Easy Gardening Guide: Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Yes, you can enjoy homegrown tomatoes even without a yard. That’s because tomatoes will thrive in pots just as well as they would in a plot in the backyard.

And even if you do have space for a plot in your garden, it’s always worth growing tomatoes in a container or two near your kitchen door for convenience.

You can enjoy homegrown tomatoes even without a yard.
You can enjoy homegrown tomatoes even without a yard.

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Gardening experts recommend that you plant tomatoes in pots that are at least 20 inches across the top and 24 inches deep. You’ll need a spot that receives at least six hours of sun for your container tomatoes.

If your pots aren’t near a water source, make sure you can get a garden hose or watering can to them. Tomatoes require a steady supply of water.

Below are a few more pointers on growing tomatoes in containers.

Use good, top quality potting mix.

Choose good quality potting mix for your container. Do not use garden soil. Garden soil tends to retain too much moisture when used in containers. Good potting mix drains well while holding some moisture.

Mix compost into the potting mix, to add nutrients. For a further boost, you can also add some organic fertilizer to the mixture.

Potting Mix
Choose good quality potting mix for your container.

Plant your seedlings properly.

Plant just one tomato in each pot. Be sure to dig a hole deep enough to cover two-thirds of the stem to encourage better root growth. Wait to plant until after the last frost date.

If a chilly night threatens, cover the pots with a frost blanket and swaddle them with straw or burlap for extra protection.

Plant just one tomato in each pot.
Plant just one tomato in each pot.

Remember to support the plant with a stake or cage.

Insert a support stake or cage into the soil when you plant each tomato. Doing so later may disturb the growing roots. A traditional tomato cage or stake works well for determinate types of tomato. Use a string trellis, tall stake, or a sturdy cage for indeterminate tomatoes.

Insert a support stake or cage into the soil when you plant each tomato.
Insert a support stake or cage into the soil when you plant each tomato.

Use mulch to retain moisture.

Keep the soil at least one inch below the pot rim. This will allow you to add a layer of mulch to the pot which will help keep the soil moist. You can use the usual mulch materials like straw, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or newspaper.

You can use the usual mulch materials like straw, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or newspaper.
You can use the usual mulch materials like straw, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or newspaper.

Water the plants regularly.

Proper watering is key to growing tomatoes in a container. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not saturated. Inconsistent moisture will encourage blossom end rot.

Use the finger test to see if a plant needs water. If the top inch of the soil is dry when you push your finger into it, it’s time to water the plant.

Place a saucer beneath each pot to catch the water that runs through the soil. This will allow your plant to absorb that extra moisture during hot days.

Place a saucer beneath each pot to catch the water that runs through the soil.
Place a saucer beneath each pot to catch the water that runs through the soil.
(Photo: Federico Candoni/Wikimedia Commons)

Cleaning Up After the Growing Season

Small tomato plants set out in pots at the beginning of the summer will grow quickly and produce abundant fruit. At the end of the growing season, you should remove spent the plants from the pots.

If you want to re-use the containers over the following season, you’ll need to start with fresh soil. Discard any remaining soil and then wash and scrub any remaining soil from the pots.

Sterilize the containers by wiping or spraying with a liquid bleach solution. Use one-part bleach for every 10 parts of water.

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