Grow Your Tomatoes
• Grow From Seed
• Store-Bought Plants
• Container Growing
• In the Garden
• Tomato Pests
• Tomato Diseases
• Heirloom or Hybrid
• Popular Varieties
• Companion Planting
• Grow Lights
• Saving Your Seeds
Growing Tomatoes in Pots
Container growing tomatoesMany people grow tomatoes in containers because of space or soil restrictions. Those who live in apartments or who have poor native soil may find container growing the best - or only - option for growing tomatoes.
Tomatoes can grow very well in containers. Just remember a few basic requirements, and you can have fresh tomatoes coming straight from your porch or patio.
Container SizeIt's important that your tomatoes' roots have enough room to grow in their containers. Small, bush-type or dwarf varieties won't need as big a container as a large, indeterminate variety.
An assortment of 5-gallon pots
For determinate (dwarf or bush-type) plants, you can use smaller containers. I recommend more than 1 gallon but less than 5 gallons for a dwarf tomato. Some of the larger "bush-type" plants may need 5 gallons or more, but as a general rule, bush-type tomatoes should do fine in 5-gallon containers.
What happens if the container is too small?
Tomatoes need plenty of room for roots to grow. A tomato grown in too small a container will become rootbound. The roots will coil at the bottom and become tightly packed together. This puts uneccesary stress on the plant. Tomato plants grown in containers that are too small will be smaller, produce less fruit, and may suffer more severely depending on how small the container is.
One last thing to mention about containers:
Make sure the pots have drain holes! I must stress this, because not all containers will have drain holes on the bottom, and containers without drain holes can become waterlogged, which can kill the plants.
Potting mixPotting mix is important - don't throw a bunch of topsoil in a container and grow tomatoes in it. Topsoil, garden soil, native soil - especially soils containing clay - will become compacted and restrict growth.
While potted tomatoes can grow in compacted soil, they will do much better in a loose mix. Use a potting mix that doesn't contain soil. It should contain nutrient-rich, water-retaining materials such as compost and peat moss. Most potting mixes also contain perlite, a natural volcanic rock that helps the soil to drain well.
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix should work well for any container tomato. Potting mixes that contain slow-release fertilizer are helpful because you won't need to feed them right away.
Keep in mind that you will need to fertilize your plants when the time-release fertilizer is spent. You can add more time-release fertilizer, or you can feed water-soluble fertilizer to the plants when you water them. Tomatoes use a lot of nutrients, and should have a constant supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as micronutrients. For more tomatoes and less foliage, don't give the plants too much nitrogen. Phosphorus and potassium help with flowering and fruit production.
WateringYour potted tomatoes will probably need more water than ones in the garden. Peat moss helps retain water, but large plants coupled with hot, dry weather can quickly dry the potting mix in a container.
Water the plants when the surface of the mix becomes dry. Don't wait till the plants wilt - this is bad for the plant and the fruit it is producing.
If you live in an area where the weather can get very hot, you may need to protect the container from overheating. If the container is in direct sun exposure, provide shade for the container or cover it in white plastic to reflect the heat from the sun. A black container exposed to full, sunlight in the heat of summer could become very hot, which is dangerous to the plant. Keep the container cool during the hottest time of year.
Staking and caging
EarthBoxes and EarthTainersThese self-watering containers provide optimum growing conditions for tomato plants. They contain a reservoir of water that is wicked upward by the moist potting soil. They do not need to be watered; only when the reservoir is empty will they need to be re-filled with water.
Find more info on the EarthBox at their Web site www.earthbox.com.
The EarthTainer is not for sale as a kit - it is designed to be made easily at home with cheap materials. If you like DIY projects or are tight on money, opt for an EarthTainer to grow your tomatoes.
Find instructions for building the EarthTainer at their Web site www.earthtainer.org.
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