I am often asked the question, “Which tomatoes can I grow in containers?” The exciting answer: “Any ones that you crave!” This doesn’t mean that you can take any tomato variety in any size of container in any location. Success with containers takes a bit of gardening savvy, particularly in understanding the differences with traditional in-ground gardens.
Here are the key considerations for growing great tomatoes in containers.
- The container: Anything goes! Just make sure it has a drainage hole. Self-watering styles will reduce the frequency of watering. Keep in mind that terra cotta pots, which are porous, require more frequent watering. The container size is directly related to….
- …the varieties of tomato. Indeterminate (tall growing) varieties need a container volume of 10 gallons. Dwarf and determinate tomato varieties, such as bush tomatoes, will do fine in 5-gallon containers. The larger the fruit size, the more sun required for adequate fruit. Cherry tomatoes are the least fussy and will produce fruit in as little as two to three hours of direct sun. The largest heirlooms, such as Mortgage Lifter, will disappoint unless they receive six to eight or more hours of sunlight.
- The planting mix: Excellent planting mediums include quickly-draining but moisture-retentive, soilless mixes, blended with compost. Avoid garden soil, or products labeled as soil or topsoil; they can contain disease and don’t drain well.
- Water and nutrition: Keep plants stress-free (and reduce blossom-end rot) by ensuring that the plants don’t visibly wilt in the hottest part of the day. Consider using drip irrigation or a soaker hose. At planting time, amend the soil with a slow-release, granular fertilizer. Once the plants start flowering, follow up with regular feeding with a liquid formula.
- Providing support for the plant: Short cages can be inserted into containers. Tall plants can tip, so think carefully about how to keep the plants upright when the plants mature.
In-ground vs. in-container
|Planting in the ground||Planting in containers|
|Plant in the soil that you have||Control the quality of the soil you use|
|Weeds get out of control quickly||Weeds are a minor problem|
|Plants get the water and food they need from the soil||Frequent watering and feeding is required|
|Accommodate any type of support you have||Supports must be designed to work with the container you use|
I am giving the Gardener’s Revolution Classic Tomato Garden Kit a thorough test, and am delighted with the product so far. One of the planters contains two dwarf tomatoes, one has two determinate tomatoes, and one has an eggplant and a bell pepper.
The planter features a clever self-watering design and the kit comes with planter, growing medium, fertilizer and a sturdy support for the plants. In only 35 days from transplant, my first eggplant is just a few weeks from harvest, and the tomatoes are setting fruit.