A tomato is a staple in most cuisines and is best home-grown for optimal flavor. When deciding to take up the task of growing tomatoes, you must consider what type of gardening is best suited for your space. Growing tomatoes in the outdoors require a lot of dedicated space compared to growing them in pots. Most grow best in controlled environments because tomatoes are prone to pest infestations which can spread from one plant to another. This is why tomatoes do best in containers and learning how to grow tomatoes in a pot may be really beneficial for you.
How to Grow Tomatoes In A Pot – Two Different Starters
Large yields are achievable in pots depending on the techniques used to propagate them. Choosing the tomato variety, location and soil are key factors to be successful. The perfect season is the summers but you must start towards the end of winter and transplant them into bigger pots as they grow. By the end of spring, once the plant is about 1 to 1 ½ inches tall it is necessary to have transplanted them into the pot where they will grow further.
If choosing to use a pre-propagated plant from the store make sure you choose the right one for you. Early gardeners in spring should not choose a plant with flowers. Instead, choose a plant that has none. If you are a late gardener at the start of summer, this is when you must choose flowering plants. There will be no time to allow the plant to start flowering.
When picking seeds or pre-propagated plants pay attention to what type of plant they are. Try Heinz or a Robusta tomato varieties that are best for pots. Determinant plants only grow to a set size once and no more growing occurs after. Indeterminant plants grow as much as they can with no restriction. Some people may suggest determinant plants for pots so they don’t overgrow, but being limited in growth may not be desired by everyone either. Consider which type is best for you. Indeterminate plants do tend to overgrow but are also controllable with cages.
Steps To Potting Your Tomatoes
Once you have picked your starter plant, it is good to know what supplies are needed:
- Potting mix. Do not use potting soil and never re-use potting mix with tomatoes.
- A large 10 to 20-gallon pot or potting bag.
- Cages or stakes.
- Tomato fertilizer.
- Hand shovel.
When planting, make sure the pot is full of the potting mix.
- Clip the small stems to about 5 inches prior to planting so the main stalk has a chance to become strong.
- Make a deep 9 to 10-inch hole.
- If planting late, a handful of fertilizer is needed first.
- Place the plant in the hole and fill in with soil.
- Add mulch to the top of the pot to help filter water and keep moist, but not too moist.
- Place cage or tomato steaks down before the plant begins to grow any bigger.
- Water the plant.
When plants begin to grow, pruning is necessary. Pruning stops many problems that can occur like pest infestation and fungus. Remove everything but the main stalks on the plant by plucking with fingers. For big stalks growing wildly out of the cage or for staking use soft wires instead of trash bag ties or wire. Pruning is necessary before flowering to allow for more growth and makes the plant stronger.
Before flowering make sure you add gypsum or garden lime and peat moss to boost calcium along with a nitrogen-based fertilizer to create a lot of foliage growth.
Hand Pollination Is Vital
Getting maximum yield will require hand pollination when the flowers blossom. Once the flowers begin to arrive, stop using nitrogen fertilizer and switch to a low N, fertilizer (low in N, high P & K) and add calcium or gardeners lime for maximum yield. Use your fingers to jiggle each flower on the plant or a new method of using a cheap electric toothbrush to pollinate. The toothbrush method is the best as it stimulates the pollen similar to a bee does.
Treatments To Assist Tomato Plant Growth & Use Of Insecticides
Every month you should:
- Bathe plants in a mixture of water & Epsom’s Salt (Mag Sulfate)
- 2 tsp/gal of Neem Oil to 1-gallon of water sprayed onto plant will eliminate insects. Can also use 4-tsp Spinosad to 1-gallon water.
- Aspirin mixed into water will keep fungus at bay.
- Always treat plants in the evening when insects and plants are less active.
Dealing With Overwatering Or Too Much Rain
For advanced gardeners, drip irrigation works very well with tomatoes and ensures proper watering. Beginners trying to learn how to grow tomatoes in a pot beware of trying drip irrigation due to problems of overwatering. Otherwise, the plants tend to grow well with watering every other day. Common issues can come about if they are over watered or there is too much rainfall. Pots can be easier to deal with because they are moveable and gardeners can control and fix problems. Most overwatering problems are treatable by restricting the quantity or covering the plant during rain.
Common overwatering problems that should be treated with calcium are:
- Leaf Roll: Leaves of the plant roll or curl up to the sky. Treatment cover or move pot out of the rain or stop overwatering of the plant.
- Root Rot: The roots of the tomato plant will begin to grow fungus. Too much water constantly can be damaging if not done properly. Plants will have leaves with a dark coloration and might fall off. Treat just like leaf roll and remove the discolored leaves.
- BER (Blossom End Root) is a lack of nutrition caused by dilution of nutrients from overwatering which is noticeable during fruiting. A big black or brown spot will occur on the bottom. To deal with the problem, you must add additional calcium to the soil.
- Blight is another common fungus that is marked with leaves discoloring yellow with leaves falling. If blight goes on too long the plant cannot be recovered. Prune and reduce water.
- Cracking occurs to the fruit only and the only solution is to remove the fruit. Keeping the fruit on can draw more fungus and insects to the plant.
Gardeners will know when it is time to harvest when the fruits will bear a bright red colour. Removing them early affects the taste. Vine ripened tomatoes should be used immediately after harvesting.
There is nothing better than a taste of fresh and delicious tomatoes and the best way to experience that feeling is to learn how to grow tomatoes in a pot yourself.