Living in suburbs leaves lovers of homegrown vegetables little choice but to use containers. Tomatoes are one of the most favorite among those who love home gardens. Pots form the best containers for growing tomatoes because of convenience, mobility to take advantage of the available sunlight, water use efficiency, vigor of plant growth, and many other reasons.
You can also grow tomatoes in pots to beat soil problems such as infertility, poor pH, and pests and diseases on a smaller scale than in a garden or field. The reasons for choosing containers notwithstanding, you need to learn how to grow tomatoes in pots successfully.
This post aims to provide you with helpful and reliable information on the best approach to take so that you use minimal effort and resources to achieve high yields. First, we will describe simple steps to guide you through the process and then provide you with a few tips to ensure easy and productive growth of tomatoes in pots.
What you need to grow tomatoes in pots
- Large pots, approximately 18 inches or larger in diameter
- High quality potting soil
- Gardening hose or watering can
- Good compost manure and plant fertilizer
- Cage or other supports to hold tomato plants
- Tomato plants or seedlings
Steps To Grow Tomatoes in Pots
Step 1: Choose the Right Pot
In order to plant tomatoes in pots, you have to make ready all the things listed above. You can choose between clay and plastic pot as long as the pot is large in size and has drainage holes. The recommended size is 18-inches or larger in diameter for most tomato varieties. However, large clay pots definitely look nice but they may be too heavy to move once ready. Plastic pots with drainage holes as well as saucers are a better alternatives.
Step 2: Clean the Chosen Pot Thoroughly (Especially If Had Been Used Before)
Regardless of the type of pot you choose, ensure you scrub it clean before use. This undertaking is vital if the pot once held another plant since it might have harbored microscopic organisms such as bacteria and fungi or invisible parasites that may interfere with the growth of your new tomato plants. Scrub it with a brush and wash it with warm water and a detergent. Bleaching may be necessary for a more thorough cleaning.
Step 3: Obtain a Healthy Tomato Plant/Raise a Nursery
Besides the pot, you must ensure you obtain a healthy tomato plant to grow. Rather than planting directly from seeds, tomato plants tend to grow easier and better by transplant. Thus you may need a small nursery to raise the seedlings before transferring them to the pot. Alternatively, you can buy seedlings. When transplanting, ensure you pick only the strong and healthy seedlings to transplant.
Step 4: Prepare the Best Potting Mix
It would be catastrophic to use garden soil to plant tomatoes in pots. This is because such soil has the tendency to harbor harmful bacteria and pests that can damage the highly susceptible tomatoes. All-purpose potting soil would be a great choice because it provides an excellent base.
However, you can improve it by mixing it with equal parts compost, perlite, and sphagnum peat moss as this would help improve drainage and provide additional nutrients. Use properly prepared compost.
Step 5: Add Fertilizer to the Soil
In this regard, you can choose between using a commercial fertilizer safe for vegetables and using components of organic fertilizers such as blood meal, soy meal, kelp meal, bone meal and green sand. Organic fertilizers are generally safer and you can purchase them with convenience from online stores.
Planting and Early Tomato Plant Care
Step 1: Optimize drainage
Before filling your pot with potting soil, you should affix a porous fiberglass screen to the bottom inside of the pot, cut to fit the size and shape. You can also uses layers of cheesecloth, though this tends to breakdown after prolonged use. This has an important function of preventing your soil from draining with the water thus messing up your patio or wherever you place the pot. Furthermore, you can place river rocks or pebbles into your saucer to create gaps in between the underside of your pot and the surface of its own. This will allow water to drain more thoroughly.
Step 2: Fill In Your Pot with Potting Soil
When you are ready to pour soil into your pot, you need to perform a little calculation. You will only need to fill the pot to 1/3 full. For instance, a pot of 15 gallons (60 liters) should only be filled 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) with soil.
Step 3: Plant Your Healthy Tomato Plants
Planting the tomato plants or seedlings is perhaps the most important part of this process. You must plant them correctly in order for them to grow. Remove it from the nursery with some soil and transfer it to an existing center hole you have made in the soil in the container. Just push the stem of the tomato plant into the existing soil enough to offer it a base of support.
Once the plant stands, continue packing the soil around the stem of the plant until it remains securely fixed in the pot and not wiggling from side to side. You should aim to fill the pot until about half of the stem is beneath the soil.
Step 4: Water the Plant Thoroughly
After you are satisfied with the way you have planted the tomato plant, soak the potting soil and the plant with water. Wait for another 10 minutes or so and then soak it again. Your goal should be to saturate the soil as much as possible. If you soak it correctly on the day of planting, your tomato plant will not need watering for up to a week.
Step 5: Place the Pot in a Sunny Location
All green plants need sunlight of various degrees for optimal growth. In the case of tomatoes, you must provide them with at least six hours of sunlight per day in order to growth well and finally produce healthy fruit. Look for the best place in your home to set the pot since container plants can grow literally anywhere with perfect conditions.
Step 6: Fill the Rest of the Pot with Soil As the Plant Grows
Trim lower leaves from the stem, especially the ones that have changed color before you add more of your planting mixture. Pack it around the stem as before. This will enable your tomato plant to build its root mass for quick and healthy growth. As the plant grows, fill the pot until only about 0.75 to 1 inch of empty space remains between the rim of the pot and the soil surface.
Tips for Optimal Growth and Productivity of Tomatoes Grown In Pots
Following the steps mention will give your tomato plants an excellent start. To ensure optimal growth and high yield, do the following:
- Insert a tomato cage or other support system once the pot is filled. It will provide for staking as the tomato grows
- To ward off insects such as worms and stink bugs, you should wrap nylon netting around the tomato cage. Attach the netting to the cage with clothespins or other strong clips
- Ensure you water your tomatoes as frequently as possible with the goal of keeping the soil moist at all times. However, do not get the soil soggy as this may drown tomato roots and cause them to rot
- Maintain adequate sunlight for the entire growth period of your tomatoes maintaining a minimum of six hours per day during spring and early summer
- In the mid-summer when temperatures are high, ensure you provide your tomato plants with a shade cloth to protect them and the soil from excessive heat
- Mulching will go a long way in keeping the plants from drying out too fast. Spread mulch around the stem and over the top of the soil
- By the time your tomatoes are six weeks old, introduce an organic or commercial fertilizer. Fertilize your plants once each week. A soluble fertilizer is the best option
- Using nylon netting will save your tomato plant from most pests and insects but you still need to keep your eyes out for garden pests
- Only harvest your tomatoes when they are ripe (red in color with just a few traces of green). Just pluck them or snip them off their branches.
If you have been looking for information on how to grow tomatoes in pots, well, I believe you are now more informed and rearing to go ahead with your plans. You do not have to be an expert to enjoy high tomato yields from growing them in containers. As long as you use the right technique, you can provide your family with enough tomatoes and save yourself from spending too much money getting the fruits from the grocery store, which are often harvested too early, and languishing on store shelves too long. Every prepper, no matter where they live, needs to know how to grow their own food.
Editors Note Another guest post from Angela Williams to The Prepper Journal.