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How to Take Care of Tomato Plants in Pots

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cherry tomatoes do well in pots

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Things You Will 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)

Tips

  • Place your large pot on top of a plant saucer to protect wooden decks and other areas that can be damaged by moisture.
  • Choose a variety of tomato that is determinate, meaning it will stop sending out rampant growth after it reaches a certain size. Cherry type tomatoes are appropriate for growing in pots, as are Roma or paste tomatoes.

Warning

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

About the 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 and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.