22 April 2013

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

So, last week I divulged our dirty little secret about the sad neglect of our home and how excited I was to get started on our 2013 to do list. Well, I'm sorry to say that the landscaping crew was delayed due to Friday's rains and has postponed our tree clean-up until next weekend. Ugggggggh! Sadness...

So today I diverted my eyes from all the mess and chose to take on a pleasantly small project that would lift my spirits. I made a mini garden on our deck. I know the pictures look a little wimpy with those tiny little plants in those great big pots, but just you wait. In a few weeks those plants will have taken over!

Growing vegetables in containers is a manageable alternative to a garden for those longing for fresh vege's but limited in space or for those looking for a less strenuous method of gardening. Just by using a few large pots, I created a garden using a couple of  tomato plants and a collection of herbs. All that is required is a sunny spot {minimum of six hours sunlight} and enough room for your pots.

Here's how we made them should, you be so inclined to join in on the fun and make one of your own!
container tomatoes
What you need are:
  • Containers one square foot in size or larger {if you don't have large pots, think outside the box & recycle a plastic 5 gal. bucket from a local restaurant - be sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage}
  • A used dryer sheet
  • Slow release fertilizer {optional}
In addition, you'll need
  • Potting soil
    how to grow patio tomatoes
  • Compost {either homemade or purchased bags}
    compost soil
  • Tomato plants of your choice {I've read that the actual patio tomato varieties do not have a good texture or flavor, so I opted for a standard variety which I'll keep pruned to a manageable size}
    patio tomato
    Begin by selecting the largest container you can spare. One square foot {equal to a five gallon bucket} is the smallest size recommended for a standard size plant, but larger is even better. Once your container is selected, place it at least two feet apart from it's neighboring containers, keeping in mind just how large that standard variety tomato can grow. 

    Next, trim your used dryer sheet and cover the drainage hole.  Recycling dryer sheets in this way prevents soil from escaping while allowing for proper drainage.
    preventing soil leakage in pots
    Now it's time to prep your potting soil. Using a good potting soil alone is adequate for growing your vegetables, but is not ideal for production. An ideal growing medium will give your plants the best chance of survival and assure an abundant harvest. I've learned after many years {and a propensity for laziness} that this step is well worth the extra effort.

    I've found that the best soil for growing patio tomatoes, or any container vegetable, is a blend of 3/4 potting soil to 1/4 compost, with a handful of slow release fertilizer added for a little added nourishment. This mixture provides good organic matter, proper nutrients, good drainage, and a loose soil of which the roots will greatly appreciate.best potting soilHere's another trick for a strong and healthy tomato plant:tips for growing tomatoes
Yep, pinch your plant. Pinch off the bottom leaves, leaving only the top cluster. Then plant the stem up to the tip of the leaf cluster. Tomato stems will grow roots, and this is a good thing for healthy strong plants! The more stem you can plant into the soil, the better.

Next, add soil up the the top cluster of leaves.
growing tomatoes in a pot
Here my tomato stem is planted approximately 8" below the soil.
tomatoes growing
I know, the plant looks a little silly planted so deep in that huge pot. But as I said, in a few weeks this plant will take over! As soon as the plants reach around 1-2' tall, place a tomato cage inside the pot to keep the plant standing upright as it grows.

As for maintenance, water well and water consistently as the soil dries out, feeding with a diluted solution of fertilizer each time you water. Also, to keep disease at bay, remove any leaves that are touching the soil.

Last, do you know if your container tomato is a determinate or an indeterminate? If you aren't sure, check the link I've provided. If it's an indeterminate, you will want to keep your plant from becoming too unruly. To do so, prune off any suckers that develop within the joint between the main stem & an existing branch. This will help keep your plant manageable and will focus the energy on fruit rather than new growth. This tip is only for indeterminate plants. Determinate plants will only produce a certain number of fruit, so you do not want to limit it's initial growth.
Don't just limit yourself to tomatoes, however. Just about any vegetable can be container grown, so experiment with your favorites! And now that the hard work is done, sit back, pour yourself a glass of sweet ice tea {with lemon} and watch those vege's thrive!

Okay, now that I've planted my patio tomatoes do you want to know a secret? I greatly dislike raw tomatoes. Yes, I was born & raised in the South, and I do not like tomatoes {a sin, I know}. I try to like them & have tried them on many occasions, but I just can't get past the gelatinous pulp and those unpleasant seeds. However, I finally learned a few years ago that if I remove those two offenders from the fruit and use only the "meat" of the tomato, they become quite delectable. I learned this while making one of my favorite treats, pico de gallo. Yes, with a fresh batch of tortilla chips, it's pure heaven! And that, my friends, is why I grow tomatoes. Looove me some pico...



  1. Tomatoes need a lot of sun, so be sure you get 6 to 8 hours of full sun., when the weather gets really hot and dry, I notice that birds and squirrels seeking a source of water are more likely to pick and eat green and ripe tomatoes.

    1. pesky critters always after me green tomatoes!

    2. Make a bird bath.
      One way to keep the birds out of your veggies.

    3. Make a bird bath.
      One way to keep the birds out of your veggies.

    4. Oh! Who knew! Thanks for the tip!

  2. After moving from Iowa to Florida a year ago, I realize how spoiled I was with the amazing Iowa "dirt" and am failing miserably at gardening now in central Florida, so I have decided to try container gardening instead! Will be putting your steps into practice very soon as apparently August is the month to put tomato transplants out (who knew, in Iowa the garden season is on the decline for the year, here it is just getting started!)
    Hopefully I'll have amazing luck and lots of delicious home grown tomatoes!

    1. What Florida lacks in nutritional content they make up for with their year-round growing season. I'm jealous that you're starting on round two while we're beginning to look at fall crops. Let me know how the containers do for you!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


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