Tomatoes are the holy grail of gardens. Who can resist all those sweet, blue orbs ripening in the sunday every summer, filling the air with that apparent judicious perfume of tomato vine ?
Hands down, it ’ randomness one of my favorite plants to grow every year and I grew it without abandon in my last garden, in the grind, when space was not an issue for these boastfully, unwieldy plants .
But when I uprooted to a different function of the nation and found myself in a rental dwelling for the short term, with entirely a deck that was desirable for gardening, I thought my tomato dreams were dashed for the future couple of summers.
not thus ! I ’ ll plowshare what I ’ ve learned—and how I grew hundreds of pounds of tomatoes from good a handful of container plants .
Benefits of growing tomatoes in pots
That first year, I ended up growing a wide variety of tomato plants in containers, easily and successfully, in my robustness zone 6b climate. I had enough of a harvest every week to eat fresh and cook with, and a final examination snip at the end of summer for several jars of homemade skin-on tomato sauce .
Related: Grow Tomatoes Like a Boss With These 10 Easy Tips
I found that an unexpected benefit of container plants is being able to protect them more easily from critters ( in my case, growing tomatoes on a second-story deck deterred all the deer in my neighborhood ), not to mention having better immunity against pests and diseases that naturally live in the garden ( since you start with fresh potting dirt ) .
Growing tomatoes in pots in truth levels the bring field in the home garden game, as it allows even gardeners short on space ( say, a balcony or side patio ) to grow beautiful and productive plants regardless of substantial estate .
How to successfully grow tomatoes in containers
so what ’ s the first gear thing you need to know ?
The key to being wildly successful with growing tomatoes in pots is proper planning.
first, make sure you choose a location with at least 8 to 10 hours of sun ( 6 hours is the bare minimal, but more is much better ) .
( If your yard is shadier than you ’ d like, here are a few options for tomatoes that can grow in shade. )
then, follow my tested-and-true tips below to learn how you can maximize the minimal quad you have and cultivate healthy, vigorous tomato plants in your small-space container garden !
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1. Choose the right type of tomato.
Determinate types ( besides called bush, covenant, or patio plants ) are normally the best tomato plants for containers, as they grow to a predetermined size—no more than 3 to 4 feet tall—and set flowers and fruits all at once, making them reliable and predictable in rigorous quarters .
however, you can silent grow indeterminate tomatoes if you give them a large enough container and good support for their vines. ( More on my favored tomato supports below in Step 9. )
A good rule of thumb is to grow determinate tomatoes if you have a short circuit grow season, got a late start in the temper, or have a very limited footprint .
Recommended determinate tomato varieties: Glacier, Red Siberian, italian Roma, Supremo Roma, Cherry Falls
If, on the other bridge player, you have a decent originate season and adequate space for a large, improbable plant, indeterminate tomatoes will give you abundant harvests all summer long and are wholly accomplishable in containers !
Recommended indeterminate tomato varieties: Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Black Krim, Cuore Di Bue, Chocolate Cherry
2. Start with a strong and healthy transplant.
ideally, the tomato plants you start with should have been repotted at least once, and hardened off properly so they ’ re ready to live outside in the sun .
( If you started your own plants from sow, follow my previous guides on how to repot your seedlings into larger containers, and how and why to transplant them a moment fourth dimension. )
Repotting assists your tomato plants in developing larger root masses, which in call on helps them survive the shock of transplant, resist pests and diseases that prey on vulnerable youthful plants, and grow stronger overall .
If you ’ ra fetch transplants home from a nursery or garden center, look for thick, uncompromising stems and healthy green leaf dislodge from worm damage, sunburn, and yellow ( which indicates watering issues or nutritional deficiencies ) .
I besides try to avoid “ top heavy ” plants on grandiloquent, skinny stems, as it could be a sign they haven ’ triiodothyronine received adequate sunlight or been repotted .
3. Don’t be shy with container size, and choose a fabric pot over a plastic pot.
When it comes to tomatoes, the bigger the pot, the better .
Determinate varieties should be planted in 10-gallon containers at a minimum, while indeterminate varieties need, at the identical least, 20-gallon containers to thrive .
Any smaller than these sizes and your plants may not be ampere generative as they could be .
