container gardening tomatoes

Ultimate Guide To Container Gardening Tomatoes

There are few things more satisfying than seeing a big, healthy tomato plant filled to the brim with red, purple, yellow, or green tomatoes. Tomatoes fresh off the vine are some of the most delicious tomatoes you’ll ever have the joy of eating. When it comes to container gardening tomatoes, we recommend always using organic, heirloom seeds and starts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your container tomatoes.

Use large containers when container gardening tomatoes

Tomatoes need to be grown in large containers because they require a lot of soil and root space in order to develop properly. Tomatoes are a heavy feeder, meaning they require a large amount of nutrients to produce healthy fruit. If grown in too small of a container, they will not receive the nutrients they need to thrive and will become stunted in their growth. Additionally, the extra soil and space in larger containers allows for better drainage and air circulation, which also helps the tomatoes to thrive and produce quality fruit.

Tomatoes start small but they definitely become BIG plants. Their roots will want plenty of space to spread. For this reason, choose a larger container. I wouldn’t go smaller than five gallons. Whiskey barrels make excellent planters for tomatoes. I’ve used whiskey or wine barrels cut in half for years and every year, the tomato plants I grow are downright bodacious.

Read More: How To Prune Tomatoes For A Better Harvest

Stake your plants to prevent damage

Tomatoes have a tendency to grow big, tall, and a bit leggy. As the tomatoes begin to grow and ripen, the weight of the fruits can cause branches to snap. Just like you would if you planted them in the ground, use a tomato cage or a stake to help prop your plants up. This will ensure that your delicious tomato plants don’t meet an early demise due to the weight of their fruit. To properly cage your tomatoes:

  1. Place the cage in the ground near the base of the tomato plant, making sure that the cage is deep enough in the ground so that it is secure.
  2. Attach the cage to the plant stem with garden twine or a piece of cloth.
  3. As the tomato plant grows, gently guide the stem through the opening of the cage and wrap it around the outside of the cage.
  4. Continue to tie the stem to the cage as it grows to help support the plant.
  5. Prune the top of the tomato plant so that it does not exceed the top of the cage.
  6. Check the cage regularly for any signs of damage or wear and tear, as well as for any loose ties that may need to be reattached.
  7. Harvest your tomatoes from the outside of the cage, taking care not to damage the plant.

Water thoroughly when container gardening tomatoes

Container gardening tomatoes is advantageous for a few reasons. For starters, tomatoes love warm soil, and growing in containers gives the soil the opportunity to really warm up in the summer sun. But tomatoes are also thirsty, and warm soil means the water will evaporate more quickly. You’re going to want to make sure that your container tomatoes get plenty of water. It could even be beneficial to add a layer of mulch, like dried grass clippings, overtop the soil to prevent too much evaporation.

Fertilize your tomatoes often

Tomato seedlings should go into the soil with fortifications. Before that, the first step is to plant the seedlings in pots. The essence of nursing them before full planting is to have better control of the critical stages of germination. Ensure to poke holes under the pots so water won’t stagnate. If you’re planting in a greenhouse, the heat should be high.

Read More: How To Store Tomatoes To Make Them Last

Tomatoes flourish in warmth, and they will not ripen properly if they don’t get what they need. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can easily pre-heat the soil before planting the seedlings. They’ll then need to receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Water your seedlings twice a day, morning and evening.

After three weeks or a month, they are ready to graduate to soil beds. While preparing your beds, you have to dig each hole to be big enough to accommodate the seedling and every other additive that’ll be joining it, 20-24 inch (50-60cm) holes are best. The holes should be spaced out by at least three feet (0.9m). The more room they have, the more fruit they can produce. If your garden is small, you can bring it down to two feet (0.6m).  

Read More: What Is Organic Gardening?

Fish heads for added nitrogen

That’s right. Fish heads. This may come as a shock but they can work magic for your tomatoes. Fish heads are rich in nitrogen, and as they decompose, it is released into the soil. A lack of nitrogen will result in stunted growth for your plants, and they may also end up with yellow leaves.

In general, a nitrogen deficiency takes the beauty out of your tomatoes. They appear unappetizing and unhealthy. Organic nitrogen sources are the best. Fish heads, fishtails, fish guts, fish waste, and basically every seafood waste provides nitrogen. Fish meal is also a good supplement if the idea of fish heads is not appealing.

The fish head will go into the hole first. It should be placed with the open end in contact with the soil. You might want to keep animals away from your garden, though there’s really nothing to worry about. By the time the hole is covered, the smell won’t be a problem.

Read More: Farmer finds new technique for preserving tomatoes

Eggshells for calcium

Although fish heads are a good source of calcium, plenty more is needed. A low calcium concentration results in blossom end rot, a common disease that affects tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash. The fruit begins to rot from the bottom, a very upsetting sight to see. Sometimes, the rot may extend beyond the blossom end. After the aspirin or willow water, crush three or four eggshells and pour into the hole. They provide enough calcium to protect the blossom ends.

Bone meal for phosphorus

And the hole just keeps getting crowded. If your tomato plants have been growing slowly, then there’s probably a phosphorus deficiency in the soil. Phosphorus speeds up plant growth and is necessary for blossom development. Bone meal is rich in phosphorus. It’s also a great source of calcium for the tomato. The bone meal can come from any animal, or group of animals. A handful should be scooped into the hole. You can also use organic bone meal, where available. This can be made at home or purchased at a Butcher’s place.

Keep in a sunny spot

One of the great things about container gardening is that the containers can be moved. If the sun tends to move quickly in your yard, move your tomato container around a few times a day. Your tomato plant will really love all the extra sunlight. In general, tomatoes do require full sun. Strive for at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.

Keep Reading: How To Store Tomato Seeds For Next Year

Thomas Nelson
Gardening Expert
Hi! I'm Thomas, one of the founders of The Garden Magazine. I come from a long line of gardeners who used the art of gardening as a way to live long, healthy lives. I'm here to share my knowledge of gardening with the world!