9 Tips For Growing Tomatoes in Pots - Backyard Boss
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9 Tips For Growing Tomatoes in Pots

Tomatoes are a favorite vegetable among gardeners! They add a wonderful, savory flavor to any dish. From sauces to soups, salads, and sandwiches there are endless ways you can enjoy a tomato harvest!

Growing tomatoes in pots is an easy way to ensure you always have some on hand. Plus, container gardening means you can get a head start. Tomatoes are only hardy year-round in zones 10 to 11. You can’t plant them outdoors until temperatures reach at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, though 70 degrees Fahrenheit is actually best for germination.

So if you’re eager to get a head start on growing tomatoes why not cultivate them in pots?! Plus, if you want to move them outside, container gardening makes it easy to relocate them when temperatures warm up.

Choose Container Tomatoes

Tiny Tim Tomatoes
Image credits: Jann Kuusisaari via Flickr

While there are a lot of different tomato cultivars you can choose from, not all of them flourish in pots. To start on the right note, pick a variety that is suitable for container gardening. Some great options are ‘Tiny Tim,’ ‘Tumblin’ Tom,’ ‘Saladette,’ and ‘Better Boy VFN.’ Each of these varieties will grow well in a 5-gallon container, making them a perfect choice for your gardening project.

Get the Perfect Pot

pots for tomatoes
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Once you have your tomato seeds or plants in hand, you’ll need a pot to grow them in. Tomatoes do best in larger containers, look for a pot that is 5 gallons or has a diameter of 20 inches. The container should have enough space for 12 inches of quality soil. You should also look for a container with holes in the bottom for drainage. Then, to give your tomatoes enough space, remember to only cultivate one plant in each container.

Opt For High-Quality Soil

Soil for potting plants
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Potting your tomatoes in high-quality soil is essential to their success. Tomatoes love soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. To boost the nutrients in the soil use fertilizer before planting. A fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 will give your tomatoes the balance of nutrients they need. Avoid fertilizers that are heavy in nitrogen. While these will give you luscious foliage, they won’t encourage the tomato fruits to grow.

Grow Them Upside Down

Upside down tomatoes
Image credits: Ewen Roberts via Flickr

An alternative to a traditional upright pot is to grow tomatoes upside down. Upside-down gardening can save space if you are growing tomatoes on a patio or balcony. It also improves air circulation which can help prevent diseases like Powdery mildew that will yellow and dry out leaves, eventually killing the plant. This fungus spreads quickly in close, humid conditions, by improving air circulation you lower the risk your tomato plants will get sick with this fungus.

Indoors vs Outside

Indoor tomato plant
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One of the best advantages of growing tomatoes in a pot is that you can choose whether to plant them inside or outside. When growing tomatoes indoors, one of the most important factors to consider is their light requirements. Tomatoes need full sun to thrive. Whether you are growing them inside or outside they should be somewhere they can get 6 to 10 hours of sun daily.

While you can easily pick a sunny spot outside, indoors this can be trickier. With indoor tomatoes, look for a spot that mimics the direct sun, like a side table near a window that gets sunlight all day. Remember tomatoes grow best when temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit so keep an eye on your indoor thermostat or outdoor thermometer.

Pro Tip: Certain types of tomatoes grow better indoors than others. Consider ‘Red Grape’ tomatoes or ‘Sun Gold’ tomatoes for indoor gardening.

Starting Seedlings

Tomato seedlings
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If you are starting from seed, first moisten the potting soil, then plant two seeds a quart inch deep in the center of each pot, sprinkle water over the seeds to moisten the soil, and set the pot in full sun. Then, water from the bottom of the container every day or two by placing it in a shallow dish of water for a few minutes. Remove the container from the water and put it back in the sun. Depending on the cultivar you will see sprouts in a few days or weeks. 

Moving Indoor Plants Outside

Tomato plant and a gardener
Image credits: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Another great benefit of containers is that after you start seedlings inside you can gradually introduce them to life outdoors. To do this correctly, put your tomato plant outdoors in direct sun for a few hours each day. Ideally, choose a spot that has some protection from the wind. Then, day by day increase the number of hours your plant is outside. This will help acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions or help to harden off the tomato plant.

Note: Don’t place your plant outdoors until it is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water is Essential

Watering can outdoors
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Tomatoes need water to thrive from seedling to harvest. Continue to water your tomato plants from the bottom or directly water the soil throughout the growing season. This will help prevent the leaves from getting Powdery mildew fungus which damages foliage. Plants in containers can dry out quickly, especially during hot summer days. So, each day put a finger a few inches deep into the potting soil. If it is dry it’s time to water your plant again.

Support Tomatoes Until Harvest

Tomato with support
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From the time you plant your precious seeds, it can take anywhere from 70 to 80 days before your plants are ready to harvest. During this time your plants will get heavy with tomato fruits. To help them stay strong, use supports in your containers, like stakes, trellis, or tomato cages. The plants can lean on this so that their stems don’t snap under the weight of the ripening produce.

Growing Scrumptious Tomatoes

Cultivating an abundant harvest of scrumptious tomatoes is easy in containers. By following a few key gardening tips like choosing the right pot, applying a balanced fertilizer, setting your plant in full sun, and bottom watering the container, you can have a thriving plant and delicious harvest. Plus, you can even try something entirely different like growing your tomatoes in upside-down containers!

Have you ever grown tomatoes in pots before? Share your tips to help other gardeners successfully grow a tasty harvest of tomatoes!