You can be successful at container tomato gardening if you follow a few simple rules.
Use a large enough container.
A tomato is a large plant at maturity and anything less than a 16-inch pot is simply wasting your efforts. What tends to happen with smaller pots is the plant dries out early in the season a little and then the fruit gets blossom end rot as a result.
You require a large enough container so the plant does not dry out between waterings. You can pay for the larger pot or you can pay by not having fruit in August. I confess I mention pot size and soil more than once when writing about container gardening
Use a good quality soilless soil mix all the way to the bottom of the pot.
You’re going to read me say this over and over. Nurseries around the world grow millions of pots with soil like this – they do not put shards of “stuff” on the bottom. Using soilless soil mix prevents mid-season soil compaction. And soil compaction (where the soil turns to concrete) will kill or stunt your tomato growth and fruit ripening as fast as anything. It is for this reason, we never use real garden soil.
The minimum amount of soil you require with daily waterings is six full shovels. You can definitely use more – and your plants will thrive better – but if you use less, you’re asking for trouble.
I used 6 shovels of soilless mix in our greenhouse growing but on really hot days I’d have to water twice a day. So do watch your soil moisture with small amounts of soil
Tomatoes are greedy feeders so you have to feed them every few days
If you want to see great growth and great yields (mind you, if you don’t want either of these things, then don’t bother to fertilizer your plants) The bare minimum of feeding is once a week.
The tomato fruit is over 95% water
This means you’ll have to water every day or whenever the soil appears to be drying out. If you miss the watering in your container tomato gardening efforts, your fruit will suffer. There’s little room for error here.
Staking is optional
I’ve grown them staked and unstaked. I prefer staked and you’ll have to secure the stake to something or the plant will flop over in every windstorm and that can really ruin the container tomato gardening. The branches are easy to break so do secure them. Letting them flop out of the pot means no staking but you can be sure if there’s slugs around, they’ll be there to enjoy your crop as much as you do.
Insect and disease control
This is the same as in-ground tomato plants. And so is pruning.
And those are the basics of container tomato gardening; I hope they were helpful. Simply remember that you break these rules at your gardening peril.
Doug’s Two Cents On The Best Tomato Varieties For Containers
There are several questions here but most beginning gardeners ask this one first. The first is what tomato variety will grow in a container. The simple answer is they all will.
People ask which one does best. The answer is whichever you feed and water properly.
Then the frustrated gardener squeaks, “But I read this variety (or that one) is a great container variety.” The answer is to suggest (gently because the steam is coming off the collar) the marketing people wrote that.
Frustrated beyond belief, the gardener looks at me and demands an answer, “So is there anything you can choose from in putting a tomato into a container?” To which I stop and think before replying, “Well, if you use the smallest tomato vine you can find, it might be better but it will give you a small harvest as well. And frankly, the smaller vines tend not to taste as good as the big ones. But yes, find a teeny, tiny tomato and grow it.”
At this point, most gardeners snort and walk away convinced I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’ve had more than one come back a few years later and tell me I was right.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of growing a tomato in a container, you might as well use a great tasting one and they do tend to be bigger plants. Simply grow it properly using recommended container gardening principles.
All I can do at this point is smile. Another gardener sees the light. 🙂
And yes, this is the same for all vegetables.