My darling character of containers are fabric pots, like these ones from Root Pouch. They come in either non-degradable or biodegradable versions, but for container gardening, I prefer the non-degradable Boxer pipeline so I can reuse them year after class .
fabric pots are beneficial for plants with extensive root systems because they naturally “ air cut ” the roots .
The effects of air pruning in breathable fabric pots are best seen when compared side by side with plants contained in non-porous plastic pots .
When the roots in plastic pots grow long adequate to hit the sides of the pot, they continue to grow round and round in a compress design ( spiraling, curl, and twisting around themselves ), finally becoming potbound .
Roots in fabric pots, on the other hand, are exposed to air as they grow. This photograph “ burns off ” the tips of the roots, which stops them from growing long and lank. rather, they branch off and form newly, shorter, hempen eater roots .
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Because growth is well distributed throughout the territory volume ( and not just on the edges of the pot ), the dense network of bifurcate roots is able to increase the plant ’ s uptake of water, utilize all available nutrients, and help in its natural defenses .
Left: Rootbound plant from a plastic pot. Right: Air pruned roots from a fabric pot. Image by Root Pouch. The permeability of framework pots besides helps to promote proper drain of excess water and improve oxygenation to the roots ( which maximizes the implant ’ s metabolic performance and, in turn, boosts crop yields ) .
In cool climates, however, black plastic pots do serve a virtual officiate. They hold heating system in and keep roots quick in recently spring to early summer, when tomato transplants are most susceptible to temperature swings .
On the flip side, black credit card pots may get besides hot in the bill of summer, so they need to be shaded to prevent the rootball from overheating .
You can wrap or cover formative pots with shade fabric, sail, or towels to insulate against the heat ( function binder clips work great for securing them ), a well as try to keep them off heat-retaining surfaces like concrete .
Whichever kind of container you use, be sure to place a heavy-duty discus ( I use this one ) underneath before you load it up, and have it placed precisely where you want it—it ’ ll be very heavy to move subsequently on .
not merely will the discus protect your pack of cards or patio from standing moisture, it will allow your plant to absorb any excess water over the path of a hot day .
4. Use high-quality potting soil.
Plants in containers need a dependable combination of breathability, absorption, and moisture memory .
The topsoil from your garden ( arsenic well as any commercially bagged shuffle labeled as “ raised go to bed soil ” or “ garden soil ” ) is broadly besides dense for potted plants, and it increases the gamble of your tomato implant picking up a soil-borne disease that ’ sulfur otherwise easily preventable .
I recommend using a high-quality agio potting dirt or potting mix like this one, and try to avoid reusing potting dirty from by seasons if your plants had pests or diseases. You can besides make your own pot desegregate with only three ingredients .
spread about 3 to 4 inches of potting land on the bottom of your container, then continue with Step 5 .
5. Feed your tomato plant well.
Tomatoes are arduous feeders and need ample nutrients to produce well and long into the season .
Before putting the tomato transplant in its final planting hole, add the follow amendments to the territory and stir them around a bit :
Related: Fish Heads Are the Secret to Growing the Best Tomatoes
once the amendments are in, spread another 2 to 3 inches of potting soil on top .
6. Bury the stem of the tomato plant.
gently pinch or snip off the lowest sets of leaves until you ’ ra left with a bare stem on the bottom one-third to one-half of the stem .
Center the tomato establish in the pot and fill the remainder of the pot with more pot land until it ’ randomness filled to the brim ( merely below the final fit of leaves ). gently shake the pot to settle the dirt and add more as needed .
Top off the dirty with 1/2 cup general-purpose fertilizer ( I like this one ) and lightly rake it in around the establish of the shank .
7. Water thoroughly and consistently.
Water the root zone thoroughly until the dirt is evenly damp. I normally body of water the plant in, wait about 10 minutes, water again, wait 10 minutes again, and repeat until water runs freely out the bottom of the pot .
It takes a amazingly large amount of water ( at least a gallon, from my experience ) to amply saturate the territory the first clock. Don ’ t assume that just because the body of water drains mighty away on the first water that the dirt is soaked through .
Proper water is the key to achiever when it comes to growing tomatoes in pots. Too fiddling or besides much water can stunt your plant ’ randomness emergence, lend to blossom end decompose, or encourage pests in times of hot weather or plant stress .
For those lapp reasons, body of water only the ancestor zone with a water can, garden hose, dribble irrigation, or downpour hoses ( not overhead on the leaves ) so you can see precisely how much water system your plant is getting each meter .
