Successfully growing tomatoes is not limited to homeowners who are fortunate enough to own a large plot of ground. You, too, can enjoy full-flavored homegrown tomatoes if you live in an apartment or townhouse, even in the heart of the city. Growing tomatoes in containers is an easy way to employ your green fingers and enjoy fresh veggies no matter where you live. However, before you dash to the nursery to buy pots and seedlings, there are a couple of things you should know about how to successfully grow tomatoes in containers.
The first consideration when you are choosing the pots for your container garden is size. While some crops, like onions and herbs will grow well in more shallow containers, most plants including tomatoes will do best in at least a five gallon pot that will provide adequate space for the root system. However, you are not limited to the traditional flower pots for your container tomato garden. Check out the variety of buckets, pails and window boxes. Look at recycling containers that you have around the home including wooden packing cases, large cooking pots, half wine barrels and more. The main factors to keep in mind when choosing your container are to choose a substance that is nontoxic, and will provide adequate drainage for your plants. If you are using a solid based pot you will need to add drainage holes at the bottom. If you choose a porous material like timber you will be able to line the timber with plastic to make it waterproof but the timber will probably rot anyway. However, recycled timber containers can be useful for growing tomatoes for one season.
If you are using pots that have been used previously for other plants it is important to scrub them out well before use. This is necessary to remove any soil-born diseases that might be present.
Choosing your Location
Sunlight is important for the growth of all plants, and this includes your container-grown tomatoes as well. Most crops will require at least five hours of direct sunlight a day, so make sure your growing area can accommodate this need. Also try to choose a spot that is sheltered from the wind, since strong gusts can damage new plants and dry out the soil quickly. Once you have selected the area for your tomato containers it is time to start preparing the pots.
Preparing Potting Mix
Good soil and regular feedings are essential for container-grown tomatoes, since they will not be able to get nutrients from the ground. Peat-based potting mixes are generally a good choice for this style of gardening and you can find an excellent variety of commercial products available for this purpose at your local nursery or garden center.
Seeds Or Seedlings?
For growing tomatoes in containers it is usually easier to start with seedlings. Place the pots in the desired location and plant the seedlings directly into pots. Water well. Once your plants begin to grow add a slow-release fertilizer as directed to keep your plants thriving and your harvest coming. Regular watering is also important, since the soil in containers tends to dry out much more quickly than garden beds in the ground. Check your pots daily and water as required.
As your tomato plants grow they will require staking to prevent them falling over. Once the plants begin setting fruit they will become quite heavy and the stems will require support.
Homeowners with large gardens are not the only people who can enjoy home-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes all summer long. By growing tomatoes in containers you can enjoy this small gardening hobby no matter where you live.
Alison Stevens is an online author and maintains the Grow Great Tomatoes website to assist anyone who wants to get started growing tomatoes and other vegetables. Find out how to grow organic tomatoes