Growing tomatoes in pots is a great idea if you are living in an apartment or in a house on a small block. While many people think flowers in pots for small areas, not many think vegetables in pots for small areas. And yet tomatoes, our most popular fruit, flourish in pots, given some tender loving care.
Why would you grow tomatoes in pots? There are lots of advantages! While many people love gardening they hate weeding! That’s the first big advantage of growing tomatoes in pots, no backbreaking work to remove weeds from your large garden bed! That has to be a big plus!
In addition, even if you do live in an apartment or a house on a small block, growing tomatoes in pots is a big space saver. The only essential, apart from keeping the water up to them, is to get at least 6 hours of sunlight so, while you might have to move them around to do so, you will enjoy the luscious, succulent taste of vine-ripened tomatoes for a minimum of work!
That’s another thing. It takes very little time to plant and maintain your tomatoes during the growing season and the little work you do helps keep you in touch with Mother Earth. Perhaps the greatest advantage though, is that you minimize the chance for fungal disease through soil-borne bacteria and fungi. If you use a reputable potting mix which has a slow release fertilizer and water-retaining crystals added there is virtually no chance you will get any attacks from soil borne fungi during the growing season and if you use a new batch of potting mix next season you will continue to grow disease free from soil borne nasties.
This is the biggest disadvantage of growing tomatoes in a bed in the back yard. Every year you have to rotate your crop and you won’t be able to grow tomatoes in the same patch for another 3 to 4 years. Why?
Because tomatoes take the same set of nutrients out of the soil each year and the soil becomes depleted in those nutrients but even more importantly the nasties which are attracted to your tomatoes lie in wait for the same crop next season but if you don’t grow them there, you’ve tricked them! So if you grow your tomatoes in pots you overcome those problems.
The other advantage of growing in pots is that you can experiment with different types of tomatoes. I would recommend at least one pot of Romas. They are not only delicious fresh in salads but beautiful frozen or preserved for sauces, casseroles and jams. As well, you can semi-dry them and store in a light olive oil with garlic and basil and use fresh for salads. THE most versatile of the tomato varieties. But try other varieties as well.
In Australia, the Apollo is a popular early fruiting variety, popular because they mature before Christmas in the southern hemisphere (unless you live at high altitudes). But there are many others. Experiment and find the varieties you prefer.
So, you’ve decided to give it a go. What to do now? The first thing is to decide whether you are going to growing tomatoes from seed. But if you decide that is too much trouble, nick down to your local nursery and buy a few punnets of your favorite varieties.
Next, the pots. If you’re going to use last season’s, make sure you wash and disinfect thoroughly, even if you are using a new potting mix. This will ensure there is no contamination from last year’s crop. Once done, almost fill the pot with the new potting mix. Then dig a hole deeper than the pot from which your plants are coming because you are going to plant each tomato plant deep enough to just leave exposed the top 4 leaves. This will ensure a stem strong enough to support the crop and if it is in a windy situation strong enough to support the stake and plant if your plant requires a stake. It will if it is an indeterminate (tall growing vine) but it probably won’t if it is a determinate (bush tomato, e.g., Roma).