Even if you live in the heart of a city and don't own a large plot, you can still enjoy garden-fresh, juicy tomatoes. The key factor is that you should have a sunny patio or balcony, so as to expose the tomato plants to maximum sunlight. Of course, careful planning is required while purchasing the container, selecting the tomato variety and taking care of the tomato plants. Let's discuss in brief the tips of growing tomatoes in pots and containers.
Selecting the Right Container
Tomatoes are dicots and have a deep root system. So the containers opted for tomato plantation should be deep (five gallons or more), plastic or fiberglass pots. It'll provide sufficient room for development of roots, making it easy to maintain a healthy root system. A well-established root system is very essential for healthy growth of a plant. Other than flowering pots, you can make use of any large container like buckets, cooking pots or other unused cookware (make a bottom hole to the pots).
Choosing Tomato Variety
This is the most crucial step for growing tomatoes in pots. Some tomato varieties are large and spread out to a great extent. You might be already aware about using stakes and supports while growing them in gardens or greenhouses. For planting them in pots and containers, it is always advisable to select the dwarf and bushy variety of tomatoes. With such cultivars, the plants are easy to maintain in a manageable size.
If options are available, choose disease-resistant and indeterminate tomato seedlings. Indeterminate variety produces fruit steadily, whereas determinate variety bears maximum fruits at the same time.
Preparing Potting Soil
Tomatoes can grow well in any good quality, organic soil. You can purchase ready-made soil or prepare it on your own by adding peat moss and farmyard compost. If you are preparing potting mixture, then supplement with plant nutrients. Remember that the plants directly depend on the potting soil for water and nutrients. Garden soils are usually not preferable as they are very heavy for container gardening.
Make sure you add healthy soil mixture, otherwise there can be chances of soil-borne fungi and other pathogens in the potting soil, which may lead to development of diseases.
For planting tomatoes in pot you need to add the potting mixture in the container to about one-fourth of the depth. Place the plant in the center of the pot and add soil till it reaches the height of the stem, where the lowest leaf is developed. This way, you are allowing further development of roots from the stem to promote a healthy root system. Make sure that you keep the level of soil a few inches below the rim of the pot. While planting, lightly press or firm the top soil around the seed.
Caring Tips of Tomato Plants
Light and water are the two most important factors for maintaining the healthy growth of tomatoes in pots and containers. A healthy plant requires about five hours of daily light. You can place the potted tomato plants in any area, either balcony or windowsill, where the plants will get maximum sunlight. If possible, select a location which is less windy, as high-velocity wind may result in drying of the soil.
Once the potted tomato plants are placed in a proper location, water the plants thoroughly. Make sure to water the plants regularly and supplement the soil with organic fertilizers. For water retention and weed control, you can consider mulching with straw or bark mulch. Provide the tomato plants with supports like stakes or cages, when the first fruits appear.
Depending upon the tomato variety and the growing conditions, the plant will start bearing fruits within 6 - 8 weeks. Growing tomatoes is easy but adequate care should be taken as they are susceptible to diseases. Majority of the tomato plant diseases are caused due to soil-borne fungi. Hence, as long as the potting soil is disease-free, there are very less chances of diseases in tomato plants. In case of disease occurrence, you can discard the diseased parts as far as possible and use mild fungicides to prevent further spreading.