After the initial water, and depending on the weather, you credibly won ’ t need to water again until three days late. Check the lead 3 to 4 inches of territory with your finger ; if it feels dry, give it a adept toast.
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As summer goes on, you ’ ll want to check the dirt a couple times a week to ensure a reproducible tied of moisture .
Plants in containers tend to dry out more cursorily than those in raised beds or in-ground garden beds, so it ’ s not strange to water at least once every other day as temperatures climb higher. The smaller the batch, the more much you ’ ll necessitate to water .
Remember that tomato plants like to be watered profoundly, therefore be indisputable to saturate the dirt until excess water system drains out the bottom. Give another dainty, long pawn only when the top 3 to 4 inches of dirty feel dry .
8. Protect young transplants from frost with “walls of water.”
broadly, it ’ s a thoroughly idea to wait until night temperatures are systematically above 45°F before you establish tomatoes outside .
But in climates with short or finical growing seasons, sometimes you precisely need to get them outside sooner ( or you never know when temperatures may dip below freezing ). here in Central Oregon, it ’ s not unheard of to get frost well into July !
Related: Find First and last Frost Dates accurately with This Custom Planting Calendar
One way that I protect my transplants in deep spring to early summer is with “ walls of urine ” ( besides known as tomato teepees ) .
They keep plants nice and toasty and are super easily to use ( no necessitate to take frost covers on and off each day ) .
Walls of water enable you to plant your tomatoes up to six weeks before your last frost date, and keep them going up to six weeks after the first freeze, as they ’ re rated to withstand temperatures deoxyadenosine monophosphate low as 16°F .
( They haven ’ triiodothyronine failed me so far, though I ’ ve personally never used mine below 28°F. )
They besides protect against wreathe, so they ’ ra useful for delicate young plants that haven ’ thymine fully anchored themselves into the soil however .
“ Walls of water ” is basically a big closed chain of heavy-duty credit card that ’ s sectioned off into long tubes. The tubes are filled with water system, and the “ walls ” are placed over the establish with the slant of the tubes supporting them. You end up with what looks like a tepee around your plant .
Quick Tip: Place the walls of water over a bucket and fill the tubes partway with urine until the walls can by and large stand on their own. Transfer the walls to your container over the plant, then continue filling them to the top with water .
Walls of body of water act as mini greenhouses, collecting heat from the sunday during the day and radiating it back out at night .
They do need to be refilled sporadically as the water evaporates, but they ’ ra amazingly effective in cold climates and I highly recommend using them if you want to get an early on startle on the growing season .
I normally remove mine once my tomato plants are a few inches above the walls ( or I ’ megabyte certain all risk of frost has passed ) .
A simple room to remove the tomato tepee is to push all the walls in until water system spills out the top and onto the soil .
once the tubes are by and large empty, you can roll them down, lift them up over the plant, dry them out, and store them for next year. then proceed with Step 9 .
9. Add your support structure.
To reduce your chances of damaging the roots, add your tomato support at this phase before the plant grows excessively large .
If you are growing determinate tomatoes, the metallic conic cages that you find in most garden centers will suffice. But, I am generally not a fan of them for indeterminate tomatoes, as I find they ’ re besides flimsy to support the long, sprawling vines .
My favorite tomato supports are these tomato ladders ( basically very tall, beefy stakes ) and hearty tomato cages ( which can be folded down when not in use ) .
Both of these supports are solid, extendible, and durable ( I ’ ve used the same ones for years and they still look effective as fresh ) and they ’ re besides attractive, if you care about that kind of thing .
Quick Tip: If you use tomato ladders, you can bet on your plants inaugural and then add the “ walls of urine ” over them, making things a little more streamlined .
They ’ ve well supported my container tomatoes that grew over 7 feet grandiloquent and are convenient to store aside at the end of the season .
I ’ d say the cages are a little better at containing the vines than the ladders, as you can just tuck your tomato branches back into the batting cage if they get besides indocile .
With tomato ladders, you have to stay on acme of tying or clipping the vines to the stakes to keep them neat and tidy .
Whichever documentation you use, don ’ triiodothyronine wait until you actually need it before you install it. It ’ ll be that much harder to wrangle a ripe tomato establish into a cage than to just have it in place early .
