Don’t you just love tomatoes? Fresh, ripe, homegrown tomatoes? In my opinion, there is nothing better! The tomatoes you get in the grocery don’t even come close. I even bought some tomatoes recently from a small, roadside vegetable stand, where the owner assured me he got them straight from the grower in Florida. They still were not as good as homegrown. I believe it is because the tomatoes grown for sale are a variety that can withstand the shipping and handling they have to go through. Those varieties just do not compare in taste to a good Better Boy, Rutgers or other old fashioned variety (like my Papaw grew).
“I have no gardening space”, you say? Well, what about a patio? Even most apartments have some type of small, outdoor space. As long as you have that, you can have home grown tomatoes!
Start with a large pot, at least 12″ to 16″ deep, and make sure it has drainage holes. Fill pot to within a few inches of the top with potting soil. I use a mixture of 1 part Scotts Miracle-Gro Potting Mix to 2 parts regular potting soil. This saves me some money and perks up the power of the potting soil. I then tap the pot on the ground a few times to settle the soil and make sure there are no large air pockets. You want the soil to fill in around the plant. Make a hole in your soil that is a little larger than the pot your plant is in and deep enough to plant the tomato plant about 2/3 of the way up the stem. If you look at the tomato stem, you will see it has what looks like fine hairs all the way down. These will develop into roots if they are below the soil, making your plant a lot stronger.
Then trim off the leaves on the bottom 2/3 of the plant (this should leave at least 2 or 3 leaf stems at the top). Carefully remove the plant from it’s pot by holding it near the soil and turning it upside down. If it doesn’t release easily, tap the pot a few times (or squeeze it a bit if it is a soft sided pot). The roots should then release into your hand. If the plant appears to be very root bound (large mass of tangles roots), just gently work the roots loose just a bit to give them a chance to start growing out instead of around. Now, place the tomato plant in the hole you prepared and fill the soil back in (remember, you are planting it very deep), pressing the soil carefully in around the plant.
I now add a little bit of time-released fertilizer to the top of the soil (I use Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Smart Release) and then water thoroughly. Place your pot in full sun (at least 6 hours of sun a day) and keep it watered regularly. You don’t want your plant sitting in water (the reason for the drainage holes) but you also don’t want it to dry out completely. If the weather is mild, you can probably get away with watering every other day. In the hot summertime, you will need to water daily, or even twice daily if your pot it not very large. I also add a little more fertilizer each month during the growing season.
It is probably best to use a plastic or fiberglass pot for your tomato, as clay or wooden pots tend to dry out too quickly. The DH has several 5 gallon buckets that he has drilled holes in the bottom of, and we use those for tomato plants (and sometimes cucumbers).
You might ask what is the best variety to grow in a pot? Well, most varieties will work, however, the ones that make a larger plant may need to be staked or caged to keep them from falling over. You can purchase tomato cages for just a few dollars and set them around the plant, either in the pot or around the pot, depending on pot size. Also, the new varieties of grape tomatoes, as well as the ‘tommy toe’ tomatoes, will do well in pots.
So, enjoy your home grown tomatoes and come back here and let me know how they turned out. I would love to hear!
What vegetables would you like to grow in pots?