5 Tips for Planting Tomatoes in Pots

5 Tips for Planting Tomatoes in Pots

1. Choose the Largest Containers Possible 

Select the biggest pot as possible for your container tomatoes. The more space your tomato has to grow in, the healthier it will be.

Tomato plants grow quickly and as a result require plenty of water, sun, and food in order to accommodate that growth. Their speed means roots grow fast. Plants develop extensive root systems but in containers, their reach is limited. As a result, root systems in tomato pots can become root-bound. You can offset that problem by giving tomato plants a roomy home. You’ll have the most success if you use tomato pots that are 5 gallons or larger and that have at least one square foot of surface growing space. (Read more about choosing containers and pots for tomatoes.)

2. Choose Varieties Specifically for Containers

The best types of tomatoes to grow in containers are bush varieties, dwarf varieties, short-season varieties, and determinate varieties – for obvious reasons: they don’t get as big as other types of tomatoes, they mature faster, and they finish growing at a certain point in the season. Buy tomato seedlings rather than starting your plants from seed to give your container tomatoes a strong start. Extra tip: plant one plant per container so it doesn’t compete with other tomato plants or companion plants for space, water, and nutrients.

3. Choose a Healthy Potting Mix

Tomatoes grown in containers need a loose, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Successful gardeners recommend using a good potting mix rather than potting soil or garden soil.  Potting soil can be too heavy for containers. Soil harvested straight from the garden is most likely infested with fungi, weed seeds, and pests. Learn what to look for in a good potting mix and how to save money by making your own. Extra tip: moisten your potting mix slightly before planting.

4. Choose a Sunny Spot

Tomatoes need at least 6-8 hours of full sun a day. Before planting tomatoes in pots, choose a spot for your containers – one where they get enough light. Monitor the spot at regular intervals during the day to track exposure.

5. Choose Easy Access to a Water Source

One of the biggest dangers to container tomatoes is that the soil dries out. During a heat wave you may need to water them daily. Whether you set your tomato pots near your garden hose or you have a convenient way to water them with a pitcher or watering can, make sure you have easy access to a water source. You will use it!

Growing Cherry Tomatoes

Growing Cherry Tomatoes

Most cherry tomato varieties grow to be huge plants, so they’re generally not suitable for container gardening. Determinate cherry varieties are exceptions however, as they're almost bred exclusively for container gardening.

When transplanting cherry tomato plants into the garden, remove all but the top set of leaves on the plant and bury the entire stem all the way up to those leaves. This is step is important in growing cherry tomatoes, because it will establish a bigger root formation for the yet-to-be-huge plants. The entire stem that was burrowed will develop into one big root from which side roots are spawned. This will allow the plant to gather additional nutrients in the ground as well as make it stronger.

Tomato cages are recommended for growing cherry tomatoes because they will help capitalize on plant size and fruit production. A primitive cage can be homemade from fencing material or PVC pipes. A properly sized cage should be at least two feet across and six feet tall. Other types of support like stakes could also be used, but whatever you do use, be sure to set them up early- driving stakes into the plant roots right when they're about to fruit is not a very good idea!

Most cherry tomatoes varieties are extremely prolific, so fertilize often and regularly, about every 2 weeks or so. Water-soluble fertilizers like MiracleGro penetrate deep into the ground to maximize nutrient uptake from the roots. Thus they’re the easiest fertilizers to use when growing cherry tomatoes. Increase fertilization when the fowers first set to increase fruit production.

Preserving Your Harvest
We all know that cherry tomatoes make fabulous snacks when picked fresh out of the garden, but they also taste great when preserved. Dried cherry tomatoes are prepared by cutting each tomato in half and adding salt and seasoning (if desired). The tomato halves are then dried in a dehydrator, after which they could be stored for quite a while.

Dehydrators take the water content out of the tomatoes to make them preservable. The process also condenses tomato flavor, making dried tomatoes intensely flavorful. If you think fresh tomatoes taste good, then just wait until you taste them dried!

Regular dried cherry tomatoes can be preserved in olive oil and are great for Italian cuisine. Super sweet varieties like Sun Gold and Sweet Hundred taste almost like raisins when dried and are great for snacking. All in all, the experience of preserving your own harvest makes all serve to make growing cherry tomatoes more enjoyable.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots


Why Grow Heirloom Tomatoes?

Why Grow Heirloom Tomatoes?

Growing Tomatoes in Pots
The most appealing feature of heirloom tomatoes is their complex flavor, which hybrid varieties tend to lack. Because the point of growing tomatoes is to eat them in the end, many gardeners value the highly prized taste of heirlooms over their shortcomings .

