By Jennifer Poindexter
Tomatillos are some of my favorite garden treasures. These frequently overlooked crops make some of the most delicious salsa. If you’re a fan of salsa verde, or other delicious recipes which include tomatillos, you should consider growing them.
What’s even better is you can grow tomatillos in a container garden though they do become quite large over time. However, don’t let this discourage you from growing tomatillos this way. In fact, I’m going to walk you through what you should know when incorporating tomatillos into this type of growing space.
Here’s what you must know when learning how to grow tomatillos in a container:
Growing Conditions for Tomatillos
When growing tomatillos in a container, they do have a few specific growing conditions which must be met.
The first thing the plants need are large growing containers. This can be a large planter, a planter box, or a grow bag.
Ensure the container is large enough to support a plant that can reach heights ranging between four and five feet.
Fill the growing containers with soil that’s nutrient dense and drains adequately. Tomatillos don’t like being left in oversaturated situations for long periods.
Therefore, it’s vital you use soil that absorbs necessary moisture while draining excess away quickly.
However, it’s wise to use a larger planter as it can hold more soil. This is important because the more soil you have, the easier it is for the plant to retain moisture.
This means there’s less chance of the tomatillo plant becoming dehydrated and should lessen the amount of watering you do.
There’s an obvious balance that must occur between the amount of soil, the type of soil, and the amount of water provided to your tomatillos.
Having enough well-draining soil in a large enough container can help you maintain this balance to grow healthy plants.
Lastly, tomatillos need full sunlight. This equates to six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. The joy of growing these plants in a container is you can move them around.
Even if you don’t have an ideal growing location which can meet this light requirement full-time, you can move the planter around to ensure the plants receive what they need.
If you can supply a large enough growing container, the right soil, and ample sunlight, you should be able to give tomatillos what they need in a growing location.
How to Plant Tomatillos in a Container
There are three main methods to growing tomatillos in a container. The first method is to start the seeds indoors.
You should do this approximately four weeks prior to the final frost date of spring. Fill a grow tray with well-draining soil and sow the seeds ¼ inch deep into the soil.
Mist the soil lightly with water and wrap the tray in plastic wrap to provide a greenhouse effect. Place the tray in a warm growing location.
Check the soil daily to ensure it never dries out fully. It should take around ten days for the seeds to germinate.
Once the seeds sprout, place them in an area where they’ll receive warmth and light. Continue to provide moisture until the plants are durable enough to move to their permanent growing location.
When the time comes, be sure to harden the seedlings off prior to transplant. Then move the plants to their permanent container in their outdoor growing location.
The next method to growing tomatillos is to purchase seedlings. When all threat of frost is over, place the seedlings in their permanent growing location outdoors.
When planting a seedling in a container, dig a hole deep enough to support the plant’s root system. It’s best to only grow one tomatillo plant per five-gallon container since they become so large.
Backfill the hole and press firmly around the base of the plant. Water the plant deeply to help it become established in this growing location.
The last method for growing tomatillos is to directly sow the seeds into the container. You can plant two seeds per container at ¼ inch depth.
Water the seeds lightly and wait for germination to occur. You shouldn’t directly sow seeds until at least one month after all frost is over.
Once the plants germinate, pick the stronger of the two to care for. Provide adequate water, warmth, and light to encourage growth in your plant.
You now have three methods of planting tomatillos. Pick the option which works best for you to grow this plant in a container around your home.
Caring for Tomatillos in a Container
Caring for tomatillos is a simple process. They need water, fertilizer, and support. Supply these things in the right way, and your plants should do well.
When watering a tomatillo plant, be sure to water it deeply as this encourages a stronger root system. Test the soil prior to adding more water.
When the dirt is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water the plants deeply again. Since you’re growing tomatillos in a container, they may require more frequent watering than if grown in a traditional garden plot as there’s less soil in this method of gardening.
Next, be sure to stake your tomatillo plants. They can become tall and without proper support will sprawl out which makes harvesting and tidiness a challenge.
Last, use your judgment on whether to fertilize your tomatillo plants. Some plants grow in high quality soil and don’t need the added nutrients.
Other gardeners find that their plants do better when supplied with an application of slow-release fertilizer. This is up to your personal preference and the growing conditions provided to your tomatillo plants.
Take these tips into consideration when deciding how to best support your plants as they grow in your container garden.
Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Your Tomatillos in a Container Garden
Whether growing plants in the ground or a container, it’s inevitable that they’ll face some opposition in nature.
This comes in the form of pests and diseases. The great thing about container gardening is you have more control over the conditions than if the plants were growing in the ground.
Therefore, by paying close attention to your plants, you should be able to avoid or easily treat these problems.
Be sure to act quickly before the infestation has time to take over your plants and cause severe damage to them.
The most common diseases to impact tomatillos are fungal issues (such as blight), blossom end rot, and tobacco mosaic virus.
When dealing with fungal issues, it’s best to prevent them. You do this by supplying warm, dry conditions.
By planting in areas with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil, you should be able to avoid fungal issues as they thrive in the cold and wet.
You can also thin your tomatillo plants if you feel they need better airflow to deter fungal issues. Should you see blight or other fungal diseases forming, be sure to treat immediately with a fungicide.
If your plants become infected with tobacco mosaic virus, there’s nothing you can do besides discard them as there is no cure. Be sure you destroy the plants instead of composting as this will only spread the disease to other unsuspecting plants.
Lastly, if you see signs of blossom end rot, this is usually a sign of nutrient deficiencies. I like to add powdered milk around the base of my plants to provide a boost of calcium which typically solves this issue.
Take these pointers into consideration when deciding how to best protect your tomatillo plants.
How to Harvest Tomatillos
This is the best part of growing any plant. When you grow something that produces fruit, you want to take part in the harvest.
After all, it’s the literal fruit of your labor. How do you know when it’s time to harvest tomatillos and how do you store them?
You can harvest tomatillos prior to the husk turning yellow and right as the fruit begins to fill it out. You don’t want the fruit to burst out of the husk.
The tomatillo should be bright green when harvested. You should remove the fruit from the plant by plucking it. There’s no need to snip it away.
Once harvested, store your tomatillos in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. There are many recipes and methods to preserve this produce, so be sure to find many delicious and fun ways to utilize the fruits of this plant.
You now know how to grow tomatillos in containers. It isn’t a difficult process, but it can take anywhere from seventy-five to one hundred days to reach harvest.
Take this into account when figuring out the best planting methods. Then utilize these tips to help care for, protect, and eventually partake in the delicious tomatillos you produced all because you took the time and learned how to grow tomatillos in a container.