Tomatoes are one of the most popular plants to grow, and for good reason!
It’s easy to get started gardening, even if you’re a beginner, if you’re starting with tomatoes. Plus, you don’t need a big space to yield a good harvest.
But what if you have a limited space, can you still grow a tomato plant?
The good news is that, yes, you still can!
If you live in an apartment or you don’t have space for a garden where you can grow tomatoes from seeds to plants, you can still grow tomatoes in containers.
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Can Tomatoes Be Grown In Pots And Containers?
It’s easy to grow tomato plants in clay or plastic pots, as long as they receive lots of sun and warm air. You can place them on a patio, balcony, or deck.
Tips And Tricks To Start Growing Tomatoes In Pots
If you’re looking to start growing tomatoes in pots, here are some tips and tricks to make sure you grow healthy crops!
Choose The Right Variety
Tomatoes are not small plants.
Depending on the variety you choose, these plants may grow from 3 feet to as tall as 12 feet.
To ensure successful growth, choose the right tomato variety before you get started.
It’s best to plant a patio, bush tomato, or dwarf variety as they grow and fruit best in containers. The best compact varieties for container gardening are:
- Tiny Tim
- Patio choice yellow
- Small Fry
Choose The Right Container
Tomatoes have a large and wide root system so the bigger the container, the more room the roots will have to grow and develop a strong root system.
The pot size will depend on the size of the plant. However, the best pot to use should be able to hold at least 5 gallons of soil and can measure 20 inches wide or more.
When choosing larger containers, make sure that they have good drainage too. Large pots will give the large root systems plenty of space to grow and produce healthier crops.
Use A Good Potting Soil
Garden soil and even fresh soil from planting beds can be too heavy for containers. They can over compact and may contain disease organisms.
Since tomatoes are susceptible to diseases and pests that result from the soil, a great way is to go is using a soilless potting mix.
Compared to soil, a soilless potting mix can drain faster, compact less, and be much lighter weight, which is ideal for growing tomatoes in containers.
You can buy these potting soils from a gardening supply store, or you can also create your own! Just mix 1 part perlite to 2 parts peat moss and mix them thoroughly.
Another thing you can do is to buy the store-bought potting mix (which is lighter than potting soil) then sift the mix to remove all of the sticks and other junk you don’t need, and you’ll come out with some light and fluffy soil.
You can also choose to use your own compost.
Start With Seedlings
For a higher success rate, start with seedlings instead.
When buying seedlings, look for a plant with a more compact look and dark green leaves. The stem should be at least as thick as a pencil, with no spots on the leaves.
Starting with seedlings can save you several weeks of effort over sowing from seed.
Grow Seeds Indoors
If you’re up for a challenge (it’s not hard), you can also start seeds from seed packets.
If you go this route, start seeds indoors before the growing season starts.
To do this:
- Plant the seeds in small seedling containers
- Keep the seed in a dark room with a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wait for the seedlings to sprout and then they’ll need light right away. Transplant the seedlings in a slightly larger pot and grow indoors with grow lights at 60 degrees Fahrenheit for six to seven weeks before transplanting them outside
Whether you’re growing from seed or using seedlings from a plant nursery, it’s important to transplant them correctly to their final growing container.
When transplanting a seedling, remove the few sets of leaves at the bottom then place the seedling at least half deep in the container. To develop a healthy root system, make sure to bury the plant deeply into the pot.
Add Some Support
There are some short tomato varieties that don’t need any support to grow, but a lot of the tomato varieties require one. When adding support, you can try adding a stake or tomato cages. You can also use a string trellis, or create your own cage made from hog wire or metal fencing.
Adding a support for your tomato plant will keep the stems upright and off the ground. It will also hold the weight of the plant and prevent them from snapping, especially once they grow larger fruit.
Stir In Limestone And Fertilizer
For the best results, stir in limestone and slow-release, tomato-specific fertilizer to the soil. This will give the plants more calcium and make the soil a bit less acidic.
For every gallon of soil, add 1/2 tablespoon of fertilizer or limestone. A water-soluble fertilizer can also work wonders for your container tomatoes. You’re watering and feeding them at the same time — you’re hitting two birds with one stone!
Cover The Soil
When planting a tomato plant in a pot, keep the soil at least one inch below the pot rim so you can add a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist.
For mulch, use something with organic material. You can use chopped leaves, newspaper, straw, or shredded bark.
Keep in mind: If you choose to use newspapers, they can decompose quickly, especially if you live in a hotter region. Refresh the layer as needed, especially during the growing season.
Place In A Sunny Spot
Tomato plants thrive best in sunny locations or those with warm temperatures.
Ideally, the pots should have at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
If the plant is not getting enough sun throughout the day, make sure to move them into a location where it can get more direct sunlight.
Watering your plants regularly is the key to success for growing tomatoes in pots. Proper and frequent watering can keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the hot weather.
However, keep in mind that:
- Underwatering can cause the plant to wilt
- Overwatering can lead to blossom end rot
- Inconsistent watering can cause the fruits to crack and split
The soil in pots and containers can dry out quicker than the soil in the garden bed. Since the excess water is drained from the drainage holes, it will leave less water for the roots to absorb. Under the sun, the soil will also dry out faster.
This is why you need to provide your plants with plenty of water and more consistency to ensure healthy tomatoes. Make sure to check the soil every day, using a finger test: If the top inch of soil is dry when you push your finger into it, it’s time to water your plant.
To make sure your plants get enough moisture, you can also:
- Place a saucer beneath the pot to catch the water that runs through the soil, and it can be absorbed by the plant throughout the day
- Use a drip irrigation system for your homegrown tomatoes, especially if you’re using smaller containers.
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Even with limited and small space, you can still grow your own tomatoes in pots.
Do you grow other vegetables in containers? Which are your favorite?
“I don’t care what anybody says: Nothing is better than a tomato you grow. There’s something about it that’s different than a tomato you can buy. It’s a great thing.”– Tom Vilsack
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