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How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

Date Posted: May 24, 2016

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers
photo credit: Mike the Gardener: Roma Tomatoes

We get a lot of questions on our Vegetable Gardening Facebook page asking if it is possible to grow tomatoes in containers, and if so, what size does the container have to be. These questions can be answered in a multitude of ways. The simple answer is yes, you can grow tomatoes in containers. What you really need is a decent sized container with adequate drainage and a potting soil that is enriched with plenty of nutrients.

Choosing the Right Container for your Tomatoes

The larger the variety of tomato you are growing, the larger container I would recommend that you use. Now that is not to say you cannot grow such tomato varieties in smaller containers, in fact you can see in the video that I use a fairly small sized container for the Roma tomatoes that I have growing. While a small container works, you will have better results with a larger container. Try to use a container that is at least fourteen inches in height and at least twelve inches wide and long. If you are using a circular container such as a pot, try to get one that is at least twelve to fourteen inches in diameter. As a side note, make sure your containers have plenty of drainage. I like to drill a lot of holes in the bottom on my containers so that excess water will fall away. Too much water at the roots of your plants can cause all kinds of problems.

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How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

Using the Right Soil for Your Container Tomatoes

Since you are growing your tomatoes in containers, you want the soil for your tomatoes to hold moisture, be friable and contain plenty of nutrients.

Soil Moisture for Tomatoes in Containers

Soil in containers will dry out a lot quicker than it would if it were in a traditional garden bed. You have to remember, air is hitting the container from all directions as is the sun and heat. Therefore, the moisture in the container will get used up a lot quicker by tomato plants, as well as through evaporation loss. Most commercial potting soils contain an ingredient called perlite. Perlite helps with moisture control in the soil. When choosing a potting soil make sure it has either perlite or vermiculite.

Friable Soil for Tomatoes in Containers

If you used a regular garden soil in your containers, it would get compacted fairly quickly, thus making it hard for the roots of your tomato plants to expand easily. Making your soil friable solves that issue and the best way to do that is to mix in peat or coir. This allows for your soil to be more “airy” which makes it easier for the roots of your tomato plants to grow and get at all of the nutrients in the container. Again, if you buy a potting soil, one of these two ingredients will be in there.

Nutrients for Tomatoes in Containers

Your tomato plants will need nutrients to grow and the best way to make sure they get enough is having plenty of compost mixed in. Most potting soils will have some compost mixed in, but I recommend that you add some more. Tomato plants can be nutrient hogs (depending on the variety), so a little more compost can go a long way.

How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

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Choosing a Tomato Variety to Grow in Containers

You can grow just about every tomato variety in a container, but there are some that do a lot better than others. For example, a beefsteak will do much better in a garden bed, whereas a cherry or grape tomato are excellent choices for containers. As you can see in the video, I am growing Roma tomatoes and they are doing quite well. There are also hybrid varieties specifically for small space and container gardening. They don’t grow as tall, and aren’t as abundant producers of their heirloom counterparts, but they are flavorful and grow just about anywhere and in anything.

How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

Staking Your Tomatoes in Containers

The stems of tomato plants do not get strong enough to support the fruits that will grow on the plant, therefore you will need to do something to prop them up. For containers, I like to use a simple tomato cage. They are inexpensive and fit nicely into many containers regardless of their shape and size. So whether you are using a pot, bucket or box, a tomato cage will work.

Additional Tomato Container Gardening Tips

I would recommend adding in a layer of compost to the top of your pot about 4 weeks in so that a constant supply of nutrients is available to the plant. You can also use a watering can with a fish emulsion mixture. Either way works great. Keep your soil moist. A daily watering during hotter summer months will be necessary, so keep an eye on your tomato plants. Finally, harvest your tomatoes as soon as they are ready so that your tomato plants can keep growing more of those yummy fruits.

Happy gardening!

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Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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