15 Secrets to Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Sheri Dorn is a versatile homesteader and culinary artist with a strong focus on organic and heirloom gardening. Holding a Master's degree in Culinary Arts, she combines her love for cooking and gardening in a unique way. Sheri is an active contributor to online gardening communities and enjoys quality outdoor time with her family and pets.
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Have the best tomatoes all growing season by using these Secrets to Growing Tomatoes in Containers, and relish sweet, juicy, and organic supply in your small garden!

Tomatoes are everyone’s favorite, and there’s nothing like having fresh, juicy, homegrown tomatoes when you feel like having one! In this article, we are sharing some of the best Secrets to Growing Tomatoes in Containers that will help you cultivate them easily!

1. Choose a Large Container

Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers

Choosing the right container for growing tomatoes is the key.

  • Pot size for growing tomatoes depends upon the variety. You should rather choose a large container–a 12-16 inches pot or bucket is sufficient for growing most of the varieties.
  • Avoid taking small pots for growing tomatoes since they get root-bound because of the widespread root system and result in low yield.
  • Be sure that your container has sufficient drainage holes to discharge excess water, as it can cause root rot.

2. Enough Sunlight

Tomatoes in Containers 2
Tomatoes in Containers 2

Tomatoes thrive in 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Find a spot where buildings or other obstacles do not block the sun. Avoid placing the pots too close to each other, as enough air circulation is necessary to control fungal diseases.

  • Rotate the plant regularly, as it will help in providing sunlight to every part of the plant.
  • Tomatoes thrive in moderate temperatures and prefer warm conditions.
  • Avoid placing immature tomato seedlings outside in the full sun.

Check out the mistakes to avoid while growing tomatoes here

3. Select Fertilizers Wisely

Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers that you can use

Use organic fertilizers as they are chemical-free and add sufficient nutrients to the container. Bone meal, soy meal, blood meal, and well-rotted manure are good as they promote the balance of nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

  • Before doing any soil amendment, make sure the potting mix you are using has no fertilizer in it already.
  • For best results, use specialized fertilizers that are meant for tomatoes, such as Espoma.
  • You can also apply organic rose feed or rose fertilizer meant for roses to your tomatoes to improve productivity.
  • All-purpose liquid and slow-release fertilizers work just fine as well.
  • Tomatoes that grow in containers need fertilizers at every growth stage.
  • Before using fertilizer, check the nutrient content of your soil. If the soil is balanced or high in nitrogen, then go for fertilizer, which is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus, e.g., 5-10-5 or 5-10-10. Contrary to that, if your soil is low in nitrogen, then use a balanced fertilizer with 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 strength.

Check out our article on 8 things for the tomato planting hole here! 

4. Choose Healthy Transplants

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Growing tomatoes from seeds is a good idea. It’s easy and gives you a choice of planting as many tomato varieties you prefer. However, it’s better to buy healthy tomato seedlings from a nearby nursery if you’re new to gardening.

  • Choose a small plant, 4-8 inches tall, as it can be transplanted easily. It also grows a strong root system and has a more stable stem.
  • Before buying, check the leaves and stems of the plant for any diseases and pests. Make sure to remove any buds or small fruits from it before planting.

Here are some varieties that you can check before buying it from the nursery:

  • Determinate–Cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes are determinate. The fruits ripen in 1-2 weeks.
  • Indeterminate–Continues to grow and produce fruit for a longer duration. The varieties under this category include Beefsteak and Better boy.
  • HeirloomTomatoes are produced from generations without cross-breeding.
  • Hybrid–Are a cross among two distinct varieties.

Note: Some varieties do better than others, such as Brandywine, Silvery Fir Tree, Sungold, Cherokee Green, Bush Early Girl, and Sweet Pea.

To know about the best tomato varieties, click here! 

5. Use Soil With a Lot of Organic Matter

Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers for everyone

Organic matter is important for growing healthy tomatoes since it improves drainage and supply nutrients and is one of the Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers. Compost and aged manure are a must for excellent growth, and you can make your own potting soil, too, with these recipes.

