Wondering How To Grow Tomatoes In Containers?

It only takes less than two months for tomatoes bare fruit – yup, tomatoes are fruits and not vegetables.

But you may be killing your tomatoes without even knowing it! Learn what’s the right way of growing tomatoes in containers in six easy steps.

What You’ll Need 

  • Tomato seeds
  • Peat pots
  • Potting mix
  • 5-gallon container
  • Plant cage (if a larger variety)
  • Vegetable-safe fertilizer
  • Sunlight or grow lamps
  • Water

6 Beginner-Friendly Steps In Growing Tomatoes In Pots

Now that you know what essentials you need to have before growing tomatoes in pots, you may now proceed with these six easy steps!

1. Plant Your Tomato Seeds

Fill your peat pots with moistened soil and bury 2 or 3 seeds, 1/4 inch under the soil. Avoid using more than the recommended number of seeds but why? Well, it is not a problem yet but once they sprout, you’ll have overcrowded seedlings fighting each other to survive.

Once you have the seeds in the soil, keep the pea pots at 70-80 degrees F until germination (1).

Temperatures above this (especially temperatures above 85 degrees F.) can “cook” the seeds and kill them.”

However, keeping them in an area below the suggested temperature can delay the usual 7-day germination process too. It can even lead to the deadly damping off because of fungi growth – yikes!

If you have a place in your home that gets direct sunlight for at least 8 hours a day, move the pea pots there. If not, you can use grow lights to keep your plants warm. Make sure that you keep the soil damp, or else they’ll dry out before they have the chance to sprout.

2. Water Your Seedlings

Water your plants every day. Mist water on the seeds whenever the top of the soil mix appears and feels dry.

Be careful not to over-water.

over watering your seed can lead to damping off graphic

If you’re interested in an aquaponics system for watering, check out “5 Quick and Easy DIY Aquaponic Systems” or alternatively, if you’re not quite sure on whether aquaponics or hydroponics is the better system for you, find out more helpful tips here!

3. Transfer Your Tomatoes In Pots

When your tomato plants reach about 6 inches tall, you’ll have to transfer them to containers. You can plant tomatoes in hanging baskets, window boxes, clay pots, and other types of containers. Heck, you can even use a 5-gallon bucket.

Tomatoes are not very picky where you put them. As long as it has drainage holes and is at least 12 inches deep, you can grow tomatoes. For regular containers, put a saucer under your pot to catch the water when it drains. You can also place rocks in the saucer to help the water drain.

How about the pot size?

This will depend on the tomato variety. For determinate tomatoes like the patio tomato variety, you should look for a pot with at least an 18-inch diameter. 24-inch diameter containers for indeterminate varieties. If you’re planting cherry tomatoes, the pot size requirement is smaller – at least 14-inch in diameter.

Tomato plants have a delicate root system. A wrong container size paired with the absence of a drainage hole system, and you’re never going to have a healthy (and alive) tomato plant.

Once you have the right container, start by mixing a vegetable-safe fertilizer into your soil and fill your pot about 1/3 full. Remove the plant from the peat pot, being careful not to damage the roots.

A good tip is to soak the soil before removing it from the peat pot to make it easier to wiggle out.

Place your tomato plant in the middle of the container and continue to fill with the potting mix up to the little fuzzy hairs on the stem. Make sure to pack the soil down as you go so the plant can’t move around.

Pro Tip: Be sure to choose a potting MIX, not a potting SOIL. This will ensure your tomatoes drain properly.

As your plant grows, keep filling the pot with the mix, leaving 1 inch of space from the top.

Prune the leaves around the stem and fill with soil, packing again like before. This will help the roots grow stronger. 

If you need a visual to help you out, check out the video below to see how to transfer your tomato plant.

4. Water Your Tomato Plants

You might be wondering, “How often should I water my tomato plants in pots after I transfer them?”

Water as much as you need to keep the soil moist, but don’t over-water your plants!

