growing tomatoes in pots

We all love tomatoes – fresh, ripe and juicy. Growing tomatoes in pots or containers on your patio or balcony is not difficult, but it does take some basic knowledge and care to be successful. There are several steps that you should follow to make sure you have a good crop for your salads and sauces. Follow the tips below for success in growing the best possible tomatoes in pots.

The Best Types of Tomatoes to Grow
in Pots

There are two classes of tomato plants, referred to as vining or determinate and bush or determinate. Vining tomatoes can grow up to 12 feet tall, and must have strong supports. They continuously bloom and produce a few fruits at a time until the plant dies. Continuous pruning is needed to keep the plants from becoming overgrown.

Determinate tomatoes are much smaller plants, topping out at 4 feet tall. They grow like a bush, and are more compact than their vining cousins. Unlike vining tomatoes, they will give you one large harvest of tomatoes, and then die back. They’re a great choice for canning and sauce-making since their fruit ripens in a short period of time.

If space is an issue, and it often is on a patio or balcony, then it makes sense to grow determinate tomatoes in containers. Because these bushy tomatoes will need much less support (usually a simple cage), need less space, and don’t sprawl, they are my number one choice for growing tomatoes in pots. 

What Kind of Container Should I Use?

Tomatoes can be grown in many sizes of pots, but a large, deep one is the best choice for less work and easier maintenance . Tomato plants are heavy feeders so in a large pot, more soil holds more moisture and nutrients. 

Fabric pots are a great choice for growing tomatoes because they allow the soil to breathe. There are many types on the market, and most are both inexpensive and reusable for up to 5 years. These grow bags are made of a non woven breathable fabric. They often have durable handles so the plants are more easily moved.

Grow bags come in many size, from the smallest 3 gallon size to 5, 8, 10, 12, and even 50 gallon sizes! The breathable and permeable fabric prevents heat build-up and will work for most plants. Avoid dark coloured plastic or resin pots, since they will cause the soil to overheat in full sun since they are non-breathable.

Whatever kind you choose to grow tomatoes in pots, make sure they have sufficient drainage. Tomatoes need a lot of water, but do not like their roots to become soggy. 

Best Soil for Container-grown Tomatoes

Tomatoes love loose, fertile and well-draining soil. 

Always begin with a high quality potting mix, not the ‘soilless’ type. Mix the potting soil with compost and some clean sand, adding both texture for increased friability and extra nutrients. As you fill the container, mix in some extra granular fertilizer. 

Avoid using common garden soil. Soil from your garden may also contain pathogens, fungi and pests, which can harm the plants. It does not have as much nutrient value, and you may find it hardens and packs with watering.

Once it compacts, air, water and nutrients are prevented from reaching the roots. This will likely cause your plant to slow down in growth and you will have a much smaller crop.

Tips for Growing Tomatoes
in Pots

Follow these tips, and you’ll have success in growing a great crop of tomatoes on your patio, balcony or in your garden:

  • Transplant seedlings deeply into your growing container. Dig a deep hole. Remove the lower leaves, and insert the seedling deep into the hole so that the remaining leaves are about an inch above the level of the soil. Refill soil around the stem and tamp down lightly. 
  • Water thoroughly, and continue to water consistently. Tomato plants should be kept moist, but not soggy. An inexpensive soil moisture meter will diagnose the soil conditions, so you can apply proper water, fertilizer, and light to your plants, and enjoy a lush harvest.
  • Place the containers in an area with 8 hours of sun. Tomatoes love warmth and need full sun for optimum growth
  • Support the plants as needed. Determinate or bushy plants may need a cage, but should not need more. Always put any supports in place at planting time to avoid damaging the roots.
  • Remove any leaves that are at soil level or are yellowing. Dispose of them in the garbage.
  • Once they are established, feed the plants every couple of weeks with a liquid soluble fertilizer such as compost tea or diluted fish fertilizer. 

My Top 4 Tomato Plant Picks 

Supremo is a Roma or plum type tomato, with very large fruits perfect for sauces and cooking as well as salads. I like slicing this Roma tomato for sandwiches as it is less juicy than some.

Gold Nugget is a cherry tomato, compact in size and usually the first variety
to ripen. It has prolific yields of golden-yellow globes about the size of
ping pong balls. It’s a perfect tomato for snacking or in salads.

Manitoba heirloom tomato thrives in cool climates and bears medium to large bright red fruits that are perfect for slicing and preserving.

Tiny Tim is an easy to grow dwarf plant that works well in containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. Typically this one grows a mere 10 to 16 inches tall, but for its size, produces an incredible number of miniature fruits. A perfect centerpiece for your patio table!

Are you ready to have a successful year of growing tomatoes in pots on your patio or balcony? If you have any questions about how to succeed with container growing, let me know in the comments below. 

I’d be happy to help!

About the Author

Nicki is a dedicated gardener, a creative artist and a published author. Passionate about what she does, her gardening articles, books and paintings reveal her love of nature and the western Canadian scene. She loves sharing her container garden success with others to inspire their creativity.

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