizer in this case actually gets diluted due to the water and becomes less effective.
Meanwhile, when using tomato growing rings, the same problem does not come up. This is because the liquid fertilizer is applied into the inner ring, while the water is applied on the outside. This means that the fertilizer is not diluted and is more effective than in standard setups.
Read more: Best Fertilizer for Tomatoes
Recommended Tomato Growing Rings
We recommend these ring pots for you to choose from due to their quality.
1. Opyla Watering Pots
These pots from Opyla are what a growing ring should be. They are designed extremely conveniently and are made of durable, hard plastic.
The first thing to notice is the circular water trough attached to the ring. You can put the water in here and they will automatically seep into the soil without touching the tomato directly. The best tomato grow rings should have this as part of their design.
A cool thing about the ring pots’ design that others do not have is the support is the three mounting holes. You can conveniently put the stakes here as a support for your tomato plants. The growing ring has a diameter of 27 centimeters which is already large enough for most tomatoes.
2. Garden Innovations’ Growbag Grow Pots
The pots from Garden Innovations is one of those durable grow ring pots in the market that are above the rest. Just like Opyla’s ring pots, it also has a circular trough just outside of the ring so that you do you can conveniently water your plants.
Sadly, these pots are not as gimmicky as Opyla’s. They do not have the same mounting holes as the latter’s pots. Fortunately, the pots are large enough so that the support system still has enough space to be placed inside the ring.
The item’s dimensions are 30 x 30 x 30 cm. They are also made of durable plastic.
3. Selections Tomato & Vegetable Growbag Pots
The pots from Selections do not have too many additional features. However, what they do have is the reliability and quality of their products.
The Selections Tomato Grow Pots are made up of highly durable plastic that helps you in your ring culture setup. They are large, but because of the serrated bottom part of the ring pots, they are quite stable.
Reviews from users have been unanimous in praising the products. So if you tend to agree to some experienced opinions, you may want to consider these pots.
Before You Choose a Tomato Growing Ring
When picking the best and most appropriate tomato grow ring for you, there are three main things to consider. These are size, material, and design. And, they should match the tomato variety that you are trying to grow.
Size is the most important part to consider when buying a tomato grow ring. The size should be large enough that the roots can grow freely.
Small pots will inhibit the growth of the roots. Considering that we are using grow rings so that the root system will get as healthy and wide as much as possible, using inappropriately small pots will simply be a huge detriment and you are better off planting directly in the ground instead.
If you are still confused as to what ring size is the most appropriate, you can choose it the same way you choose a normal tomato plant pot.
Learn more: Planting Tomatoes in Pots
The material is also super important when it comes to growing rings. They need to be sturdy after all. Unfortunately, most, if not all, tomato growing rings are made of plastic. So your main criterion in trying to buy the best grow ring is to check the quality of the plastic used. As long as they do not easily break, you are good.
The best ring pots should at least have a water trough outside to make it more convenient for the owners to water their tomato plants. Some pots go the extra mile and add some more features to their pots so you better watch out for those.
Using tomato growing rings is a very effective method in ensuring that your tomatoes grow healthy and flourishing. Therefore, if you are interested in cultivating your own tomatoes, you better start preparing your tomato varieties, growing rings, and growing bags because you are in for some rewarding work.