Successfully growing tomatoes in pots and containers is not something that only the experienced horticulturist is going to be able to do. Instead, with some simple and straightforward guidance there is no reason why even somebody new to the concept of gardening cannot go ahead and have the most amazing crop of tomatoes even when they are growing them indoors.
However, in order to really produce a wonderful crop there are a number of important things that you need to do just to further boost your chances and these seven tips should certainly make a difference to things.
1. Be Careful with Choosing the Varieties.
The first tip is to do with choosing the variety of tomato plant that you are going to grow because there are many more than you will probably be aware of. It is also true that some varieties are better suited to these particular conditions and that is also something that you have to take into consideration or you will be trying to grow a plant that is just not all that happy about the situation that it finds itself in.
You should be aware that some varieties are capable of growing up to 15ft in height and that is hardly going to be useful for anybody that is growing them indoors. In other words, you need to really do your research in advance and look at where they are going to be located in your home.
If you are wondering about the varieties that are going to be best suited for these conditions, then we recommend smaller varieties such as Tiny Tim or Pixie although Celebrity and Mountain Spring should also be considered. Basically, look out for any variety that is classed as being either a cherry tomato or a plum tomato and you will then find it very difficult to go wrong with either of these options.
You should also make sure that the variety is classed as an indeterminate variety of tomato which basically means that there are never any terminal flower clusters on the plant so they will continue to flower and provide fruit over an extended period of time. A determinate variety is going to have a growing period of just a few weeks and when you consider that you are looking at providing the perfect environment for them then you want to take advantage of as long a growing period as possible.
2. Always Use a Large Container.
Another important tip is to always use a large container because if the pot is too small then you are going to stunt the growth of the plant and there is a reduced chance of you even getting any fruit from it at any point. Generally speaking you should be looking at a 35cm pot as an absolute minimum and that goes for even the smaller varieties of bush tomatoes because they are going to thrive when they have some extra space to throw out those roots rather than them being all bunched up with one another.
3. Plant the Tomatoes Deep.
This is an important piece of advice in that you have to plant tomatoes deep and we will explain why that is indeed the case.
Most professional growers will argue that you need to plant around 2/3 of the plant underground so only the top third of it is above the soil. Now, you might be wondering as to what the point of that is when so much of it is covered by soil, but there is a very good reason for taking this approach.
By doing this, you are going to help the plant to develop a far stronger root system and that can only bode well for the future of the plant. If the tomato plant has an amazing root system, then you are always going to have a better crop and better tomatoes so you can see how this is something that you really need to take advantage of.
The way that this works is all due to how tomato plants can throw out roots as they do it along the stem so if the stem is under the soil, then more roots are going to burst out. This does go against what you may have been learning about other plants but tomatoes are pretty special and certainly act differently to pretty much every other plant so there is no need for you to be concerned about this.
4. Dealing with the Potting Mix.
Perhaps the area that is going to be causing you the most concern has to be the potting mix as it is essential that you get this as spot on as possible because tomato plants are very particular in what they like to grow in.
The first thing to mention is that you should never use normal garden soil as that is the completely wrong thing to do. Garden soil will have a tendency to become far too compacted and dense so the moisture is just going to sit there rather than draining out. Good drainage is essential for growing tomato plants in containers so anything that works against this idea has to be avoided.
Another important point is to avoid the cheaper options out there because to get the best tomatoes you need to have a potting mix that is rich in nutrients and organic matter as this is going to give the plants a substantial boost with their growth.
You should avoid buying potting soil as well and stick with potting mix and there is a difference. The best potting mix for really helping to get tomato plants started should contain good quality compost, vermiculite, moss, sand, and some perlite. It sounds like a bit of a list, but this is going to make sure that the soil is able to drain sufficiently well while it does not make the soil too soggy either. It really is a case of just getting the correct balance.
