Tomatoes can be lush, thriving plants in the outdoor garden when they receive the right care. As hungry, thirsty plants, tomatoes require a specific mixture of warmth, sunshine, moisture and nutrition, but produce large fruit harvests through summer and fall for any gardener who meets their needs. Contrary to popular belief, though, tomatoes don't have to be outside in the sunshine to perform. The vines also succeed on patios and indoors in pots or hanging gardens, as long as gardeners supply the right growing conditions.
Prepare 10- to 12-inch pots with drainage holes for tomatoes. Choose large, heavy pots to balance what will eventually be heavy, lush growth, and make sure that your pots have drainage holes, as tomatoes will drown in standing water. Use large pots so that there's room for veggie cages when the tomato vines are long enough. Fill each pot 3/4 full with a mixture of quick-draining soil and organic compost to provide tomato plants with rich nutrition and adequate drainage. Add a dose of 10-10-10 fertilizer at planting to give the plants a boost.
Plant tomato seedlings deeply enough that their root balls are covered with soil and the junction of roots to stem is at soil level. Tomatoes prefer shallow plantings to take advantage of air temperature and water. Place a veggie cage around each tomato seedling to stake the tomatoes up when they're tall enough.
Water the tomato seedlings with an inch of water to help them establish, and then put the tomatoes on a regular watering schedule. Tomatoes require 1 to 2 inches of water a week but should get 2 to 3 inches when growing indoors in pots, since the shallow soil of a pot will dry out more quickly than the soil of the garden. Plan to water tomatoes every day or every other day to keep the soil consistently moist. Mist tomatoes when you water them to keep the foliage moist as well.
Place your tomatoes in a spot where they'll get six to eight hours of full light exposure every day. Indoor tomatoes can grow in natural or artificial light, but must receive their full exposure or they'll grow leggy and then die. South-facing windows and rooms are ideal for indoor tomatoes, as they receive the most light. Never put indoor tomatoes near a heating or cooling vent or next to a fireplace, as these will dry the soil and foliage.
Feed tomatoes once a month or every three weeks to maintain their nutrition in the isolated potting situation. Use a 10-10-10, tomato or nitrogen-heavy fertilizer to give tomatoes the boost they need, and follow the directions on the package in regard to amount. Tomatoes in pots don't get the minerals and vitamins they would find in outdoor soil and rainfall, so it's important that indoor gardeners maintain this step to encourage growth, blooming and fruiting.
Tie tomatoes up to the veggie cage when they get long enough to give them the support and control they require. Use soft felt ties to secure the main stems to the cage. Never tie new shoots or flowering stems to the cages, as they may break.