Growing tomatoes in pots can be rewarding if done right; but it can also be disastrous if the wrong approach is used. Tomatoes are not the easiest plants to grow, but they are surely a favorite for many gardeners.
The good news is you don’t need to dedicate a large space of your garden to grow tomatoes. You can utilize a small space in your backyard or use containers to grow enough of them to feed your family and sell or give to your neighbors.
Many home owners are using pots or larger containers to grow different crops in areas with limited space, and tomatoes are some of the crops that are successful in pots. This method is an ideal solution for gardening in small spaces; even apartment dwellers can utilize their balcony.
There are basic rules that you should follow to improve your success, here are 5 tips to utilizing pots or containers to grow your own organic tomatoes:
1. Preparation for Growing Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes in pots or containers of some description can be as easy as growing them with any other method.
You will the need healthy tomato plant, the right container, compost and plant fertilizer.
Select the right tomato variety
There are different tomato varieties available in the market.
Most of these varieties are suitable for containers; however, bushy tomatoes are the recommended for containers since they don’t require support and are also good for hanging containers.
Some of the preferred varieties include:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Patio tomato
- Pixie tomato
- Floragold tomato
- Micro tomato
- Tiney tomato
You can also use vine varieties like the Black cherry, gardeners delight, Sungold and sun Cherry Premium.
Choose The Right Container…
After selecting the tomato variety, the next preparation step is to choose the right container. Specific tomato varieties can fit in small pots; however, bigger containers are the best for all varieties.
The container should be approximately 2ft. 5- 15 gallon plastic containers that are reusable are the perfect choice for your organic garden.
Big containers can hold more soil, and more soil can hold more water. The tomatoes will have enough space to spread the roots and enough nutrients for healthy tomatoes and better yields.
For healthy roots, ensure proper drainage by drilling holes in the bottom of you container.
2. Add Proper Mix for the Container
Tomatoes are susceptible to disease and pests and using garden soil is never a good idea because it can get compacted very easily. Also garden soil may contain harmful bacteria and pests that can damage your tomatoes.
Alternatively, use an all-purpose potting soil and add a proper mix of equal parts of perlite, compost and sphagnum peat moss to achieve the best base, nutrients levels and improve drainage.
Why Add Compost?
Compost and organic materials like shavings helps in drainage, retaining moisture, regulating temperature and is also food for the tomatoes.
Too much or too little water will affect the success of your tomatoes negatively. Compost when added to a container will keep the potting soil consistently moist improving the health of your crops.
Consider adding fertilizer regularly to provide more nutrients to the crops. While there are commercial fertilizers that are safe for vegetables, organic fertilizer are the best choice.
Organic fertilizer components like, bone meal, greensand, soy meal, kelp meal, blood meal, are available online. The organic mix provides slow release nutrition and lasts longer in the container before they need to be added again.
The proper mix for your container should include a balanced mix of nutrients like potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen for your vegetables.
3. Planting and Initial Care
Match the tomato varieties to the size of the containers. Small varieties should go with smaller containers which can be hung to fully utilize your space. Larger varieties should go with large containers and supported with stacks or strings.
Using tomato transplants is better than using seeds directly to your container. Plant your tomatoes deeply leaving most of the plant covered by the potting mix. Remove all the branches and leaves that will go below the soil.
Potting the Plant…
Fill your pot a quarter full with the pot mix and place your tomato seedling at the base. Push in the plant to enough to give it support.
Fill the container with soil as the plant grows.
Continue adding the mixture around the stem of the tomato as you trim the leaves and branches. By the time you reach the top of the container, half of the stem should be covered by the potting mix. This helps the plant to develop root mass along the stem making the tomato strong and capable of retrieving more nutrients from the enriched soil mix.
Water the crops regularly to ensure that the soil is completely saturated and the roots are soaked. One of the biggest challenges with growing tomatoes in containers is keeping the soil moist with consistent amount of water.
Too much water will cause the roots to rot while little water will cause the plants to get weak. One advantage of using containers is that you can always protect your crops from heavy rain or hot weather by moving them.
Proper drainage and the right mix of potted soil will help in retaining the right amount of water content in the container.
4. Daily Care
It’s critical that you take care of your potted crops daily. After providing your tomatoes the right mix of nutrients and water, you need to protect your crops from pests and diseases.
Caging and Netting…
You can place a cage around your containers with tomatoes and support the cage with a net to keep insects and pets from attacking them.
Let the Sun Shine…
Tomatoes need at least 6 hours of sunshine every day to make their own food and produce fruits. Check on a daily basis that your tomatoes are getting enough sunshine and heat. Select a place with enough sunshine at the preparation stage. Consider growing tomatoes in hot seasons like spring or summer.
After successful preparation, planting and caring of your tomatoes, the time will come when you can reap the fruits of your labor.
Harvest the tomatoes when they are turning red with no or few traces of green remaining.
When tomatoes are ripe, they are easy to snip or pluck from their branches.
The taste of healthy fresh picked tomatoes should be the motivation for you to grow tomatoes in a natural organic garden if you have the space. If not, there is no reason why you should forego the wonderful taste of home grown tomatoes, so the above tips to growing tomatoes in pots will help you to successfully grow your tomatoes, and enjoy them raw or cooked.
While container gardening is a very successful means of growing tomatoes, if you don’t want to commit to a permanent vegetable garden consider straw bale gardening, this is a system that can also be used for small spaces. This method allows you to grow a lot more of your own organic food in less space and with less work.