Growing tomatoes in containers can be a challenge for some gardeners. I have been successfully growing tomatoes in containers for quite a few years. I have used a variety of containers, including upside down planters, pots, 5-gallon buckets, and a raised garden bed. There are pros and cons to each of these different styles of containers. Many aspects of container gardening remain the same no matter what container is used.
A large container is necessary for successfully growing tomatoes. A small container will not hold as much soil, and will not give the roots ample room for spreading out. A large container will hold more soil which will help hold in the moisture that your tomato plants need. I recommend one tomato plant per container depending on size. If you are planting in a raised bed, more than one can be used. I have one tomato plant in each 5 gallon bucket. An upside down planter has instructions that tell you to put one tomato plant in each opening. This will over-crowd the plants, and you will have a disastrous failure. One tomato plant in each upside down planter is more efficient. You will have a healthier plant, and larger, more abundant tomatoes.
I live in a hot, desert climate, and I must water frequently to keep my tomato plants healthy. Adjust your watering to your climate by observing the reaction of your tomato plants, and also by testing the soil with your finger. Soil should be kept evenly moist, not soaked, and not allowed to get dry. If the leaves on your plant appear to droop a bit, and lean toward the ground, then your plant needs more water. Once you determine how frequently you need to water, make every attempt to keep your plants from drooping, or being too wet. Uneven watering will result in blossom rot, and split tomatoes. It is not a good idea to attempt to prevent water from draining out of the bottom of your container. This will happen naturally, and will help keep the plants from being over-watered or sitting in too wet soil.
Feed your tomatoes
Tomato plants need abundant fertilizer. When you grow in containers, your fertilizer is lost more quickly through the bottom drainage. When the water drips out of your container, so does the nutrients in the soil and you must add more food for your plants. I use Miracle Grow Tomato Food to feed my tomatoes once every two weeks. This will ensure that the tomato plants have plenty of nutrients in the soil, and also help prevent blossom rot.
Tomato plants require abundant sunlight to allow them to produce fruit, and remain healthy. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. In a hotter climate, providing shade for your tomatoes during the hottest part of the day is also a good idea. Placing your containers under a metal awning is not advised. The metal will provide shade, but it will also raise the temperature underneath significantly. Your plants will suffer from the heat on hotter days.
Stake your tomato plants
Use a tomato cage to hold your plant up off of the ground and provide support for the vines when the tomatoes are growing. Heavy tomatoes will break the vine if it is not supported. I use bamboo to raise the stakes after the plant has grown too big for the tomato cage.
Tomatoes can be easily grown in containers to provide you with a bountiful crop if you follow these tips. Preserve your tomatoes by freezing with this method: Preserving Tomatoes from Your Garden.
More by R.E. Roe
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