Homegrown tomatoes are not only easy to cultivate in containers, they can also be extremely prolific. Just a few container plants can provide a continual supply of tomatoes for snacking, salads, making sauces and other culinary delights. Best of all, potted tomatoes can be grown in sunny spaces such as patios, balconies and porches, making them ideal for apartment dwellers and condo owners. Homeowners with poor quality soil or limited gardening space can also benefit from growing tomatoes in containers.
How to Grow Tomato Plants in Pots
Choose a patio or determinate variety for container planting. These tomatoes are bred to be smaller and bushier than most standard vining types, which makes them an ideal choice for growing in a small space or container. Garden centers and home improvement stores typically carry one or two different varieties of hybrid patio tomatoes. If you are interested in greater diversity or want to grow a more unusual variety, you might consider starting from seed instead of buying transplants. Specialty Web sites carry a wide array of unique, heirloom and hard-to-find dwarf and patio varieties.
Select a clay or plastic pot, container or planter that is at least 5 gallons in size and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. It should have holes in the bottom to allow for ample drainage. If you travel frequently or simply don't want to have to check the soil moisture of your plants every day, you can find self-watering kits and planters at garden centers, plant nurseries and in gardening catalogs.
Fill your pot half full with enriched potting mix and dig a 3-inch hole in the soil with a small garden shovel. Carefully remove the tomato seedling from its original container and place it in the hole. Cover the roots with additional potting mix and gently pat the soil down with your hands to ensure that the newly planted tomato is securely in place. In the event that you are planting several different containers of tomatoes, you may opt to use plant labels to identify the different varieties.
Provide your newly potted tomato plants with ideal growing conditions to help ensure that they flourish and prosper. Potted tomatoes should be placed in a location that affords them 7 to 8 hours of full sun per day. It's good practice to check your plants daily to be sure they are properly hydrated. The soil should always be kept moist but not allowed to get too wet, as over-watering can lead to difficulties such as root rot. Use an inexpensive watering can to water your tomato plants as needed.
Install wooden stakes or small wire tomato cages around your potted tomatoes. Adding cages or stakes will help keep your plants and their fruit steady and secure in their containers and provide some protection for branches in the event of high winds and heavy rain.