Really fired-up to grow tomatoes, but you’ve only got a tiny balcony or terrace and think it’s impossible? Think again! Even though it requires a little more attention than a ground-growing plant, growing tomato in a pot or container is clearly possible.
If you’re a beginner, start with cherry tomato, they’re easier than other varieties.
1. Choosing the right pot
The size of the container you’ll be planting your tomato plant is important. Indeed, whether you’re opting for a round pot or a rectangular garden box, it needs to be large (and deep) enough for the plant to grow well. A depth of 1 foot (30 cm) is the bare minimum, at least. Check on weight limits allowed on your balcony, for your own safety and that of others.
It’s also worth reflecting on what the pot or garden box is made out of. To illustrate this, terra cotta pots are porous. They tend to leach moisture out from the soil they contain. It becomes a necessity to water more often in case of heat wave. You’ll also have to stake your tomato plants.
2. Choosing the right substrate
- Spread a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot (2 inches or 5 cm).
- If you’ve got garden soil, mix in the same amount of soil mix and fill the pot up by 2/3rds. If not, just use plain soil mix.
- Fill the top out with ripe, well-decomposed manure or compost.
Smart tip: To increase drainage, add perlite (sometimes called vermiculite), leca balls, hydrogel or pozzolana to your mix. These compounds retain moisture while still allowing for excellent drainage.
3. Adding fertilizer
The tomato plant is a voracious feeder, and even though you’ve prepared the best possible soil, it’ll still need a boost from time to time. That’s why you should add a little fertilizer to your tomato plants when you water. It needn’t be much, what’s important here is the regularity, every fortnight for instance. This gives the plant enough time to absorb what you give it.
4. Careful watering
When growing plants in pots, watering is always a challenge. Tomato plants are no different from other plants in this respect. Therefore, to avoid disappointing surprises:
- regularly check on how moist the soil is: not soggy, but always on the wet side of moist.
- remember to mulch the pot up to the rim to lock moisture in.
Smart tip: slide a water-filled saucer under your pot. That way, your tomato plant will be able to reach in there to suck up extra water in case of need.
5. Cut excess foliage off
Plants lose a lot of water through the stomata on their leaves. This goes by the scientific name “evapo-transpiration”. To succeed in growing tomato in containers, the art is all in striking the right balance between keeping enough leaves for the plant to grow, and removing excess leaves that waste this precious liquid resource (these are the famous “suckers”).
Smart tip about growing potted tomato
Make it a daily routine to check on soil moisture, because just two or three day’s worth of “drought” can stunt or kill your tomato plant.
CC BY-SA 2.0: Till Westermayer