The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes in a Small Space


You can grow good-tasting tomatoes in a pot if you have a sunny patio or balcony, even if you have never had a green thumb. Choose a determinate variety that produces small to medium sized fruit---"determinate" means that the plant stops growing when it reaches its adult size. It won't produce vines that take over your small space.

Step 1

Purchase a container for your tomato plant that is at least 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep, to allow space for the plant's root system when it grows larger. Fill your pot to within 1 inch of the rim with slightly acidic potting soil.

Step 2

Dig a hole in the center of your pot with a trowel. Make it slightly larger than the roots of your young tomato plant.

Step 3

Take your tomato plant out of its nursery pot and gently loosen the roots to free them, especially if the soil around them is compacted. Then place it in the hole you dug and fill it with more potting soil. Set your large pot on a plant saucer if you are growing your tomato on a wooden deck or patio. If your tomato will reside on cement, there's no need for a saucer.

Step 4

Water your tomato until water comes out the drainage hole. Don't let your tomato sit in a saucer full of water for longer than one day. If water remains after that time, dump it out to prevent the roots from rotting. Allow the soil to dry out before you water your tomato again. If you notice that the plant is wilting, that's the time to water it deeply.

Step 5

Feed your tomato about one month after you plant it. A balanced fertilizer designed for vegetables will give your tomato all the nutrients it needs. After your plant begins to form flowers, switch to a plant food that is low in nitrogen. The first number of the N-P-K ratio on the plant food label refers to the ratio of nitrogen---look for a plant food that is designed to boost blooming and that has a low or zero "N" reading, such as 0-10-10.

Tips and Warnings

  • Tomato hornworms can sometimes attack tomato plants. If you notice any large green worms on your plant, put on a pair of garden gloves and hand pick the worms. Squash them to kill them. Don't smoke cigarettes or any other form of tobacco around your tomato plant, because it can cause the tobacco mosaic virus, which will make your tomato plant turn yellow and perhaps die. Always wash your hands after smoking and before touching your plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Large pot with drainage hole
  • Plant saucer
  • Slightly acidic potting soil
  • Plant stake
  • Nursery tape
  • Determinate tomato plant
  • Trowel
  • Fertilizer


  • University of Tennessee Extension: Plant Diseases
  • Texas A&M University Agricultural Extension: Growing Vegetables in Containers
  • How to Garden Guide: Growing Tomatoes in Pots

Who Can Help

  • Seeds of Change: Cherry Tomatoes
Keywords: growing tomatoes, small space gardens, container gardening

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.