Overwatering can cause the roots to rot and kill your plant. Check the soil by sticking your finger into the pot. If the topsoil is dry but underneath is still wet, you don’t need to water it yet.

Recycling water can help the environment! When we recycle water, we can help sensitive ecosystems by putting nutrient-rich wastewater back where it belongs. Recycled water can also help lower your utility bills!

If you want to recycle water, check out Best Rain Barrel System: Reviews & Buying Tips!

5. Keeping Up With Your Tomato Plant

Two weeks after transplanting you should start to fertilize your plants. Choose a mix that is high in phosphorous. Tomato plants, including cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and other tomato varieties, need phosphorous to grow and bear fruit.

homemade monster tomato fertilizer graphic

So how often should you fertilize your tomato plants? Fertilize at least once a week. Don’t be tempted to add more because overfertilizing wilts and even kill tomatoes in pots.

If you’ve chosen a larger tomato plant, you’ll need to surround the pant with tomato cages. Push the legs into the soil around your plant, being careful not to damage the roots.

For artificial lights, turn them on in the morning, give them about 12 hours of light and then turn them off again at night. This will mimic daylight hours, and allow the plants to “sleep” at the end of the day.

If you see yellowing leaves on tomato plants in containers, they are most likely turning yellow because you’re not watering enough. This can happen when tomatoes are grown in containers.

Remove any brown or yellowing lower leaves and their stems from your plant, then plant it deeper. You want the soil to be just under the lowest green leaf on the plant stem. This will give it a chance to root more strongly. Then give your plant the water, fertilizer, and love it needs!

6. Harvest Your Tomatoes

Always leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as you can. Your tomatoes will be ready for picking when they are firm and red (it’s okay if they are a bit yellow), regardless of how big or small they are.

To pick your tomatoes, grab them by the stem and twist!

If a tomato or two fall off before they’re ripe, don’t put them on a sunny windowsill! Instead, place them in a brown paper bag in a cool dark place to ripen. This will keep them from ripening too fast.

Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes! If you do, they won’t taste like homegrown garden tomatoes anymore.

If your feeling motivated and want to keep going, why not check out How To Grow Broccoli In Containers and Growing Wheat grass Indoors in 5 Simple Steps! You can also grow an indoor garden using an AeroGarden. Check out our reviews of the best AeroGarden models.

You Can Now Grow Container Tomatoes!

Now that you’ve learned what’s the right way to grow tomatoes in a container, you’re on your way to harvesting the same juicy tomatoes that people with large gardens have – even if you have a limited garden space.

Related: Best Vertical Garden Planters: 12 Tower Garden Alternatives

So what do you think? Do you think you can grow tomatoes?

Let us know in the comments if you’re finally taking on the challenge of growing tomato containers.

And if you know someone who wants to learn about how to grow tomatoes in containers or container gardening, please share the article with them!

FAQs

You can put up 6 tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket. However, for large tomato varieties, you’d want to keep it about 2-3 plants only because like other plants, tomatoes in containers require proper spacing for optimal plant growth. If not, they will most likely fight with each other to get water, nutrients, and sun.

You can prevent blossom end rot on tomato plants in containers by making sure that you provide consistent soil moisture levels, especially during dry and humid days. Since a blossom end rot is a result of calcium deficiency, you can also spray a calcium solution or use a fertilizer with more calcium formula. Other container gardeners add a layer of peat moss and organic matter on top of the soil to block the heat from drying the soil.

You can use either potting mixes or garden soil when growing tomato plants in a pot. However, if you have clay soil, opt for potting mixes because tomatoes prefer loose soil. To save money, you can amend the garden soil by tilling and adding peat or sawdust. If you’re a beginner at container gardening, buying a potting mix can save you from the hassle of figuring out what’s the right ratio to turn clay soil into good soil for tomatoes.

  1. Germinating Tomato Seeds. Retrieved from: https://paramountseeds.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Germinating-Tomato-Seeds.pdf
tomato plants

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