Starting Heirloom Tomato Seeds
You will most likely be starting heirloom tomato plants from seeds, because few stores carry heirloom plants for sale. Hybrids on the other hand, are overwhelmingly popular because of their reliability and productivity. You might find some heirloom varieties in your local nursery, but chances are that they do not carry the specific varieties you would like.

Because heirloom tomato varieties are not as disease resistant as modern hybrid varieties, care should be taken to minimize the exposure to diseases and harm in all steps of the growing process.

Heirloom tomato seeds should be sown in a soiless growing medium to minimize the risk of bacteria. After they are at least 6 inches tall, heirloom tomato plants must be hardened off before transplanting outside. The process of hardening involves a gradual, increased exposure of the plants to the outdoors. Hardening is needed because the plants are reared indoors and they are not used to the harsher conditions outside. Plants that are transplanted into the garden too quickly risk getting sunburns and windburns.

Hardening Off
To start the hardening process, choose a nice, calm day and leave the plants outside for two hours before bringing them in. After doing this for a few days, gradually increase the hours of exposure outside until the plants look ready. If done correctly, the plants should have grown a little bigger after this process. If at any time the plants receive burns (whitish marks on the leaves), bring them in for a few days before starting the process over again.

Transplanting into the Garden
Before transplanting heirloom tomato plants into the garden, remove all but the top two sets of leaves. Dig a deep hole for the plant and pad the interior with compost and if you want, add a few tablespoons of slow-release fertilizer. Set the plant in and bury the stem all the way up to the top two sets of leaves. This practice encourages root formation from the stem, resulting in a better root system that can take in additional nutrients.

Fertilize regularly (every 2-3 weeks), but do not overdo it. Organic fertilizers are preferred because they tend to bring out the best of heirloom tomatoes’ rich flavors. Most growers agree that the natural ingredients in organic fertilizers improve flavor more than chemical fertilizers, and flavor is what we’re looking for when growing heirlooms.

Watering plants should be best done in the morning when it’s cool. Hold the hose low and water the ground so as not to splash mud on leaves. An automated drip irrigator is a terrific watering system.
Pruning the plants maybe something you should consider when growing heirloom tomatoes. Pruning off suckers is a tradeoff between decreased overall fruit production and increased fruit size and quality. Because flavor is such an important part of heirlooms, pruning might be worth it, especially for big-sized tomatoes. If you’re not satisfied with the fruit size or want to hasten fruit formation, then you should prune.

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds
If you want to save heirloom tomato seeds for next year from this year’s fruits, then different tomato varieties should be separated as far as possible to minimize cross-breeding, which can produce unexpected results.

Growing Tomatoes in Pots :how-to-grow-tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

There are a lot of upsides to growing tomatoes in containers. With containers, you can to grow tomatoes almost anywhere. They provide additional flexibility in that you can control the growing medium, which will protect plants from pests and diseases. Not to mention that you can achieve amazing results that you could not have achieved otherwise.

All tomato varieties can be grown in containers. But the bigger the plant size, the more maintenance is required to upkeep the plant.

Choosing the Right Container
The minimum size container you should use is 5 gallons. Although you could go as small as 3 gallons for varieties like 4th of July, smaller containers mean more watering and more fertilization. Bigger containers are better in reducing the frequency of these needs.

You might ask, where do you find these containers? Look around the house and see if you’ve got any 5-gallon buckets lying around. If not you could always buy some containers at the store. 18-gallon Rubbermaid storage boxes are inexpensive ($3-4 at Walmart) and are big enough to fit up to 2 plants.

You may also look toward plastic grow bags as a cheap and convenient alternative to conventional containers. These are basically foldable bags that can stand upright when filled with soil. They come in all sizes from 5 to 20 gallons. They work well and are easy to clean up after the growing season has ended.

And if you’re desperate looking for containers, you could always grow tomato plants in bags of compost. No I’m not joking… just lay the 40lb bag flat on the ground, cut a square opening on the top surface, and poke some drainage holes underneath. Obviously this method is not suitable for indoors. Outdoors, set up a cage around the bag after the plant has been set in. If you desire, you can bury the bag with leaves or some other mulch for appearance and protection.

Container Growing Medium
There are a lot of options as to what growing medium can be used in containers. Regular garden soil and potting soil will work, but you can and should do much better than that. Many gardeners use professional growing mixes, such as those made by MiracleGro and ProMix. These are usually pricey, so the alternative is to make your own. The basic formula for a good mixture is 40% peat moss, 40% compost, and 20% perlite. The peat moss and perlite greatly enhances drainage, which is very important for container gardening. These ingredients come cheap when bought in big packages, especially at end of the season sales.

Growing tomatoes in containers is notorious for watering needs. Water evaporates faster in containers and need to be replaced constantly. Mulching will greatly reduce your watering needs. Grass clippings and red pine bark can be used for mulch. You can also set up a container watering kit to automate the watering process.

