Tomatoes can be grown successfully in containers for those that don't have a lot of garden space. Growing tomatoes in containers allows limited-space gardeners to enjoy beautiful, large tomato harvests. Tomatoes in containers have the same nutritional needs as those grown in the open garden. With a few simple adjustments, container gardening can produce plentiful tomato harvests, just as traditional gardening does.
Select tomato cultivars that are suited to containers. Dwarf cultivars of large vegetables are more appropriate for pots and containers than their full-sized counterparts. Patio and Small Fry tomatoes are ideal for containers, as are most plum and cherry tomato cultivars. All tomatoes will require some support through caging or staking, which are both easily done with containers. Larger cultivars in the medium or beefsteak categories require more support due to their heavier fruits.
Choose a container large enough to accommodate a full grown tomato plant, at least 16 inches in diameter. Large pots, 1/2 whiskey barrels and even recycled 5 gallon buckets can be used for container plantings of heavy producing tomatoes. Remember that the container needs to have several holes in the bottom for proper drainage, per "Rodale's Successful Organic Gardening."
Mix equal amounts of peat moss, builder's sand and compost to create a nutrient-rich potting soil that is also high in humus, doesn't compact easily and allows good drainage. Tomatoes are heavier feeders than many other garden plants, so they require good drainage and a higher amount of nutrients to produce an abundant crop.
Place the container in a location that will receive eight to 12 hours of sunlight per day. Large containers can be very heavy, so it is a good idea to plant tomatoes where you plan to grow them, or place a platform on casters underneath the container if it will have to be moved.
Apply compost tea or fish emulsion immediately after planting to give tomatoes a good start. To make compost tea, steep 1 qt. of compost wrapped in an old stocking or cloth in 1 gallon of water. Stir to aerate occasionally, which activates beneficial micro-organisms that help nourish tomatoes. Repeat application in mid-summer, when tomatoes are well established and in full bloom. Also apply foliar spray of compost tea weekly after plants are in full blossom.
Add color and liven up your containers by planting complimentary plants with your tomatoes. Herbs and flowers that go well with tomatoes include parsley, sage, basil, sweet marjoram, sweet alyssum, lobelias, marigold, Shasta daisies, vinca and nasturtiums.