Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables of people around the world. In some places tomatoes are being priced at three dollars per pound or more. Fortunately, everyone can grow their own tomatoes, even people that live in apartments or other places that don't provide enough space for growing a garden. The answer is to grow a tomato container garden. You can grow them on a patio or balcony. You can even grow tomatoes inside your home, or grow your tomatoes upside down!

However you decide to grow your tomatoes in containers, the number one essential is sun. Tomatoes require a lot of light and will not thrive well without out it.

The materials you will need to gather for your tomato container garden are simple:

Container(s):  Pots or containers that are 5 gallons in size, or larger, are best. Make sure your container has drainage holes. Only plant one tomato plant per pot.

Soil:  You will need a good soil. Preferably an organic potting "mix" that can be purchased from your local nursery and garden center, or one you mix on your own. Tomatoes do not like heavy soil that stays constantly soggy. So make sure it's a light mix that will hold moisture evenly and drain well.

Seedlings:  Seedling can be purchased from your local nursery and garden center. Or you can grow your own tomato seedlings from seed

Supports:  Stakes or a wire cage to hold the plant upright when growing in the container.

Ties:  String, or products called twist-tie, or sturdy-tie, will be needed to tie the plant to the stakes or cages.

Drainage Tray: You might need a plastic tray for drainage: good drainage is essential to the health of your tomato container garden, so make sure you select a container that has drainage holes.

Fertilizer:  Last need on the list is fertilizer. A water soluble or well-balanced organic fertilizer for tomatoes is best. You can add a slow-release granular vegetable or tomato food the soil mix before planting.


Step-By-Step Planting Instructions


STEP 1
Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. You can also place a 1 to 2" layer of gravel in bottom of pot for improved drainage.

STEP 2
Use a professional potting mix to fill container to a level that will allow your plant to sit with the top edge of its rootball approximately 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container. Professional potting mixes will hold moisture evenly. Avoid using cheap grade, dollar-a-bag potting soils as they do not hold moisture as evenly.

TIP: Add Calcium to the soil. It's not a bad idea to add a teaspoon of hydrated lime to each gallon of potting soil to balance pH. Hydrated lime is rich in calcium and is absolutely great for the tomatoes. This calcium prevents the blossoms from rotting later on down the line. 

STEP 3
If you intend to use a stake to tie your tomato plant to for support as it grows, put the stake a little off center in the pot.

STEP 4
Gently remove the tomato seedling you intend to grow in the container from the pot it was growing in.

STEP 5
Set root ball or plug on the soil in the container and make necessary adjustments to insure that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.

STEP 6
Backfill with potting mix around rootball, tamping as you go, until the the level of potting mix is even with the top edge of root ball.

STEP 7
Water thoroughly and add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering. 

STEP 8
Apply a 1/2" layer of shredded wood mulch, pine or wheat straw, or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help retain moisture, and act as a barrier between soil and the leaves of your tomato plant.

STEP 9
If you intend on using a tomato cage as a support for plant install it now and you are done with the planting process!



Suggested Tomatoes For Container Gardening

Bush Varieties: The bush varieties of tomatoes work well in containers and are popular with container gardeners.

Cherry Varieties: Cherry tomatoes and Grape tomatoes work well also because of their size and are good for growing when there is limited space.

Determinate Varieties: Most tomato plants labeled "determinate" are suitable for growing in 5 gallon size or larger containers. Plant tags and seed packages will indicate whether a tomato is "determinate", or "indeterminate". Determinate tomato plants are varieties that grow to a fixed mature size and ripen all their fruit in a short period, usually about 2 weeks. These varieties are great if you'll be canning or making batches of tomato sauce.

Indeterminate Varieties: Most "indeterminate" tomato plants grow much larger and will require a 10 gallon size or larger container. Indeterminate tomato plants are actually vines that continue growing in length throughout the growing season. Also referred to as "vining" tomatoes, indeterminate tomato varieties will also continue to set and ripen fruit until killed off by frost.


Other Tips

One of the best things you can do to grow the most flavorful tomatoes involves companion planting. This means planting plants side by side that benefit each other in one way or another. There are several plants that are good companions for tomatoes but one actually improves the flavor. That plant is Basil. Not sure how it does this, but it does. It probably has something to do with keeping the tomato plant healthy. The aroma of basil also deters many tomato pests so that the plant can concentrate on flowering and fruit production.

I recommend only using a pesticide to control insects only when absolutely necessary. Even then, if you must spray, use an organic one such as neem oil. By growing your own tomato container garden you will have the choice and comfort to know that there were no pesticides used on your plants, if you choose not to use toxic pesticides. 

Here's a good natural pest deterrent you can make yourself:

In a jar, combine 1 teaspoon dish washing liquid and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake vigorously. In an empty spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons of this mixture and 1 cup water. Use at ten-day intervals (or more often if needed) to rid plants of whiteflies, mites, aphids, scales, and other pests. See, that's easy, less expensive, and safe!


Happy Tomato Growing to You!



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