Fertilization is crucial for container success. Tomatoes grown in containers need to be fertilized more often, as much as once per week for the smaller containers. Chemical fertilizers like MiracleGro are ideal, because they work efficiently and reduce damage to your garden soil if used in containers.

Staking and Pruning
Stakes for container tomato plants should be set up on the outside (if that’s possible) where they could be set firmer into the ground, for wind protection. Pruning might be necessary if the plants are growing way too big.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots
Growing tomatoes in pots: how-to-grow-tomatoes-upside-down.

How to Grow Tomatoes Upside Down

How to Grow Tomatoes Upside Down

One of the newer, more innovative approaches to the art of growing tomatoes have been growing tomatoes upside down. Tomato plants grown this way have been observed to bear increased yields when compared to plants grown the "normal" way (right side up) in containers.

This increased productivity is due to increased air circulation to the leaves when the plant is hanging in midair, more disease resistance from avoiding contact with garden soil, and improved nutrient absorption from watering and fertilizing from the bottom of the plant. But the best thing about growing tomatoes this way is that staking is not needed! Growing downwards, the entire weight of the plant will be evenly distributed through all its branches.

You can grow any variety of tomatoes upside down. However, smaller fruited varieties are preferred, for obvious reasons. But with any variety, if the plant gets too big and starts to touch the ground, simply cut off the growing tip to stop vertical growth, and the plant will develop laterally. A few varieties that are more suitable for being grown upside down are Early Girl, Sun Gold, Bush Celebrity, and Pink Ping Pong.

Some pruning may be needed to keep plants under control. Thankfully, pruning is an easy task when the plant is grown upside down, as the branches are more accessible. Very large plants that bear a lot of fruits all at once are not desirable for growing tomatoes upside down. The last thing you want is to have the container collapse from the weight of all the fruit, which is really, really bad for the plant. Unless you have a very solid container, it's preferrable to prune the plants to a manageable size. Yes you won't see maximum fruit production via pruning, but you will be maximizing the efficiency of the tomato plant. A well-pruned plant will bear less fuits at one time, but the fruits will ripen faster and be of higher quality than a plant that's not pruned.

Building an Upside Down Planter
The ideal planter for growing tomatoes upside down is a 5 gallon bucket with a metal handle. Studies have shown that 5 gallons is the ideal container size to maximize the space/production ratio of tomato plants.

A light growing medium should be used. A good mixture would be 50% sphagnum peat moss, 30% compost, and 20% perlite. Here are the steps to building an upside down planter for growing tomatoes upside down:

1. Drill a hole about 3” in diameter on the bottom of the bucket
2. Prepare your tomato transplant by removing all but its top set of (big) leaves.
3. Hang the bucket right-side-up with its handle somewhere low so you can reach to the bottom. Remove your transplant from its container and carefully stick the plant through drilled hole so that the plant is sticking out from the bottom of the bucket. Hold the plant in place so that there is about an inch of stem sticking out of the bottom.
4. With one hand holding the plant, start packing peat moss inside the bucket around the stem all the way up to its roots. Evenly distribute the moss around the bucket, and carefully let go of the plant, making sure that it’s securely anchored inside the bucket.
5. Fill the bucket with the tomato growing mixture until about an inch from the top.
6. Hang the bucket at its final destination where it will reside and water thoroughly. Note that most varieties will grow to at least 5 feet, so keep that in mind when choosing where to place the plant. Once the plant has grown to a respectable size, it's not advisable to move the planter around, as that will disrupt root formation and possibly break a few branches.
7. About 5 days after transplanting, fertilize from the top with a water-soluble fertilizer.

And there you have it, a good-to-go tomato plant grown upside down. Like all container vegetables, make sure to water and fertilize it regularly. Mulching the opening of the planter is also recommended to prevent evaporation and water loss. Red pine mulch is the most popular, but you can also cut up a black garbage bag and use that cover the opening of the bucket. Tie the bag around the bucket with a piece of string, and cut an opening on the bag where water and fertilizers can enter.

An automated container drip watering system can also be set up with your upside down planters. This reduces the hassles of watering.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots...



Things You'll Need:

  • Gardening Gloves
  • Hanging Baskets
  • Potting Soil
  • Garden Trowels
  • Garden Hoses
  • Shovels
  • Fertilizer Analyzer
  • Tomato Seeds
  • Eggshells
  • Compost Makers
  • Garden Stakes
  • Tomato Plants
  • Fertilizers
  • Cloches
  1. Step 1

    Buy tomato plants at the nursery for planting after all danger of frost has passed. Otherwise, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost.

