Growing Tomatoes and Vegetables in Containers
Growing tomatoes in containers can be easier than growing using any other method and the results can be stunning! There are some basic rules for successful container growing and we are here to help. In climates with lots of hot summer heat, large pots can really heat up and the soil can be much warmer than in the ground so it is important to keep them well watered and as cool as possible. Potting soils are designed to drain well but that can be a problem in the summer when you want them to hold water a little bit longer. A little compost added to the pots can make all the difference. Fertilizer can wash out with frequent watering and leave your plants wanting more but a simple dose of slow released fertilizer goes a long way.
Here are some important ways to prevent these problems:
Use Large Containers
Keep in mind that the more root space the plant has, the better the roots will grow. This will allow the top part of the plant to grow large. Tomatoes can grow to over 6-8 feet tall and 2 feet across, a half whiskey barrel sized pot is just enough to accommodate the roots for that size plant. Small pots do make smaller plants but that also means a lot less fruit and many of the problems mentioned above. This plant on the left is in a container that is 19″ in diameter and has our decorative tomato support which is 5′ tall. View our selection of containers in our catalog.
Use Compost in Your Pots
You add compost to the ground when you plant, why not add it to the containers too? Compost is the best stuff for plants and it helps keep them cooler and moist during the summertime. Add about 25% or so to your potting soil mix. Mulch on top of the soil helps keep moisture in pots too. Find compost in our catalog.
Fertilizing Regularly is Very ImportantI love using worm castings for this purpose because I can add it anytime and never overfeed. It works like compost and feeds too. As an alternative,we recommend Organic fertilizers which last from 6 weeks to 3 months before they need to be added again. Check out Mater Magic and other organic slow released fertilizers in our catalog.
Never Leave Plants Sitting in Water
You should always use good Potting Soil in your containers and be careful about using trays under pots because they hold water and can actually drown the roots of the plants by providing too much water in the early part of the season when the plant is small. Dump them out frequently after rains. Good drainage holes should be in every pot you plant in. View our selection of Organic Potting soils and compost.
Make Sure Your Plants Get Enough Sunshine
Balconies and sun porches are great for growing plants but make sure there is sun at least 6 hours a day for vegetables to produce fruit well. Lettuces & Herbs will be satisfied with only 3-4 hours a day. Supports keep tomato plants upright and getting all the sunshine they can soak up. View our selection of Supports and Tomato ties. .
Too Much Heat Can Be Detrimental To TomatoesThey will only set fruits when the temperatures are between 55-85 degrees and containers can heat up quickly in the summertime, especially if they are dark colored. Using pots that are too small, forgetting to water them or not mulching the soil will create a situation where the plants roots are just too hot for them to set tomatoes. They will blossom but the flowers may just fall off. Learn about other products that can help keep your plants healthy and disease free.
What You Need (The Minimum)
All you need is a sunny, warm place and containers large enough for the plants you want to grow. Sunny decks, patios, and other areas are great for container gardening and do not require the difficult digging that starting a garden usually requires. Most vegetable plants will grow quite large so your containers must be large enough and not too crowded. Container gardening requires diligent watering and regular feeding, but it can be easy and fun for kids and adults.
The main things you will need are:
- Large Containers approximately 18″ or larger in diameter
- Watering Can or Hose
- Good Potting Soil (enough to fill your pots)
- Plant fertilizer and good compost
- A cage or some kind of support to hold the tomato upright
For Planting Vegetables
You will need to allow approximately 18-24″ in diameter for each plant. This includes tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, beans, squash, peppers and other large plants. These can be planted first and then you can add smaller vegetable plants such as onions, carrots, lettuces, or herbs around the bottom of the plant to fill in a large container.
Prepare Your Potting Soil
First prepare your potting soil by filling the container and adding plant food according to the directions on the package for vegetables. I prefer to use organic plant food or worm castings. Moisten the potting soil by adding water and mixing soil until it feels damp all the way through. Place the pot in the sun and you are ready to plant. Next, dig a hole large enough for the vegetable transplant, turn the plant upside down, tap the bottom, and gently pull the base of the stem until the plant comes out of the container. Place the plant in the hole and fill around the edges pressing gently. Water the plant immediately after planting.
Plants Should Get at Least 6 hours of Sunshine per Day
They can grow with less, but they will not produce fruit in the shade. It is also very important to keep your plants watered regularly. Put your finger down into the soil approximately 2-3″ deep and see if the soil is dry at that level. If it is, then water well until water runs out of the bottom of the pot.
Staking or Supporting Plants
You will need to stake or support plants such as tomatoes, beans, & cucumbers, tomato cages or bamboo stakes work well. Follow the directions on your fertilizer package for feeding vegetables. Check occasionally for bug damage and worms which can do serious damage to tomato plants. There are organic treatments if needed in our catalog and you may visit our Insect Information page for common bug issues.
Picking Tomato Fruit
Pick tomato fruits when they are almost completely red and finish ripening them on your kitchen counter. Once they are soft and totally colored, slice them immediately on to a sandwich and enjoy. Growing vegetables is easy and fun and the payoff of harvest from your own garden is worth the wait.