How To Grow Tomatoes In Pots And Containers: A Beginner’s Guide
Growing tomatoes in containers is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your favorite fruit. However, it does require some care and attention when it comes to watering them regularly.
You need to keep in mind that they will not produce as well if you don’t do so.
Watering Your Tomato Plants In Containers
The first thing you need to do is make sure that your container has drainage holes. If there are none, then you need to fill them with pebbles or sand until they’re big enough for the roots of your plant.
Then place your tomato plants into these holes and let them drain out naturally. They won’t drown themselves but at least they’ll have a little space around their roots where they can breathe.
Once your container has drainage holes, you need to water your plants regularly. Watering them too frequently may cause root rot which can lead to death of the plant.
You should water them every other day or even less than that if possible. If you use a drip irrigation system, you just need to turn it on and leave it running all through the night. Make sure that the soil level stays above the top of the pot so that air doesn’t get trapped inside it. If you do this, then your plants won’t get water logged.
If you need to water them more frequently than that, then only water the surface of the soil and don’t overdo it. If you do this, then they will still be able to get enough water even if there are no drainage holes in the pot.
If you water the entire soil, it will all drain out through the pot holes.
Tomatoes that are grown in a container need more frequent watering than those grown in the ground. This is because they have a smaller root system and need more moisture in order to grow.
If you don’t water them enough, then they won’t grow correctly or may even die altogether. However, over watering them can also be harmful especially if you do it too frequently. The best way to water them is when the soil is dry. You can also do a visual check by picking up the pot. If you feel any slipperiness, then it’s time to water it.
If your plants are still growing, then you need to water them more than if they’re already bearing fruit. This is because as they grow, they will also need more moisture in order to stay alive.
If you notice yellow leaves or black spots on the leaves, then this might be a sign that they’re not getting enough moisture.
Caring For The Roots
If you want to make the most out of your plant, take care of its roots as well. If you notice white hairy roots growing in the drainage holes, then you need to take them out.
They can’t breathe properly and will eventually die if you don’t take them out. You can also plant a hedgehog or several inches away from the edge of the container. This will give them something to burrow into and not worry about their roots being exposed to the air.
You can also place an inch or two of organic material such as bark, chopped up straw, or even shredded newspaper to add to the depth of the container. This will prevent the roots from getting too much sun exposure and burning.
If the roots don’t get enough sunlight, they will start to rot and die which will prevent your plant from growing.
The soil that you place in the container should also be amended. It needs to be well drained so that water doesn’t pool at the top and drown the plant’s roots.
You can add a half and half mixture of compost and garden soil to the mix in order to lighten it up. If your container is large enough, you can even place a piece of vinyl or plastic across the bottom to prevent the soil from going down into the drainage holes. This will give the roots a chance to grow down further into the container and search out all of the nutrients that you’ve placed in there for them.
By taking good care of your potted plants, they will reward you with delicious fruits and vegetables all growing season long.
A potted plant is any type of plant that is not planted in the ground. Instead, it is planted in a container such as a pot, bucket, tub, or wooden box.
There are many benefits to growing plants in pots rather than directly in the ground. Some of these benefits include being able to move them around easier if you want to bring them inside during the cold months or if you just need to clean up the yard a bit. You also won’t have to worry about weeds as much and you can control the types of soil and nutrients that the plants have access to.
Types Of Containers To Use
Not all containers are good for growing plants in. You want to choose something that has good drainage so that the water can freely flow through the bottom.
This will prevent fungus from growing and keeping the plant from getting the moisture it needs.
Clay or ceramic pots are excellent choices. You just need to make sure to get large enough containers since they don’t come in very large sizes.
Plastic or fiberglass containers are good choices as well. You just need to make sure that they aren’t the ones that have been labeled for individual use such as for holding food.
These may have chemicals in them that can get into the soil and harm the plant.
The best choices are wooden boxes or buckets. Just make sure they haven’t been previously used to hold chemicals.
If you can, soak the container in a water and vinegar solution before planting to get rid of any remnants of the previous contents.
Once you have your container, you can choose what type of soil to fill it with.
Types Of Soil & Amendments
The type of soil you use can make a big difference in the health and growth rate of your plants. Some types of soil are very poor and don’t have the right ingredients for a plant to grow at an optimum level.
Other types are much to heavy and don’t have the ability to drain as well. Some even have properties that are harmful to plants such as salts or other contaminants.
