Ball Horticultural Company
Tomatoes of various shapes and sizes are traditional options for growing in a vegetable garden, but there are many compelling reasons to grow them in containers as well. If the plants are growing close to your home, it is much simpler to protect them from creatures like deer and rabbits, and having them nearby keeps them ready for harvesting. Container gardening protects the roots from pests and illnesses that may be present in the soil. It helps you control how much water they get and when, a big plus if your garden soil tends to be especially soggy or sandy. Pots are also a perfect solution if you want to enjoy fresh-picked tomatoes but your gardening space is limited to a patio or balcony.
Utilize this advice exclusively for growing tomatoes in pots, and browse our other articles for more information. Tomato Growing Guide to learn more about cultivating any sort of tomato.
1. Select healthy plants meant for pots.
Every plant that grows in the ground may be cultivated in a pot, although some are more noticeable than others. See our list of suggested varieties below.
2. Choose a large container — the bigger the better.
Because of the confinement, container soil warms up and dries out faster than garden soil, thus the more breathing space you can provide the plant’s roots, the better. Every kind of tomato may be grown in a container, but the size of the pot must equal the size of the plant. The smallest or dwarf types may live in an 8- to 12-inch pot or even a hanging basket. Typical bush-type (also known as determinate) tomatoes can grow well in 5-gallon pots or buckets, though 8- or 10-gallon pots are even better. Vining (or indeterminate) varieties, such as ‘Brandywine’ slicing tomatoes or ‘Sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes, do best in 15- to 20-gallon tubs, so they can produce plenty of roots to support their continually lengthening stems and heavy fruit production.
3. Choose lightweight pots with good drainage.
Avoid terra cotta pots, which hold heat and are difficult to move, as well as half whiskey barrels, which, although enormous, are also heavy and attract wood roaches. Instead, choose lightweight plastics with drain holes.
4. Position the container in full sun.
Tomatoes thrive when they get six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day.
5. Use a potting soil rich in organic matter.
To enhance drainage and offer extra nutrients, replace approximately 25% of conventional potting soil with equal parts perlite, sphagnum peat moss, and compost. To aid drainage, add a 1- to 2-inch layer of stones to the bottom of the pot. Fill containers with potting soil rather than normal garden soil, which is too compact for pots.
6. Mix slow-release fertilizers into the soil.
Check to see whether the soil already contains it; if not, pick tomato-specific fertilizers such as Espoma, while all-purpose fertilizers are also beneficial.
7. Plant the tomato deeply.
Fill the container one-third full with dirt before planting the tomato. Continue adding soil, packing it around the stem of the plant until it is about half covered, removing any leaves as you go.
8. Water to keep the soil evenly moist.
You want the soil to keep moist, but you also don’t want it to dry out totally. Instead of watering tomatoes on a predetermined timetable, consider the weather and the appearance of the plants. To prevent them from withering in dry, hot, windy conditions, water them once or twice a day. During rainy spells, hold off on watering, and make sure that the pots are not sitting in trays or saucers of standing water, which can lead to root rot.
9. Give tomato plants growing support.
Install a tomato cage (or make your own out of concrete reinforcing wire) to assist ease the weight of the fruit off limber vines.
10. Feed plants once a week starting around week six.
Select a water-soluble fertilizer and follow the directions, and keep a look out for pests like aphids.
11. Add companion plants only if there’s room.
Ornamental annuals like marigolds and zinnias create lovely accents in a tomato container garden, but keep in mind that extra plants compete with tomatoes for water, so only add them if you’re using a large pot.
12. Harvest tomatoes once they are nearly completely red.
This helps ensure the freshest, tastiest fruit. Naturally, whether your variety is yellow, green, or brown, harvest when the fruit has reached the desired hue.
Tomato Varieties to Grow in Containers
Ready to give patio tomatoes a try? These are several dwarf and compact varieties that are very well adapted to life in pots.
Courtesy of Park Seed
Tumbler tomatoes, such as these ‘Tumbling Toms,’ do not need staking. The weeping stems may extend up to 2 feet over the edge of containers and are laden with vivid red, 1 to 2 inch fruits. Use this hardy cultivar in window boxes or hanging baskets as well.
‘Bush Early Girl’: On 3-foot-tall plants, this traditional slicing tomato provides substantial quantities of tasty, 3- to 4-inch red fruits. It ripens quickly, too, making it a great choice if you just can’t wait to start the summer harvest.
‘Little Napoli’: This determinate kind of Roma tomato grows 12-18 inches tall and ripens fruit at the same time, allowing it to be gathered and utilized for canning and preserving. It is one of only a few paste-type tomatoes designed for growing in pots.
‘Red Robin’: This popular container cherry tomato variety has attractive, upright plants that grow to be 12 to 18 inches tall and yield an abundance of tasty, spherical red fruits.
‘Silvery Fir Tree’: This interesting heritage variety scarcely seems like a tomato plant with its lacy, grayish-green foliage — at least until its 3-inch spherical fruits mature to vivid crimson. The productive plants are bushy and upright, typically reaching 2 to 3 feet tall.
‘Super Bush’: ‘Super Bush,’ which grows 3 to 4 feet tall, provides an early crop of great-tasting, meaty, 3- to 4-inch red fruits on sturdy-stemmed, erect plants.
‘Sweet Pea’: The 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch crimson fruits of ‘Sweet Pea’ are little in size but large in taste, and are wonderful fresh or dried. The plants produce tiny leaves, too, on long stems that reach to 6 feet or more; let them trail out of a large hanging basket or grow them upright in a pot supported by a large cage.
‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat Yellow’: For a lengthy crop of yellow cherry tomatoes from a container, ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat Yellow’ is hard to beat. The branching plants typically grow to around 1 foot tall, making them suitable for indoor cultivation. Try ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat Red’ and ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat Scarlet’ for a color combo.
‘Tumbler’: The stems of this red-fruited cherry tomato are attractively branched and may cascade 3 to 6 feet out of a hanging basket. It also looks good in a regular pot and will grow upright if you support the plant with a cage.
‘Tumbling Tom Red’: ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ trailing stems may grow to be 18 to 24 inches long, with clusters of rounded to slightly oval, 1- to 2-inch red fruits beginning approximately 60 days after transplantation. ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ may not yield as many fruits as other varieties, but they are exceptionally tasty. A hanging basket exhibit made from the two hues is stunning.
What is the secret to growing big tomatoes?
Tomatoes need a lot of space to develop. Inside rows, most commercial growers employ a two-foot spacing. If you want really large fruit, give them even more room. One of the most common errors by novice gardeners is planting tomato plants too close together.
What is the best fertilizer for tomatoes in pots?
You may apply a balanced fertilizer with a 1-1-1 ratio, such as 20-20-20, until the plants begin to blossom. Once flowering, change over to a high potassium fertilizer.
How can I make my tomatoes grow bigger and faster?
Here are six strategies to get a head start on the growing season and save the time it takes to harvest those first delicious fruits.
- Choose a Fast-Maturing Variety. …
- Warm Up the Soil. …
- Harden Off Plants. …
- Wind and chill should be avoided by young tomato plants.
- Wait to Apply Mulch. …
- Support Plants.
What causes tomatoes not to get big?
The most common reason tomato fruit does not develop is a lack of water due to drought or insufficient treatment. It is never a good idea to let your tomato plants wilt. The soil should be kept consistently moist or the plants may show signs of stress such as wilting, leaf drop, or tomatoes that are too small.