How To Grow Tomatoes in Pots? 9 Things to Keep in Mind
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Growing your own tomatoes is an exciting and rewarding activity that results in loads of nutritious and fresh homegrown tomatoes. This fruit is usually grown in the ground in well-drained soil. However, you can also grow tomatoes in pots if you don’t have a big enough outdoor space or greenhouse bed.
I have always grown them in pots both in a greenhouse and out on the patio. Here in the UK they are a lot more reliable in the greenhouse but with the right varieties you can have success outside. It is somewhat weather dependent though!
In this article, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about growing tomatoes in pots. It’ll allow you to successfully grow tomatoes and produce a healthy crop.
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How To Grow Tomatoes in Pots: Best Tips to Remember
The following are the most important things that you need to keep in mind while growing tomatoes in pots
1. Pick the Right Time
Usually, tomatoes take about 60 to 100 days to grow and become ready for harvesting. The ideal hardiness zones for this fruit are 5, 6, 7, and 8, which means you can grow them in pots if you live in an area with any of these hardiness zones.
Keep in mind that tomatoes are warm-weather plants and they need a lot of natural sunlight to grow and thrive. They grow best at temperatures ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, the growing season for tomatoes starts in May and ends by the end of September here in the northern hemisphere.
2. Choose the Right Pots
If you already have young plants that you want to use to grow tomatoes, they’ll look small. But a seedling will need a big space to create a strong root system and turn into a full-grown tomato plant.
If you’re planning to grow indeterminate tomatoes, you’ll need a pot that comes with a 24-to-30-inch diameter. Whereas, determinate tomatoes will need a container with an 18-inch diameter. The difference is that determinate tomatoes are bred to stop growing at about four foot and the tomatoes ripen all at once. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and keep producing fruit all growing season.
While you can use traditional hard containers, it’s also possible to go with fabric ones. They come in both biodegradable and non-biodegradable forms.
If you use a hard pot for container gardening, the roots of the plant grow long and they start twisting, kinking, and spiraling around themselves after hitting the pot wall.
Whereas, roots are exposed to air in fabric pots, which burns off their tips and prevents them from becoming spindly. As a result, the root system of the plant branches off to create more feeder roots.
Despite knowing all this I use traditional hard plastic pots as I already own them and I will continue to use them until they break.
3. Choose the Right Place
Once you have selected the pots, the next step is to place them in an appropriate spot. As mentioned above, tomatoes need a lot of direct sunlight for healthy growth. Therefore, you want to choose a place that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight.
If you have seedlings and / or small plants that you are growing on in your home first then make sure they have plenty of light. A windowsill is a great place to keep them.
4. Select the Right Tomatoes
There are so many different tomato varieties that you can grow in pots, depending on your needs. If you want bite-sized tomatoes, you can go with sweet million cherry and husky cherry tomatoes. If you can work with hanging baskets, you can also choose the tumbling tom yellow species.
If you want to grow tomatoes for sauces or pasta, consider going with sunrise sauce or Roma tomatoes. Whereas, patio, better bush, and bush early girl are the best tomato plants for slicing.
5. Use High-Quality Garden Soil
It’s critically important to use nutrient-rich potting soil for your tomatoes. Your young plants will need soil that offers a good combination of moisture retention, absorption, and breathability.
You can use your own potting soil using one part vermiculite, one part perlite, and one part coco coir. Mix all these ingredients using water and add a high-quality fertilizer to it.
You can make fertilizer by mixing a handful of crushed eggshells, 2 aspirin tablets, 1/4 cup of bone meal, 1/4 cup of fish meal, and 1/2 cup of vegetable fertilizer.
Generally I buy a good quality feed and use that. It is just so much easier for me to do every week especially if I have to ask someone else to do it for me. It should be weekly but I must confess that I sometimes forget.
Once the soil and fertilizer mixture is ready, add it to your tomato seedling pots. Your plants will need another shot of fertilizer when they’re about six weeks old.
Important Note: Make sure that you place a saucer underneath each pot if you can. It’ll allow the root system to remain moist.
6. Plant Tomatoes
If you grow your own tomato plants from seed I recommend growing your seedlings on in small pots before transferring to your large containers.
Once you are ready to move your plants on to their permanent pots dig a hole in each pot to plant them in. Make sure that you dig deep enough so that it can cover about two-thirds of the plant’s stem. This will allow the plant to put out more roots to feed itself. It will also make it more stable. Add soil to support the plant and top off the pot with a half cup of all-purpose fertilizer.
While planting tomatoes, make sure that you keep the potting mix at least an inch below the container’s rim. This will allow you to water easily without it running off. After that add a layer of mulch to keep the potting soil moist. You may need to add mulch again multiple times throughout the growing season when the old has decomposed.
7. Water Regularly
It’s important to water your plants regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. You can perform a finger test to check whether your pots need to be watered or not. If the top inch of the soil feels dry, add water to the pots.
Once the summer heat has arrived, you will probably need to water plants daily and if it is very hot you may need to do it twice in a day. If possible use a watering system so that you know the plants are getting regular water without you having to remember. This is what I do.
8. Add Support
When the plants become taller than one to two feet, add tomato support to minimize the risk of damaging the roots. There are a wide variety of items available to buy or you can use simple garden canes arranged to form a pyramid.
You can use metal conical cages, tomato ladders, and square tomato cages for indeterminate tomato varieties and traditional tomato cages or stakes for determinate ones.
They’ll provide support to your container tomatoes so that the plants can reach a height of seven (or more) feet.
9. Harvest the Crop
Harvest the crop when the fruits are ready at the end of the growing season. They will hopefully not all ripen at the same time so keep an eye on them and harvest them as they come ready. If you are lucky the harvest time will last several weeks. After that, remove spent tomato plants from your containers and discard the used soil.
If you used hard or non-biodegradable pots, you can clean and store them for the next season. Make sure that you use fresh soil whenever you need to repeat this process.
Tomatoes are one of the most commonly used ingredients in the entire world. From fast food to gravies and sauces to pasta, this fruit is used in all types of dishes.
If you are a gardening enthusiast (like me) and like to use tomatoes in your meals, you can grow them in your home without a big outdoor area.
I hope the tips listed in this guide will help you understand how to grow tomatoes in pots effectively. It really is worth having a go as I love my tomatoes straight from the plant. They are so tasty and it feels so satisfying knowing that I have grown them.
If you are looking for some more great gardening ideas then check out the rest of my gardening articles. If you are looking to grow potatoes in pots then I have some guidance for you on that too. I love growing potatoes on my patio every year. They taste delicious and are such a great summer treat!
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