If you are starting with bare soil, the first thing you need to do is add some compost or rotted manure. This will provide the nutrients and help create a looser, more aerated soil that will allow better drainage.
Soil Type Description Peat Moss Very light and also very oily. Adds little in the way of nutrients but makes the soil softer which can be good if you are going to be moving your containers around a lot.
Compost Rich in nutrients and organic matter, Compost is often the best choice for container soils. It can be a bit heavy but is often the soil of choice for container gardens. Vermiculite Very lightweight and doesn’t compact making it popular for use in pots. It is very nutrient poor however so mixing it with some organic material is a good idea. Coco Coir Natural fiber taken from the inside of coconuts. It’s very light and airy and also drains well. It is often used as a substitute for peat moss. Perlite Very lightweight and also helps to aerate the soil. Like vermiculite, it is also nutrient poor so mixing it with an organic material is a good idea. Pure Soil Some people just use whatever soil they have on hand. It really depends on what is available to you and how much of it you have available. I wouldn’t recommend using straight dirt that you dig up in your yard unless you know that it is already rich in nutrients.
Besides the basic growing mediums, you may want to get a few other items to help your plants along.
Fertilizer – While some fertilizers are better than others, any kind that has NPK will work for most plants. You will need to read the package and get an idea of how much to use and when to use it though.
Some are high in nitrogen, others in phosphorous and others in potassium. You may need to get a fertilizer with all three if you are growing a variety of plants that have different needs.
Gravel – Also called rocks or pebbles, gravel is good to use in containers that have a drainage hole in the bottom. Fill the hole part way with the gravel to filter out any potential contaminants that may end up in the container.
Perlite – This is a white substance that looks a lot like smashed up white pebbles. It is used for increasing aeration in the soil.
It resembles moon rock and often the kids think it’s fun to pick it up and play with.
Skim Milk – This can be effective when added to the soil because it contains nutrients that are beneficial to many plants.
Vitamin B1 – Also called thiamine, this is found in many fertilizers but is especially effective when used prevent brown tips on plants like elms and roses.
Vitamin B2 – Another name for riboflavin, this helps to prevent gray leaf spots on plants.
Vitamin B6 – Also called pyroxidine, this vitamin helps to prevent die back and yellowing of the leaves. It also produces better tasting tomatoes.
Vitamin H – Also called biotin, all forms of this vitamin help to strengthen the cells and produce larger healthier plants.
Wood Ashes – While we usually think of ashes as being bad for us, wood ashes can be good for the garden. They are high in potash and have long been used as a fertilizer in many gardens.
Be careful when handling them because they can be alkaline.
If you have the space and can afford to fill it with plants, container gardening is a great way to go. The only limit is the size of the container and your pocket-book!
The most common sizes are:
Peat Pots – These common peat pots are available at most garden centers and are most often used for starting seeds indoors. They usually have a hole in the bottom and come in packs of 4″ or 6″.
Sources & references used in this article:
Restricted root zone volume: Influence on growth and development of tomato by MS Ruff, DT Krizek, RM Mirecki, DW Inouye – 1987 – worldveg.tind.io
Water stress affects growth and yield of container grown tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) plants by IC Sibomana, JN Aguyoh, AM Opiyo – Gjbb, 2013 – academia.edu
Effects of vermicomposts and composts on plant growth in horticultural container media and soil by RM Atiyeh, S Subler, CA Edwards, G Bachman… – Pedobiologia, 2000 – Elsevier
Media and mixes for container-grown plants: a manual on the preparation and use of growing media for pot plants by BR Bunt – 2012 – books.google.com
Plant growth in plastic, peat, and processed poultry feather fiber growing containers by MR Evans, DL Hensley – HortScience, 2004 – journals.ashs.org
Effects of humic acids derived from cattle, food and paper-waste vermicomposts on growth of greenhouse plants by NQ Arancon, S Lee, CA Edwards, R Atiyeh – Pedobiologia, 2003 – academia.edu
High-nitrogen compost as a medium for organic container-grown crops by M Raviv, Y Oka, J Katan, Y Hadar, A Yogev… – Bioresource …, 2005 – Elsevier
Fruit yield and quality of greenhouse-grown bell pepper as influenced by density, container, and trellis system by E Jovicich, DJ Cantliffe, PJ Stoffella – HortTechnology, 2004 – journals.ashs.org