Growing Tomatoes in Containers

1. Let’s start with this:
Don’t apologize! Growing tomatoes in containers is a great idea. Perfect drainage, an earlier harvest, mobility and efficient use of space are all good reasons to use containers every season.

2. Use large pots.
A tomato plant will not thrive and fruit successfully in a tiny container. 15” x 15” is minimal. A wine barrel or large pulp pot? Excellent, especially since those materials won’t heat up excessively.

3. Fill the container.
Use a premium potting soil as your base in pots. Make the investment and you will see the results. Add worm castings? Compost? Yes and yes. Amend as you do in ground soils. Rich soil is key to your success.

4. Consider planting “container varieties”.
These are bred to be short and stocky so they will be perfect in your pot. Smaller-fruiting and short season tomatoes will also work and will generally be reliable. Truly, any standard tomatoes will do just fine with good care in a large container but we recommend you plant your prize winning beefsteaks in the ground if you have the space.

5. How many plants in a container?
In most cases, one. That’s right, one. Plant it deep so some of the stem is buried. Yes, it may look a bit silly at first, but not for long. *In really large pots multiple plantings of dwarf or container varieties will work just fine.

6. Set your pots in the right spot.
Find a place that will get 6-8 hours of sun a day. Move them at will as the season progresses to protect them further or ensure the proper amount of direct sunlight. All day sun can be too much stress for a container planting.

7. Add stakes or a cage.
Support branching as the plants grows, just like you do in your garden. Or set your pot near a fence that can support the plant. Just hold it up!

8. Water regularly.
Your pot drains much more efficiently than your garden soil, which is an asset. Be sure to soak the root ball when you water each pot. *After you irrigate try lifting up one edge of the pot to make sure water is being absorbed and the pot is heavy. In the hottest part of the season you may be watering every day – or it may be time to move the plants to a more protected spot.

9. Fertilize every 10-14 days.
Because of more frequent watering, the fertilizer you apply will be washed out quickly. Stay on top of this. Feed on a regular basis, using whatever food you choose. Foliar feeding (applying liquid or water-soluble fertilizer to the leaves) is a great idea as the season progresses.

10. Mulch the top of the soil.
This helps to protect the roots and cool the pot. If your pots are on cement, stone or asphalt, wrap the entire container in burlap, canvas or other fabric to reduce reflected heat and keep container temps consistent. Overheated pots just fry roots all summer!