First, find the right container that will best aid in your tomato plant’s growth. Within the container, you’ll need a nutrient-rich potting mix to help your tomatoes avoid disease and thrive.
Clip your tomato plant to yield the strongest, most productive plant. Support your tomato plant in your pot as it grows with a cage or stakes. Then, feed and water it well for best fruit production.
Before you begin growing tomatoes in pots, you need to have a basic understanding of the many varieties tomatoes come in. Some are excellent for growing in pots, like smaller, determinate varieties that don’t need a lot of space.
Indeterminate varieties usually get very tall and have bigger rooting systems, so they aren’t ideal for growing in pots unless you plan on transplanting them to your garden later.
Dwarf bushes, like Minibel and Tom Thumb, are good choices of tomato plants for people who want to continue to grow the plants in a pot. They stay small and bush-like, so they don’t need a lot of support as they grow.
Tomato plants with smaller fruit also typically yield a lot of fruit from one plant. So, even grown in a small pot, a cherry tomato variety, for example, can be very successful and produce several tomatoes.
Once you determine the types of tomatoes you want to grow in pots, it’s time to pick out the right pot. Not every pot is created equal when it comes to tomatoes, so it’s important to pick the right one based on the size of your tomato plant, the support it needs, and its aeration and draining abilities.
First, gather as much information as you can about the tomatoes you want to grow. How tall will they be, and how big of a rooting system will they need to be strong? The answers will help indicate what size pot you might need for your plants.
Nick Chenhall, an expert on growing tomatoes, recommends a 1.5-gallon container for smaller tomato plants, like dwarf bush varieties or upright plants that produce small fruits. Clenhall also says that Air-pots are good alternatives to regular pots because they allow important airflow to your tomato plant roots for quicker growth and healthier plants.
For taller, indeterminate varieties that grow upright, choose a pot that is at least 24-inches in diameter so both your plant and a cage or stakes can fit within the pot.
You have your plants and tomatoes, so it’s time to mix the perfect growing medium. Expert tomato gardeners do not recommend potting soil because it can contain insects and diseases and compacts over time, which won’t allow for ample root growth in your pots.
Your best bet for healthy tomatoes is a potting mix. The potting mix you choose should be light enough to give your plant roots plenty of air, but dense enough to allow the roots to anchor well. Some potting mixes come mixed with special fertilizers for specific plants. You can choose one specific for tomatoes or create your own mix.
Many tomato varieties can suffer from Bottom End Rot, which is usually caused by a lack of calcium to the rooting system. Add a calcium source, like Gypsum, to your potting mix, and some peat moss to neutralize the Gypsum and retain moisture for the roots.
Beth Le Manach from In Beth’s Garden explains how to clip tomato plants you buy at a garden store for potting:
Clip the extra branches from your tomato plant up to the bottom of the first buds. Since your tomato plant will take extra energy to care for those extra branches, it’s taking away energy from the strongest part of the tomato plant. You’ll want to rid the plant of extraneous branches and buds to focus its energy on the strongest part so it can continue to get very strong.
Some gardeners recommend you provide a support system for any type of tomato plant, even bush varieties. This can help your tomato plants survive weather conditions like heavy rain and wind, while also giving them weight support as they grow.
For tall, upright-growing plants, you can use tomato cages within your pots to ensure that the plants continue to grow upright without wilting. For shorter plants, you can place a stake close to the tomato plant, making sure that the stake reaches the very bottom of your pot.
Gently, and loosely, bind the stem of your tomato plant to the stake with a string, leaving about 8-inches between each tie. As your plant grows, add more ties.
As seedlings, tomato plants don’t need a lot of food. Keep its potting mix moist, but not wet, and it will happily grow. But as they grow bigger, you’ll need to begin feeding and fertilizing it.
Chenhall swears by feeding his tomatos a little bit more often rather than a large quantity here and there.
It’s best to feed half the amount recommended for the food you buy twice as often. When plants are still young, you’ll also need to fertilize them with a Nitrogen-rich formula. Nitrogen helps your tomato plant during the photosynthesis process, aiding in its ability to feed properly.
Once your tomato plants have grown out of the seedling phase and become established plants, you’ll need to be more vigorous in its feeding, watering, and fertilizing schedule. This video by MIgardener provides an informative guide for properly feeding your growing, potted tomato plants to yield the best results.