Here are a few tips and tricks for growing awesome tomatoes in containers. Container gardening is the perfect outlet for apartment dwellers, assisted care residents, busy suburban families, and just about anyone else who doesn’t want to dig up the lawn to grow tomatoes.
Print out these container tomato tips and keep them close to your gardening supplies so you have them for next year.
Choose determinate tomato varieties that stay compact. Bigger fruiting tomato varieties for containers include Patio Hybrid, Husky Red Hybrid, and Husky Gold Hybrid. Container cherry tomatoes include Tiny Tim, Cherry Gold, Red Robin, Yellow Canary, and Pixie Hybrid. Some normal sized garden tomatoes that grow well in containers are Celebrity, Mountain Delight, and Mountain Pride.
Transplanting Tips for Container Tomatoes
* A 5-gallon container is perfect for the tomato and easy to move if needed.
* Clay pots tend to dry out quickly unless they are glazed or painted.
* Drill multiple 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the tomato container. Don’t try to get by with just one drainage hole.
* Place 2 to 3 inches of gravel in the bottom for drainage.
* Fill the container about 3/4 full with bagged potting soil to start. As the container tomato baby grows bigger, add fresh soil to the top to support the growing stem.
* Plant 3 or 4 marigolds with each tomato to help keep bugs away.
* Container tomatoes should receive full sun (about 8 hours a day).
Pruning Tips for Container Tomatoes
* Most container tomato varieties do not benefit from pruning.
* Pinch off suckers (branches growing at a 45 degree angle from the top of another branch).
* Branches heavy with fruit should be tied or staked so they don’t break.
Feeding and Soil Tips for Container Tomatoes
* Don’t overfertilize container tomatoes. The fertilizer does not leach out like it would in the garden. A shot of nutrition every two weeks should be sufficient, and stop feeding when the tomato plant stops blooming.
* Use good bagged potting soil for container tomatoes. Don’t dig dirt out of the yard—it may be contaminated with fungi or bacteria.
* Mix a handful of bone meal and several handfuls of good compost in with the bagged container soil.
* Don’t add manure to containers—it may be too strong and burn your plants.
Watering Tips for Container Tomatoes
* Tomatoes grown in containers may need water every day during the hottest days of summer.
* Watch out for big rainstorms and check that your container tomatoes are not waterlogged.
* Top water (all over the foliage) in the late morning so your container tomatoes have a chance to dry off before nightfall.
* Water until you see water coming out the drainage holes, then stop.
Harvesting Tips for Container Tomatoes
* Harvest container tomatoes frequently to relieve the branches of weight.
* Harvest frequently and the tomato plants may bloom again and set more fruit.
* Just before first frost in your area, pull the container tomatoes out, shake off the soil, and hang upside down in a garage or shed where they can stay above freezing and ripen any leftover tomatoes.
Additional Catch-All Container Tomato Tips
* Place your containers on small blocks up off the ground or deck. Drainage is improved and slugs won’t find a place to hide.
* Don’t reuse the soil from year to year. Always start fresh.
* Throw the soil away in the fall so it doesn’t become a frozen, crumbly lump for you to deal with in the spring.
* Wash all containers and tools with mild bleach solution (10 percent bleach, 90 percent water) in the fall before storage.
CC Flickr photo courtesy of starmist1