Tomatoes, I would say, are the most popular vegetable (or fruit if you’re going to be technical) to grow. I understand why: nothing tastes as good as homegrown tomatoes. And they are versatile — they can be eaten as part of a sandwich, in salads, as tomato salad, by itself, or used as an ingredient in cooked meals.
We grow our tomatoes in pots because this works best for us. We can move them if they need more sun or when they need more shade during the really warm summer months.
So here are my tips for growing tomatoes in pots:
Make sure the container is big enough and has good drainage—For tomatoes, the bigger, the better. For one plant, you need at least 1 square foot, but 2 square feet are better.
Invest in good soil—Good quality organic soil is the key to growing any vegetable. Tomatoes want to grow in loose soil that is aerated, moisture-retaining and has lots of compost added to it. They like a slightly acidic pH level, between 6 to 6.8.
Plant tomato plants deep—Make sure to remove the bottom sets of leaves and plant the plant in a hole deep enough to bury most of it. This will assure that roots are produced along the buried part of the stem and develop a strong root system.
Water—Growing tomatoes in containers makes maintaining consistent moisture a challenge. We keep our soil cool and moist by making sure we have good soil, lots of compost, and also by adding mulch around the plant. Normally, we water during the evening, when the soil is cooler and can better absorb water. However, since we live in a warm and dry climate, we water the plants twice during hot days. Soil should be moist but not soggy because too much water can rot the roots.
Feed tomatoes calcium powder—Tomatoes like a lot of calcium, one of many essential minerals in healthy soil, so we feed our tomatoes calcium powder once a week. It prevents blossom-end rot as well as enhances pollen germination, and growth in new leaves and tissues. We make our own calcium powder from egg shells:
- Bring a pot of egg shells and water, covered, to a boil.
- Remove from heat and drain shells.
- Roast shells at F350° in a baking dish until completely dry (about 10 minutes).
- Using a blender or food processor, grind shells into a powder.
We sprinkle about 2 Tbsp of calcium powder per week around the stems of the potted tomato plants.
Fertilizer—Besides compost and calcium powder, we feed our tomatoes Epsom salt. We mix gallon water and 1 Tbsp of Epsom salt in a clean, empty spray bottle and spray it on the tomato plants. We apply this fertilizer every 2 weeks.
Bugs—Tomato plants get mites. The good news is that it’s not the end of the plant. To prevent mites from spreading to other tomato plants, keep them away from each other. We spray our tomato plants with castile soap and water once a week to prevent mites. We also make sure to remove the ripe fruit and dead leaves, as that seems to prevent mites as well. If the plant does get mites, remove the effected areas, and spray it with castile soap and water once a day until the mites are gone. You can also get some ladybugs to help you out.
Sun—Tomato plants need sun, so make sure they get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily . However, too much sun is not good, either, especially for baby plants, so make sure young plants get some shade.