Melinda's Gardening How To: Growing a Tomato in a Pot

Tomato in a Pot

No excuses! Tomatoes are easy to grow in containers, too.

There’s always room for tomatoes. Grow one or more in pots on your patio, deck, balcony or porch. Even if you have an in-ground vegetable garden, consider growing a tomato or two in a container. You’ll enjoy having them close by for easy access when cooking and entertaining.

 

What You Need

  • Tomatoes
    • Determinate tomatoes, look of the D on the tag, grow a certain height and stop. Often grown in containers and small space gardens
    • Indeterminate tomatoes, labeled with an I, keep growing taller, producing more flowers and fruit until the end of the growing season.
    • Tumbling tomatoes are semi-determinate and can be trained onto a support in a pot or allowed to cascade over the edge of a hanging basket.
  • Sunny location that receives at least 6, preferably 8, or more hours of sunlight each day
  • Container with drainage holes.
    • at least 18” in diameter for determinate tomatoes like compact patio types suited to containers
    • at least 24” for indeterminate tomatoes; these tall varieties need large strong supports as they continue to grow, flower and fruit throughout the season.
  • Trellis, Obelisk or other Support
    • Decorative obelisks, functional tomato towers, bamboo hoops and other plant supports
      • Select a style strong enough to support the tomato variety you decide to grow
  • Quality potting mix that retains moisture and is well-drained
  • Fertilizer
    • Slow release fertilizer
      • Applied at planting and again mid-season if needed
    • OR soluble fertilizer labeled for vegetables
      • These are applied every week or two according to label directions
  • Sun loving herbs and flowers (optional)
    • Brighten the containers with a few flowers and herbs
      • You can have beauty and flavor in one container
    • Or have a bigger harvest by when growing one tomato per pot
  • Plant caddy with wheels if you need to move the planter in and out of the sunlight or out of the way for gatherings (optional)

 

Planting

  • Plant your tomatoes slightly deeper for better rooting. Remove the lower leaves where the stem will be buried. Roots will eventually form along the stem providing added support for the plant.
  • Install the support at planting; be careful not to damage the roots and stems.
  • Fertilize according to label directions.
  • Spread a thin layer of shredded leaves or evergreen needles over the soil surface to conserve moisture.
  •  

On-going Care

  • Check soil moisture daily
    • Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches are starting to dry.
    • Consider enlisting watering devices and drip irrigation systems that can help with this task.
  • Fertilize according to label directions.
    • Don’t overfertilize. More is not always better. Too much nitrogen results in lots of leaves and no tomatoes.
  • Prune wayward branches and suckers as needed to contain plants within the tower, obelisk or onto the support
    • Suckers are the stems that develop between leaf and main stem – removing these contains growth but reduces the size of the harvest
    • Loosely tie the remaining stems to the support as needed. Use cloth strips, twine or other soft ties to secure the stems to the support. Keep tying stems to the support as they continue to grow.

Harvesting

  • Harvest tomatoes when fully colored.
    • Leave them on the plant an extra 5 or 6 days for even better flavor.
    • Harvest as soon as a bit of color shows and finish ripening the tomatoes indoors if animals begin feasting on the ripening fruit.

 

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!