Almost any container will work for tomatoes, but grow boxes are very nice. Grow boxes allow you to control the flow of the water to the tomato plants which improves the chances for growing healthy plants and producing wonderful ripe tomatoes. If a grow box isn’t an option, try and find a container that is at least five gallons or larger. Ensure there are holes in the bottom for drainage.
You can also try using bushel baskets lined with plastic bags with holes in the bottom of the plastic bags for drainage. Bushel baskets will hold at least three tomato plants and they look very nice sitting on a patio or deck.
Selecting the Tomato Variety
The dwarf tomatoes work the best in containers. If this is your first tomato container garden, try one of the cherry varieties for a patio like a Pixie II or a Tiny Tim. These types of small plants produce very tasty fruit but don’t need a lot of support in the container. They will also produce very early.
Planting the Tomato Plants
When selecting tomato plants for your containers, choose strong, stocky plants to transplant into the containers. Prepare the containers by filling them with a mixture of potting soil and compost, approximately 50/50, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. Fill the container to within a few inches from the top. Place the tomato plants in the container, three or four per container with between 3 to 4 inches between plants. Water the container thoroughly, ensuring the soil is soaked all the way down to the roots and below of the tomato plant. Set the container in a location where it will get at least six hours of full sun each day.
Caring for Container Tomatoes
Water the containers more often than a traditional garden because container gardens will dry out more easily. It will be necessary to check the container garden daily to ensure it stays moist and does not dry out. During the heat of summer, it may be necessary to water the plants daily. Check the tomato leaves for brown spots or insects. Apply fertilizer every other week or so and apply it around the base of the tomato plant. If the leaves begin to turn brown, or the fruit begins to get brown spots, try placing crushed egg shells around the base of the tomato plant.
When the plant’s flower, shake the vines to release the pollen and help pollination along a bit. The tomato plants should start producing fruit within a couple of months.
When the growing season is over, bring the containers inside if you have a sunny place to place them. They will continue to produce fruit as long as they can receive six hours of direct sunlight each day. This can prolong the growing season quite a bit. Growing tomatoes in a container garden is a great way to get fresh vegetables and maximize the space you have available.