Growing tomatoes in pots
Growing tomatoes in a container garden? It’s a completely doable gardening project (even for beginners).
To grow tomatoes in pots, start by choosing a variety. Dwarf tomato plants can be grown in 8″-wide flowerpots while large indeterminate varieties need large containers like 10-gallon grow bags or half wine barrels. Trim the bottom leaves off the stem and plant the tomato deeply in a high-quality organic potting mix. Add a stake and/or tomato cage, water deeply, and place the potted tomato in the sun.
Read on to learn all about growing tomatoes in pots!
Introduction to growing tomatoes in pots
Tomatoes are a popular garden vegetable because they are versatile and easy to grow. You can grow tomatoes in your garden, but you can also grow them in pots on your porch or patio. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of growing tomatoes in pots and provide some tips for getting started. Whether you are a novice gardener or an experienced pro, growing tomatoes in pots is a fun and rewarding project that you will enjoy!
Growing tomatoes in pots is a great way to enjoy fresh, homegrown tomatoes without taking up a lot of space. Pots are also portable, so you can move them around to find the perfect spot for your plants. Tomato plants need full sun to produce fruit, so make sure you choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Choosing small tomato plants
Start by choosing the right variety of tomato plant. For example, dwarf varieties like Tiny Tim can be grown in 8″-wide flowerpots, while large indeterminate varieties like Beefsteak and Mortgage Lifter need large containers like 10-gallon grow bags or whiskey barrels. You can grow any variety in a container, but you’ll need quite a giant container for big indeterminate tomatoes.
Here are some different varieties of dwarf and compact tomato plants that are well-suited to growing in containers:
- Tiny Tim tomato
- Patio tomato
- Rosella purple tomato
- Big green dwarf tomato
- Chocolate lightning tomato
- Dwarf arctic rose tomato
- Dwarf bendigo rose tomato
Choosing containers for growing tomatoes
Tomato plants require containers large enough to accommodate the roots of the variety while also having a drainage hole to allow water to drain out.
Truly dwarf varieties like Tiny Tim can be grown in 6″-10″ wide pots. Terra cotta planters are lovely but you can also use plastic pots. You can even grow them in 2″ wide pods in a Click & Grow smart garden or in open-root 1″ hydroponic pods inside an Aerogarden.
Compact determinate tomatoes can be grown in 12″-wide pots or 5-gallon buckets or grow bags. Large indeterminate tomato varieties do best in very large containers like 10-gallon or 15-gallon pots or even a half whiskey barrel garden.
Planting tomatoes in pots
Planting tomatoes in pots starts with choosing your tomato plant variety and picking a pot of the corresponding size (see above). You’ll also need supplies like a trowel and high-quality potting soil.
The outdoor tomato growing season starts when temperatures are consistently above 42°F (6°C) and preferably above 50°F (10°C). Keep your tomato containers indoors until the weather is warm enough outdoors.
Here are the supplies for potting up tomato plants into containers:
- Tomato plant
- Pot or growing container
- Potting mix
- Tomato fertilizer
- Garden pruners
- Tomato stake
- Tomato cage
Here are the basic steps for planting tomatoes in a pot:
- Fill the bottom of the pot with potting mix and make a hole in the center.
- Remove the bottom leaves from the tomato plant with the pruning shears and gently loosen the roots. Leave the top leaves on the tomato plant.
- Plant the tomato plant deeply in the pot, so that only the top leaves are showing (unless the tomato is grafted, in which case, keep the graft union above the soil line).
- Fill in around the plant with more potting mix. If growing in a large container like a wine barrel, you can add some garden soil to the potting mix for a slightly heavier container gardening mix. Water deeply and check that the soil is moist.
- Support tomato plants with a stake by placing it near the main stem and tying it with twine. Then add a tomato cage around the plant. Water again.
- Mulch the moist soil surface with shredded bark, pine needles, compost, or another organic mulch.
- Place the tomato plant in a sunny spot and water regularly.
- Fertilize the plant every 2-4 weeks with organic tomato fertilizer.
- Most tomatoes grown in pots will be ready to harvest in about 60-80 days, depending on the variety.
Growing tomatoes in pots
To successfully grow tomatoes, you’ll need to keep the soil consistently moist. Warm temperatures, tomato cages, tomato-specific fertilizer (or generic products like bone meal or blood meal), and high quality potting mix are also very helpful. Lastly, the more sun the tomato has, the better (as long as the soil is moist).
Watering tomatoes in pots
Watering is critical for growing tomatoes in pots. The plants need about 1-2 inches of water per week, and it’s best to water them deeply and evenly.
Water in the morning so the leaves have time to dry out before nightfall. You may only have to water tomatoes in pots once or twice a week in cool overcast weather but they can require frequent watering such as every other day or even daily in hot, dry weather.
Avoid getting water on the leaves, as this can encourage fungal diseases. You can use a watering can or watering wand to water the soil surface directly or equip the container with a drip irrigation emitter.
Mulching tomatoes in pots
Mulching helps retain moisture and keep the roots of tomato plants cooler. Use a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded leaves, straw, or grass clippings, around the base of the plant. Pull the mulch a few inches away from the stem to prevent rot.
Weeding tomatoes in pots
Even container plants get weeds growing sometimes! Be sure to remove any weeds growing around your tomato plants, as they can compete for water and nutrients. You can hand-pull them or use a small garden hoe to carefully dig them out.
Fertilizing tomatoes in pots
Tomatoes (especially indeterminate tomatoes) are heavy feeders, so you’ll need to fertilize them regularly to ensure they have enough nutrients to grow. Look for a fertilizer specifically designed for tomatoes, or use a general-purpose vegetable fertilizer.
You can fertilize your plants every two weeks or so during the growing season. Be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer label, as too much fertilizer can damage the plants.
Pruning tomatoes in pots
Pruning helps encourage bushier plants with more fruit. It also helps prevent disease by allowing air to circulate through the plant.
To prune, simply remove the lower leaves of the young plant as it grows. You can also remove any suckers that grow in the crotches between branches if the plant is crowded. This allows for better air circulation through the foliage to minimize disease.
Supporting tomatoes in pots
Tomatoes (especially indeterminate long-vining varieties) need some type of support to keep them from growing too leggy and falling over.
You can use tomato cages, trellises, or stakes. Be sure to choose a support that is tall enough for the variety of tomatoes you are growing.
For example, determinate varieties usually only grow to about 5 feet tall, while indeterminate varieties can grow to 10 feet or more! I like to use a wide tomato cage (homemade with welded mesh wire) on top of a 15-gallon planter pot for indeterminate tomatoes.