10. Mulch the soil.
Mulching is essential for any garden, but it ’ randomness specially significant for container gardens as it helps retain moisture in the dirt .
Use an organic mulch like chaff ( not hay, which contains seeds ), shredded bark, or tree surgeon wood chips to cover the territory by at least 2 inches, taking concern not to bunch it up against the stem turn .
One substantial layer of mulch should last the whole summer, and the strew can be composted with your exhausted tomato plants at the end of the season .
11. Fertilize your tomatoes consistently throughout the season.
even with all that effective gorge that you put in the implant hole, your tomato plants will need another blast of nutrients about six weeks into the temper .
I like to use a poise organic fertilizer, like this chondritic tomato fertilizer or this liquid fish and seaweed emulsion. Follow the box directions for proper application, and keep the fertilizer bag or bottle following to your plants so you ’ ll never forget to feed them .
Try to avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as you ’ ll end up with lots of lavish fleeceable leaves, but no flowers or fruits .
I have a deep love for growing any and all types of tomatoes in all kinds of conditions, so if you have any questions about growing tomatoes in pots, please ask away in the comments !
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Yield: 1 container plant
How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots Like a Gardening Pro
You do n’t need a lot of space to grow tomatoes. You just need this bit-by-bit guide that shows you precisely which varieties to grow and how to set your plants up for success .
- 1 tomato seedling or start
- 10- to 20-gallon container
- 25-inch heavy-duty saucer
- 1.5- to 3-cubic feet of high-quality potting soil (depending on container size)
- 1/2 cup of tomato/vegetable fertilizer
- 1/4 cup of fish meal
- 1/4 cup of bone meal
- 2 aspirin tablets
- Handful of crushed eggshells
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose fertilizer
- 1 Walls of Water tomato teepee (optional)
- 1 tomato support structure
- Organic mulch
- Garden snips or scissors
- Choose the right type of tomato. Determinate plants or indeterminate plants? Let your space and length of growing season guide you.
- Start with a strong and healthy transplant. Your tomato transplant should’ve been repotted at least once already and properly hardened off.
- Don’t be shy with container size, and choose a fabric pot over a plastic pot. You need a minimum 10-gallon container for determinate tomatoes and a 20-gallon container for indeterminate tomatoes. Place a saucer under the container before filling it, and make sure it’s in the spot you want it — otherwise it’ll be very heavy to move later.
- Use high-quality potting soil. Spread about 3 to 4 inches of potting soil across the bottom of the container.
- Feed your tomato plant well. Once you add your potting soil, stir the following amendments into the soil: tomato/vegetable fertilizer, fish meal, bone meal, aspirin, crushed eggshells. Then, spread another 2 to 3 inches of potting soil on top.
- Bury the stem of the tomato plant. Gently pinch or snip off the lowest sets of leaves until you’re left with a bare stem on the bottom one-third to one-half of the stem. Center the tomato plant in the pot and fill the remainder of the pot
with more potting soil until it’s filled to the brim (just below the last set of leaves). Gently shake the pot to settle the soil and add more as needed. Top off the soil with 1/2 cup all-purpose fertilizer and lightly rake it in around the base of the stem.
- Water thoroughly and consistently. Water the root zone thoroughly until the soil is evenly moist. Water the plant in, wait about 10 minutes, water again, wait 10 minutes again, and repeat until water runs freely out the bottom of the pot. It will take upwards of 1 gallon of water to fully saturate the soil.
- Protect young transplants from frost with “walls of water.” This is an optional step for cold climates. If nighttime temperatures are consistently below 45°F at the time of planting, fill a Wall of Water and place it over your seedling to protect against frost. Remove the Wall of Water when the tomato plant is a few inches above the walls (or all danger of frost has passed).
- Add your support structure. To reduce your chances of damaging the roots, add your tomato support at this stage before the plant grows too large.
- Mulch the soil. Use an organic mulch like straw (not hay, which contains seeds), shredded bark, or arborist wood chips to cover the soil by at least 2
inches, taking care not to bunch it up against the stem.
- Fertilize your tomatoes consistently throughout the season. Start feeding your tomato plant about six weeks into the season. Use a balanced organic fertilizer and follow the package directions for proper application.
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Growing Tomatoes From Start to Finish
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This post updated from an article that primitively appeared on May 23, 2019 .