  2. Step 2

    Choose a site that gets full sun and has soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Tomatoes need plenty of warmth to taste their best, so provide shelter from chilly breezes, whether with a windbreak of trees, a garden wall, or a vine-covered trellis.

  3. Step 3

    Amend the soil with plenty of compost; tomatoes need soil rich in organic matter.

  4. Step 4

    Harden off seedlings, whether store-bought or homegrown, and move them to the garden when nighttime temperatures remain above 50 degrees F.

  5. Step 5

    Dig a hole the size of a basketball for each plant. Add a shovelful of compost and a handful of crushed eggshells (for needed calcium) to each hole.

  6. Step 6

    Set the plants 12 to 18 inches apart depending on variety (see the seed packet or plant label). Plant them deeply - up to the fourth branch from the top - to encourage new root development.

  7. Step 7

    Place a paper collar around each plant to deter cutworms, and cover the plants with cloches or floating row covers to protect them from insects and cool temperatures.

  8. Step 8

    Remove the covers when the weather has warmed, mulch the soil and install any supports the plants will need as they grow.

  9. Step 9

    Make sure plants get between one and two inches of water every week, and to ensure a bumper crop, spray them with compost tea or seaweed extract four times: two weeks after transplanting, after the first flowers appear, when the fruits reach the size of golf balls, and when you spot the first ripe tomato.

  10. Step 10

    Pick tomatoes when their color is glossy and even, and their texture midway between soft and firm.

  11. Growing tomatoes in pots....9-tomato-growing-tips

9 Tomato Growing Tips that will Significantly Boost Production

9 Tomato Growing Tips that will Significantly Boost Production

These 9 little things are easy to do, but will make a big impact on your tomato growing results.

1. Deep Transplanting
This is the most important growing tomato tip that will most likely affect your success: When first transplanting tomato plants into the garden, remove all but the top set of the leaves. Dig a deep hole, and burrow the entire stem up to the top leaves, which should be sticking just a little above ground. Transplanting like this will cause the entire stem that was burrowed to turn into root, creating a strong root foundation for the tomato plant. That plant will be able to take in more nutrients and grow bigger and healthier as a result. Fertilize 5 days after transplanting. (Fertilizing too early before the roots are established can harm the roots).

2. Automated Drip Watering
Consider using drip irrigation with an automatic timer for all your watering needs. Drip irrigation provides regular and even watering, which is good for tomato plants. Studies have also shown that dripping allows water to penetrate deeper into the ground, thus increasing uptake by plant roots.

3. Mulching
Use mulch to reduce water consumption when watering plants, especially in containers. Mulching will greatly reduce water loss due to evaporation. It will also act like a carpet on the growing area, covering up the soil and keeping the area clean to hinder pests and diseases. Red pine mulch is ideal, but lots of things can be used as mulch, including plastic wrapping.

4. Fertilizing
Here’s another important tomato growing tip: fertilize tomato plants regularly (every 2-3 weeks). Follow the directions given for the particular brand of fertilizer you’re using. Choose fertilizers low in nitrogen to prevent getting tomato “trees” that don’t bear fruit. Do not over-fertilize, as that will release excess nutrients which encourages bacteria growth and pests.

5. Foliar Feeding
Occasionally, spray tomato plant leaves with a very mild fertilizer (a much more dilute version of the fertilizer you use for the ground). This improves plant growth and enhances fruit formation.

6. Stake Early
Plant stakes and implement them when tomato plants are young to avoid disrupting root formation later. Note that when staking tomatoes grown in containers, the stakes should be planted on the outside (if possible) where it will be stronger. Here’s a good tomato growing tip for staking- PVC pipes make excellent tomato cages. They’re clean, cheap and easy to setup around a tomato plant. Use linen to bind the branches to the pipes.

7. Harvest Regularly
Harvest tomatoes as soon as they turn red and can be easily snapped off. The sooner ripe fruits are off the plant, the quicker new fruits are formed.

8. Spawning New Plants from Suckers
Here’s a tomato growing tip you probably did not know. Notice those things that grow between the main branches on your tomato plants? They’re called suckers, and they grow to form a new branch or a flower cluster. People who like to prune remove them to encourage fruit production. Once cut off, suckers will develop their own roots if they're put in a glass of water and taken good care of. Place the glass in a dark place and wait a day or two for root formation. Afterwards, take the sucker and plant it in a container and watch it grow. Voila! You have cloned a brand new tomato plant from your existing variety.

9. Boosting Fruit Production when the Season's about to End
When the growing season is almost over or if you live with a short growing season and wish to hasten production, prune off any new suckers on your tomato plants and also cut off their vertical growing tips. This will divert energy into fruit formation and will hasten the ripening of any existing fruits. Growing tomatoes in pots..