Have you wanted to grow your own tasty tomatoes, but have hesitated due to space? Well homegrown tomatoes can be as close as your porch or patio this summer. If you have an area of your yard, porch, patio or deck that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day you can grow tomatoes. 8 hours of sun will give you better yield and results.
What You Need to Grow Container Tomatoes:
Choose the right size container
- Large indeterminate tomato varieties are called vining tomatoes and can grow as tall as 8 feet. These are varieties such as Beefsteak, and Better Boy, which are good for slicing. They will require a large container that is at least 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide. The container should hold about 1o-15 gallons of container mix. They will also require a heavy tomato cage around the container. Indeterminate tomatoes produce fruit up until frost.
- Determinate tomato varieties are more compact, and are often referred to as bush tomatoes. They grow to about 4 foot tall. They produce their fruit all at one time, then stop. Roma tomatoes which are used for tomato sauce is one type of determinate tomato. They will still need staking or a cage and a container that is at least 12 inches deep. These can be grown in 5 gallon buckets or containers, but 8 gallon is better.
- Cherry tomatoes can be either indeterminate or determinate. Check the plant tag to see how tall they will grow. They will also need a container that is 1o-12 inches deep. Aim for about 5 -1ogallons of container mix depending on size.
- If you have limited space such as a small patio, look for a tomato variety that says “patio” tomato. Patio tomatoes are a type of tomato plant that is specifically bred to grow in containers or small spaces, such as patios, balconies, or windowsills. They are compact and bushy, typically growing to a height of 2 to 3 feet making them ideal for growing in pots. They produce small to medium-sized fruit, which are usually ripe and ready to be picked in about 60 to 70 days after planting. They are often described as having a sweet and tangy flavor, and are great for use in salads, sandwiches, or as a snack. These can be grown in smaller containers. The tag should give you a suggesstion for planter size.
Regardless of the size of the container, it needs to have good drainage.
Tips for growing in containers.
- Choose healthy plants that are free from any signs of pest of disease.
- Plant after all danger of frost. Typically 2 weeks after your last expected frost date. Watch the weather for a late cold snap.
- Choose a high quality, organic container mix for vegetables. Change the soil yearly to prevent soil borne pathogens.
- Check your plant daily to see if it needs watering. Containers dry out quickly, especially terra cotta pots which wick the moisture from the soil. Do the finger test. Just place your finger down into the soil to see if it is moist or dry a few inches down. Water until you see drainage coming out of the bottom of the container.
- Plants in containers are watered more frequently, and drain more. This results in loss of nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and will require fertilizing with an organic all purpose water soluble fertilizer weekly. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which will give you more leaves, but less fruit.
- When watering, water at the base of the plant, rather than the leaves. Wet leaves can cause disease.
- Examine your plants frequently for any pests. Adding a pot of basil next to your tomato plant can help deter tomato hornworms, and planting a container of sweet alyssum nearby will attract beneficial insects to help prevent pests.