Growing Tomatoes in Containers

15 May

One of the best things about tomatoes is that you can grow them just about anywhere, even on a small patio or tiny balcony.

Growing Tomatoes in containers

Cherry tomatoes growing in a container.

While some people maintain that growing tomatoes in containers is more time consuming than growing them in a veggie garden, this is not true. Provided you have a spot where they get a good dose of sunlight every day, and they are fed and watered regularly, a tomato plant will reward you with an ongoing harvest of fruit for as long as any garden-grown tomato plant will do.

Choose a Site 

Ideally you want a spot that will get about eight hours of sunlight every day – unless you live in an area that is subjected to intense heat, in which case you will definitely need some shade. In both instances you need to consider what will cast shadows over your pots.

If your home overlooks a garden or public open space, then trees and man-built structures should be considered. If you are growing your tomatoes in pots on a balcony or in a roof garden, then buildings will be the main source of shade. Take notice of the shadows that both natural and man-made structures form.

How to Choose the Best Pots and Containers

The best rule of thumb is that containers should be as large as possible to ensure that the roots have space to spread and grow. Generally aim to use pots that hold at least 20 litres or five gallons.

So-called self-watering containers are available, though you obviously have to fill the reservoir, and there is always a danger of over-watering. Generally you need less water for tomatoes that are grown in self-watering containers. You also need to be sure that over-crowding doesn’t take place since this can have the effect of blocking the circulation of air, which can quickly result in disease.

Which Tomato Varieties to Grow in Containers

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing plants, though it is probably true to say that bush varieties of cherry tomatoes are the most rewarding. Sometimes nurseries and garden centres label these patio or container tomato plants. Some are tastier than others.

There are some delicious hybrid cherry types that can be successfully grown in hanging baskets.

You generally need to avoid varieties that will become top heavy and blow over.

The Best Soil for Containers

The better the quality of the soil in your pots, the better your container tomatoes are likely to do. You want soil that is rich in nutrients but that will drain well. It also needs to be “heavy” enough to be able to anchor large, growing plants in the pots.

You can use a good quality potting soil mixed half and half with compost. Feed regularly with a little organic fertilizer, or use a slow-release product that is manufactured specifically for tomatoes. Synthetic fertilizers may be used, but nurserymen who specialise in tomato growing suggest halving the quantity recommended on the label.

How to Support Your Growing Plants

A good way to grow bush tomatoes in containers is over a wire cage. Alternatively you can use bamboo or some other types of stake, or train the plant through a fence or trellis screen. Whichever form of support you choose, place it in the container when you pot the plant otherwise you risk the danger of damaging the roots at a later stage.

As the plant grows, pinch out the smaller side stems and prune the plant if it begins to sprawl too much.

How Much Water to Give Your Growing Plants

The simple answer to this question is just enough and not too much! You also need to be consistent, and to aim to keep the soil moist without allowing it to get too wet. If the soil becomes dry this may cause the flowers to fall off before the fruit has formed. If the soil becomes saturated, the roots could rot, or fungus might form.

If the soil is just right, you will be rewarded with a delicious harvest of tomatoes for your table.

How To Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes is our book that can provide you with professional information about growing the best tomatoes.