Want to learn how to grow tomatoes in containers or pots this season? Below are a few special tomato growing tips to help you. Read below and learn my secret soil potting mix for tomato growing. Discover how to plant a tomato in a container pot. Get tips for the best watering techniques and tools to use for growing tomatoes in pots.
RECOMMENDED SOIL, FERTILIZER, POTS, TOMATOES, AND CAGES USED FOR THIS TOMATO CONTAINER GARDENING PROJECT –
- Potting Soil – Beyond Peat Peat-free Potting Soil
- Organic Fertilizer – Espoma Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer
- Rain Wand Watering Tool – Dramm One Touch Rain Wand or Dramm Rain Select Wand
- Planting Container – Crescent Garden Container Brunello 27-inch Container
- Planting Container Self-watering – Crescent Garden Trudrop Rim 26-inch Container
- Tomato plants – Bonnie Plants Big Boy Tomato
- Tomato plants – Bonnie Plants Better Boy Tomato
- Watering rain wand – Dramm Rain Wand
- Irrigation lines and irrigation sprayers – RainBird Drip and Spray Irrigation Kit
- Irrigation timing system with lines – Rainbird Drip Irrigation Kit
- Tomato cages – Texas Tomato Cages
List of Benefits to Grow a Tomato in a Container
Growing tomatoes in containers can make it extremely convenient to manage and harvest the tomato plants.
- Growing tomatoes in Smaller Spaces – Containers of tomatoes can be placed on a deck, patio, balcony, driveway, or any tiny niche in your garden area. If you own a small house, condominium, or rent in an apartment, you can easily grow tomatoes for all your favorite recipes.
- Moving tomatoes to the Best Growing Position – Planting in containers means that you can move your tomatoes to different places in your garden. Growing tomatoes in ground means keeping your tomatoes are in the same position all season long. Imagine if the sun or weather changes? You cannot move the tomatoes easily. Planting in pots or containers means you raise your move-ability quotient. This enables you to take advantage of the best growing season throughout the entire garden season.
- Control Over Tomato Growing Soil Mix – When planting in a container, you have complete and total control over the soil. Type of soil, content, drainage, and soil amendments or fertilizers can all be decided by the grower.
- Increased Root Growth – When planted in a container, the roots of a tomato warm more quickly. This often enhances growth of the plant, increasing yield size.
1. Best Soil Mix to Grow a Tomato Planted in a Container
Planting your tomatoes in soil that will help provide the best success for your tomato plants is very important. Tomatoes need to receive consistent moisture. Tomatoes need consistent nutrition too. Below is the best peat-free starter soil mix for tomatoes I have discovered.
Secret Soil Mix for Potting Tomatoes
- Natural peat-free potting soil – one part
- Composted manure or leaf mold – one part
- Organic Fertilizer according to package directions
- Worm castings – a handful
Peat-free soil is healthier for the environment. I have been testing 100% peat-free, organic, environmentally friendly bagged soil. Beyond Peat™ Professional Organics Potting Mix can hold up to 7X its own weight in water. It contains beneficial bacteria and fertilizer to help with plant support. This makes it a good choice for tomatoes in containers. It is an OMRI® certified organic product which is a sustainable alternative to peat moss.
2. How to Plant Tomatoes in Container or Pot Gardens
Choose containers that will hold 10 gallons of soil. Clay pots will dry out quickly in hot summer conditions. Food safe containers in ceramic or plastic are recommended to help hold moisture. Empty pots of soil annually. Clean the old pots with a bleach mixture. This process provides a sterile container to help prevent disease growth.
Technique for Planting Tomatoes in Pots
Plant tomatoes after the last frost date. Purchase your vegetative plants (or start from seeds). To plant a tomato in either style container, pre-water the tomato to be planted thoroughly. Trim any browned branches and the lower branches off the tomato. Build your special soil mix and be sure to add fertilizer.
Dig a hole deep in the soil. It should cover a large portion of the tomato stem. Place the plant within the hole, covering the stem with soil. Leave the top foliage sticking out of the hole. Water deeply.
The Great Tomato Container Growing Experiment
Join me for THE GREAT TOMATO EXPERIMENT! Let’s grow tomatoes in several types of containers and see which ones produce the best tomatoes. I will report on progress to let you know how it is working through the gardening season. Will tomatoes perform better in self-watering containers? Or will tomatoes perform better with traditional containers and irrigation? Let’s find out together!
Planting Tomatoes in Self-Watering Containers
Crescent Trudrop One System Terra-cotta Rim 26-inch self-watering containers are recyclable, food-safe and have a deep soil well in the middle of the container (below). The special well is surrounded by a water reservoir. Each container has a convenient water level indicator. The indicator shows when to water (right). This planter can be used indoors, it is necessary to remove the sealed plug for outdoor use. This allows for better drainage.
Follow the directions on the container. I filled the container with my special soil mix, filled the water reservoir with my RainSelect Rain Wand set to a center stream water pattern, planted the tomato as deeply as possible, and watered it in well with the shower setting on the rain wand.
Tomatoes Planted in Traditional Containers
With the Crescent Terra-cotta Brunello 27-inch container, the holes are pre-drilled for drainage and the container is food-safe and 100% recyclable. Run your irrigation line up through one of the drainage holes. The line rests at the top of the soil. Fill the pot with your special soil mix. Place the tomato plants as deep as possible. Water in well.
After planting tomato, connect the irrigation line to your primary irrigation system. If you hand water, no irrigation line is necessary. This will help you grow a tomato in a container with success.
3. Favorite Tools and Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Containers
Best Tomato Cage for Tomato Staking
Proper staking helps prevent the tomatoes from toppling over. This reduces breakage. Securing a stake next to the base of the tomato plant can help support the plant. Building teepees, a tomato toutour, or variations on a tomato structure can support your tomatoes.
I have found the best success in utilizing large tomato cages made of steel to help support the tomatoes. My source for tomato cages is Texas Tomato Cages. The cages are foldable, stackable, and I prefer the medium 20” X 6’ size. They conveniently tuck inside a 10-gallon planting container.
Tips for Watering Tomatoes in Pots
Even and consistent watering will help prevent disease. Bottom end rot and drought-related weakening will also be reduced. Watering the right amount is truly the secret to success with tomato plants.
How to Water Tomatoes
Important – do not wet tomato leaves. Watering from below at the base of the tomato plant is a wise technique. It enables the plant to get the proper moisture. This technique prevents an environment where disease might flourish on the foliage.
Utilizing a Dramm Rain Wand attached to the end of a hose, open up the water full-bore and water a 10-gallon container at the base of the plant to a count between 5 and 10.
How Often to Water Tomatoes
The best way to have consistently even watering is with an irrigation system. In the northern states, a weekly deep watering with a hose combined with natural rainfall might be enough to hold the tomatoes in a consistent watering pattern. In the Southwest or southern states where excessive heat is an issue, the tomatoes might need to be watered daily or even twice per day.
Automatic Drip Irrigation for Tomatoes
In Arizona, where I live now, I have installed an automatic irrigation system. The Rainbird system I use is a necessity for extreme heat gardening. It is connected to the outdoor plumbing. The irrigation layout includes a timer, valves, tubes, and emitters. These run on a timer daily. Need a simple solution? Rainbird has a system that can easily attach to your garden hose.
If you want a great book on growing tomatoes, definitely get my friend Craig LeHoullier’s EPIC TOMATOES (below). I use it as a tomato growing Bible.
Join me for THE GREAT TOMATO EXPERIMENT and see how to grow a tomato in a container. The tomatoes are doing great. I cannot wait to learn which containers produce the most tomatoes!