There are a number of options available to you and it is all going to come down to one important thing, your budget. You can purchase a standard potting mix whereby you will have a mix that is lacking in fertilizer and nutrients but as you are going to deal with that yourself then it is not that big a problem. Alternatively, there are premium mixes and they are slightly more expensive as they contain those nutrients and fertilizer that are otherwise missing. This option is seen as being far more convenient as everything is pretty much done for you.
Finally, there is the commercial mix and there are several available at your local gardening store that will be more than capable of providing you with amazing tomatoes.
5. Feeding the Tomatoes.
When it comes to feeding your tomatoes then there are a number of things for you to think about in advance. Tomato plants are very heavy feeders so if you fail to give them the correct nutrients then you will struggle to get a decent crop.
Generally speaking, you should start to add special tomato fertilizer as soon as the first tomatoes are appearing on the plant. The most important thing of all is that the fertilizer has the correct nutrient levels for tomatoes as that will encourage substantial growth and you will undoubtedly get better results. You can get away with using a normal slow release fertilizer, but the most important thing are those nutrient levels and you want to get them as correct as possible.
Tomato plants require feeding every three to four weeks throughout their growing season and the easiest way of doing this is by getting the liquid form and dilute it in water. You then water it into the plant as the nutrients will then soak down and into the roots. Alternatively, if you use a granular form, then sprinkle some of the fertilizer around the plant, but do not allow it to touch any leaves or the stem as it will burn them. Use a hand tool and work it into the soil before then adding some water to allow it to soak down.
It really is as simple as that.
6. Using the Sun.
Tomato plants need light in order to grow and to begin to produce amazing tomatoes. However, if you are planning on growing them indoors, then clearly making sure that they are able to get enough sunlight (or light in general) is going to be a difficult thing to achieve.
In this instance, you should look at using LED grow lights as a direct substitute as those lights will replicate the same conditions and there are also versions that will include heat in the light so the tomato plants will just feel as if they are sitting out there in the sun. They do need a number of hours of light every single day, but the advantages of growing them indoors and under these special lights is that your growing season is going to be extended. In other words, you should be able to have tomatoes for months at a time, but only if you go ahead and grow indeterminate varieties of tomatoes.
Generally speaking, you are looking at tomato plants needing a minimum of six hours of quality light per day although it is going to be more beneficial if they are able to get in the region of at least eight. You must remember that a tomato plant needs light as it converts the light into energy in order to then go ahead and grow the fruit. If there is no enough light, then the plants are weaker and you will have a smaller crop as well.
So, if you do want to grow tomato plants indoors, then do not be put off by believing that you are going to be unable to provide them with an adequate amount of light. That is not the case and instead you should just invest in some LED grow lights as they will solve the problem in an instant.
7. Understanding the Watering Issue.
Finally, we have to look at how you water tomato plants because people mistakenly believe that you need to absolutely soak them with water on a continual basis in order to generate fruit. Well, if you do go ahead and do that, then you are going to be digging a huge hole for yourself.
Instead, when the plants are young, or if you are growing them from seed, then you should just make sure that the soil is moist rather than it being saturated. You must also keep in mind that clay pots will result in the soil drying out more often so you do need to keep a close eye on this or else your tomato plants are going to struggle.
In pots, consider putting your fingers into the soil and push down a couple of inches. If it feels dry, then you have to water them but if it is wet then leave it. This is something that should be checked a minimum of once a day.
However, you must be aware that as the plant grows and starts to develop fruit, then it does require more water. A tomato is 95% water, so you are going to have more juicy and tasty tomatoes if you can get the watering balance correct. If the water goes straight through your pot, then place it on a saucer as the water will sit there and the roots will bring it back up.
Watering does take some time to get it right, so look out for the soil getting too dry and, at the same time, keep an eye out for any leaves starting to go yellow or wilt. Also, avoid putting water on the leaves as that is going to make them more susceptible to disease so just water the soil and do so carefully.
So, those are seven very useful tips that you should think carefully about when it comes to just considering growing tomatoes in pots and containers in your home. As you can see, there is nothing in there that is like rocket science and it is just a case of taking your time over each and every piece and making sure that you are ticking all of the correct boxes before you go ahead and start planting.