How to Take Care of Tomato Plants in Pots

Overview

Tomatoes are easy to grow in the garden, but if you live in an apartment or have a small yard, they do well in pots. Save time and effort by purchasing small tomato plants at your garden center rather than starting them from seeds. While you're at the nursery, pick up a large, attractive pot and some potting soil. That's all you'll need, aside from a sunny spot on your patio or balcony, to have success growing this favorite summertime vegetable.

Step 1

Fill your pot with a good quality potting soil designed for plants that prefer slightly acidic soil. Then add at least 1 quart of water.

Step 2

Using your garden trowel or a large kitchen spoon, scoop out a planting hole in the center of your potting soil a little larger than the root system of your small tomato plant.

Step 3

Remove your tomato plant from its nursery pot gently and set it into the hole in your potting soil. You can plant tomatoes deeply---up to the first set of leaves is the rule if your plant is too tall. Pat down the soil around the base of your plant and then insert a wooden or plastic stake about 3 inches from the base of the plant. Wait to tie your plant to the stake until after it reaches about 8 inches in height. As your tomato plant grows taller, tie it to the upper areas of your stake to prevent ripening tomatoes from sitting on the soil and rotting.

Step 4

Water your potted tomato when the soil begins to dry. Tomatoes prefer infrequent, deep watering, but grown in pots will require more frequent watering than in an outdoor garden.

Step 5

Fertilize your tomato with a balanced fertilizer designed for vegetables about a month after you plant it and once a month during the summer growing season. Follow label instructions for mixing and applying your plant food.

Step 6

Control tomato hornworms, if they appear, by handpicking (wear gloves) and squashing them. If the infestation is severe, dust your plant with a product sold as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is a soil bacterium that kills caterpillars and other types of worms.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never allow tobacco products around tomato plants as they can cause the tobacco mosaic virus, which can kill your tomato plant.

Things You'll Need

  • One or more tomato plants
  • One or more 12-inch pots
  • Potting soil
  • Plant saucer
  • Trowel or large spoon
  • Stake
  • Nursery tape or nylon stocking strips
  • Fertilizer
  • Bt bacterium (optional)

References

  • Texas A&M University: Growing Vegetables in Containers
  • How To Garden Guide: Growing Tomatoes in Pots
Keywords: tomato plants, container gardening, small spaces

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.