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Sun Sugar plant doing much better in container than in raised bed

Boris Zakharin
4 years ago

One of the varieties I'm growing (from seed) this year is Sun Sugar. I planted one in a 20-gal container on my deck, with 2 more going into my new raised bed. Curiously the former is doing way better, not even close. It's got 300+ developing fruit about 7 weeks after planting, overtopped my 6 foot tomato cage weeks ago, and has a huge number of side branches, many of them I should have pruned, but didn't. The ones in the raised bed have on the order of 45 developing fruit each, about 2/3 the height, and a lot fewer stems. There's nothing obvious wrong with them as far I can see, so I have a few theories as to why this might be happening:

  1. Heavy stress before planting: the raised bed took 2 weeks longer to get built and prepared than I've hoped, and I was torturing my seedlings in 8 oz cups that entire time. I was forced to get rid of most leaves and plant them really deep. I was worried they wouldn't make it, so I rooted a tiny sucker off of one of the plants in water and planted it in the bed as well. That former sucker is now much taller than at planting time, but still has only one stem and 2 developing fruit. Oddly, I did the same thing (torturing seedlings for 2 weeks) with my Rutgers 250, and the difference between the one in the container and the ones in the bed is almost non-existent (though the one on the deck is doing ever so slightly better).
  2. Overcrowding: I bowed to the pressure from the guy who installed the 4'x8' bed, and planted 10 tomatoes in 2 rows, surrounded by 20 sets of cucumber plants on 3 sides. The thing is, the Sun Sugar plants are the least crowded, having about 15" between them. Again, the Rutgers, which are much closer together are much more comparable to the one on the deck.
  3. Fertilizer: I overdosed my container plants on fertilizer at planting time (see separate thread about that), but haven't fertilized again (yet), whereas I added none at all in the bed. I still don't know what kind of garden soil they put in the raised bed, so I have only slowly ramped up fertilizer use there. I put the recommended amount of Osmocote above ground (does that do anything?) because I didn't want to disturb the roots, and started to add Miracle Gro water soluble just last week.
  4. Light: the deck gets 9-10 hours of direct sun, while the raised bed gets about 8.
  5. Water: I haven't watered much on the bed. First there was a lot of rain, now it's about once a week. The deck containers get drip irrigation for 10 minutes 4 times a day. However, I haven't seen any wilting due to lack of water in the bed like I sometimes see in my containers.

I do also have four Roma plants, in the raised bed only, which are already fruiting. I know they are determinate, so I wonder if I'll ever get much more than the current 10-15 each. Those were bought as seedlings, so #1 doesn't apply to them.

Any thoughts about what I'm doing wrong, and what I could still fix?

Thanks in advance

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