Growing In Containers
Container gardening is a great way to garden when you don’t have much space, and tomatoes are the king of containers. The structure and limited space actually encourages upward growth for this vining plant, and when you combine a good tomato pot with a trellis or cage, you have a recipe for successful, tasty tomatoes this summer.
Choosing A Variety
While you can grow your prized heirloom tomatoes in containers with proper care and attention, the varieties that succeed the best in containers are dwarf varieties like grape and cherry tomatoes. Try Tiny Tim, Pixie II, or Florida Basket, which was bred to grow in containers. These smaller tomatoes lend themselves well to vining downward in hanging baskets, but you also can train them upright with the use of stakes, poles and cages.
If you want full-size tomatoes but need the plants to be compact in size to fit within your container, choose a determinate variety of tomato. These stay at a more manageable height and produce their juicy red fruits more closely together, making them desirable for container gardening. However, pay attention to fruit size when choosing a determinate tomato for a container; stay away from giant or jumbo varieties, as these plants will not be able to grow and fruit well within the confines of a pot.
Sun, Soil and Water
Tomatoes grown in containers need the same amount of sun as they would in the garden; be sure to place the container in a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun during the day. Containers should be well-drained, with plenty of drainage holes. You can use regular potting mix for small containers and hanging pots, but soil needs to be mixed especially for larger containers. It needs to be light, and retain moisture well.
A soilless potting mix can work, as can garden soil mixed thoroughly with vermiculite or perlite to loosen it up. Water much more often than you would in the garden, since the plant’s roots can’t reach out for any other nearby water. In the hot summer months, water container tomatoes every day.
If you are planning to grow tomatoes with upright stakes or cages, you should place the supports in the pot in the planting stage, so that you don’t disturb the roots later, when the plant needs the supports. A cage has the benefit of supporting the tomato plant from all sides, and containing it within the limits of the cage when the plant is in its mature stages.
Stakes provide the same upward support, but don’t limit the outward growth as effectively. You can use both if desired; some gardeners place a stake just to one side of the center of the pot for the young seedling to grow along, then surround the seedling with a cage to help shape it once it has leafed out.
Want to learn more about growing tomatoes in containers? Check out these Web sites chosen by us for more quality information on the subject.
The National Gardening Association has a great guide to growing container tomatoes.
The University of Illinois Extension’s basics on growing tomatoes has more details on varieties, care and harvest.
The Ohio State University Extension provides a good fact sheet on container gardening with vegetables.