  • Tomatoes don’t like dry soil, so keep them moist.
  • Also, avoid keeping them in waterlogged soil or standing water.
  • Grow tomato plants in slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH of 6-7.

To know how to grow tomatoes indoors, click here

6. Plant Tomatoes Deep in the Soil

Tomatoes in Containers 6

Best tomatoes are planted deeply! Plant them after filling one-third of the pot with soil and continue adding it until the plant is half covered. Pluck out the bottom leaves, as you
add more soil to the pot.

  • If you are growing tomatoes from seeds, 1/4 inch depth is enough for germination.
  • For planting seedlings, cover the stems and roots completely, so only one-third portion of the plant is visible.

Check out how to grow and care for Roma tomatoes here! 

7. Choose Varieties that Mature Early

Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers for people with gardens

Early maturing cultivars are great for container gardeners. Varieties like Moskvich, Golden nugget cherry, and Glacier cherry tomatoes are some good options that take around 55-60 days to mature.

  • Bloody Butcher can be harvested in 50-60 days.
  • Stupice are small tomatoes, taking 50-60 days to mature.
  • Sub Arctic Plenty tomatoes grow 2-3 inches in size and mature in 50-55 days.
  • Sungold is a cherry tomato that ripens in 50-60 days.
  • Moskvich is a Russian variety that can be harvested in 60-65 days.
  • Betalux is a determinate variety, taking 50-60 days to mature.
  • Glacier produces 2-3 inches of fruits in 55-60 days.
  • Siberian is an early tomato variety you can harvest in 60-65 days.

8. Don’t Touch Wet Tomato Leaves

Tomatoes in Containers 8

Tomatoes are among the most sensitive plants that can catch disease or pathogens very quickly. Hence avoid touching plants when leaves are wet from dew or watering. Always prune, tie, and harvest the plants when the leaves get dry completely. A location with excellent air circulation improves productivity and saves the plants from diseases!

9. Remove Suckers

Some of the Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers

Suckers, fruitless and crossing stems, and pale leaves should be removed from time to time. This is one of the Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers as this habit reduces the chances of diseases, improves airflow, and directs the tomato plant to focus its energy on more fruit and flower development.

10. Thin the Seedlings

Tomatoes in Containers 10

This is an old trick that still works to great effect! You should thin the tomatoes, remove the seedlings with thin or curved stems, and look weak once they become 2-3 weeks old or grow to a height of 3-4 inches. Always take care not to hurt stronger young plants.

11. Provide Support

tried and trusted Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers

Tomatoes have weak stems, and therefore they need support to grow properly. Support the plants using trellises or stakes. This method prevents stagnation and also keeps the tomatoes safe from getting diseases.

To know more about tomatoes cage and stake ideas, click here

12. Cracking/Splitting

Tomatoes in Containers 6

The best way to avoid cracking is to water the plants evenly and never let them dry out completely. Also, harvest immediately, when the tomatoes are ready, to prevent disease attacks. Mulch using wood chips or red plastic as this helps to conserve moisture.

Check out growing tomatoes in pots tips here! 

13. Give Them Some Seaweed

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To provide your tomato plant with an extra dose of potassium and nitrogen, add seaweed or comfrey to your fertilizer. You can do this when the plant begins to flower or once every 3-4 weeks.

14. Cut the Top Regularly

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You should cut back the top part when you get 5-6 tomato trusses. It enables the plant to focus its energies on spreading and building strong buds. If you don’t like pruning tomatoes, you can skip this growing secret as well!

Note: Excessive pruning can weaken the stems and stress the plant.

15. Vertical Irrigation

Best Tomato Growing Secrets in Containers that you can suggest

Watering your tomato plant with the help of vertical irrigation from the PVC pipe will help the plant grow faster and get a better supply of nutrients throughout its life cycle. The pipe should be close to the tomato plant to supply water to the roots, where it needs it the most.

  • Cut a PVC pipe to the length of your plant, approximately 12-18 inches long.
  • Without damaging the roots, dig a hole, poke the pipe into the soil, and cover it with soil.

Note: Avoid watering for longer durations as overwatering causes root rot. 

Check out our article on growing tomatoes on the balcony here

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