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Tips & Tricks for Container Gardening Tomatoes

Tomatoes are known as America’s favorite vegetable, but really, a tomato is a fruit. The United States is one of the world’s leading producers of tomatoes as a commercial crop and it is also one of the favorite home garden crops because tomatoes are delicious and easy to grow. We love tomatoes, whether we are growing them for tomato sauce or for slicing purposes. Nearly every home has a little spot to plop in a tomato, but if you don’t have a lot of space there is no reason to worry – growing a tomato in a container works as well.

This season, I grew All-America Selections National winner, Tomato ‘Red Racer F1’, which is a 57 day determinate cocktail tomato variety that is full of flavor and taste. While the cocktail tomato is small, it is tremendous at producing uniform shaped fruits that look good in a salad or cocktail and taste wonderful when cooked down for a sauce.

containers for tomato

How to Plant a Tomato in a Container

Find a container. Tomatoes can be very large plants. You need a large container in order to hold the soil and also be strong enough to support the plant growing in it. Plant one tomato per pot. Bigger is always better. Place the container in the sunniest spot possible.

Prepare the soil. Tomato success is all about the soil and nutrients the roots have access to. I used Kellogg Garden Organics All Natural Raised Bed & Potting Mix for my tomatoes, but you can use any Kellogg Garden Organics container or potting soil with ease. Typically, I add at least one part rotted manure, a cup or two of worm castings, with bone meal and organic fertilizer according to package directions.

Dig a hole. When digging a hole in the soil, dig deep so that all the roots will be planted under the soil.

Mulch and Cage. Mulching your container will help the container retain moisture. Follow the tips for watering regularly listed below. Additionally, caging or staking your plant after the plant is fully grown is a common mistake. Cage it as soon as you plant and you will not have trouble creating a supportive situation for your growing baby.

Fertilize. Organic OMRI certified fertilizer such as Kellogg Garden Organics Tomato, Vegetable, & Herb Fertilizer is essential for a healthy plant. If you fertilize too often throughout the season you grow more leaf and less tomato. With this in mind, follow the directions on the fertilizer package carefully.

container with soil and fertilizer

3 Watering Secrets for Container Tomatoes

Self-Watering Container – I received the Red Racer plants and planted them in my self-watering planters with a support so that the plants might have more consistent water. I used the Hydrofarm GCTB Tomato Barrels, which are fantastic self-watering pots. Tomato end rot or blossom end rot is the most common problem with containered tomatoes. The reason being is that a calcium imbalance occurs within the plant with uneven watering which prevents calcium uptake. Adding bone meal can also help as having the calcium content present when the plant accesses water can help resist blossom end rot. Tomatoes need a regular watering schedule and a self-watering container can help with that.

Water Consistently – Watering consistently makes a big difference for tomatoes. I typically try to fill the container before it runs out of water so that the plant will always have access to moisture if it needs it. If you pant in a regular container, water more often. However, watering too much can also cause blossom end rot, split, and stressed tomatoes. Consistency is key.

Water From the Bottom – Be sure to water the tomato at the base of the plant, down by the container or in the holes for a self-watering container, and NOT on the leaves. Tomatoes are particularly sensitive to fungal related leaf diseases. By keeping the leaves dry you are more likely to have growing success.

Follow the above tips and try growing tomatoes this season. Happy Tomato Gardening (and eating)!

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About the Author:

Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado is a successful author, blogger, photographer, and media host who focuses on wellness by teaching green lifestyle living, organic gardening, and anti-inflammatory culinary. Most recently Shawna has written the books, “The Wellness Garden” and “101 Organic Gardening Hacks”. Shawna campaigns for social and community good – her garden, food, and eco adventures have been featured in many media venues including television news programming, radio broadcasting, and PBS television. You can learn more about Shawna at


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  1. I have a self watering container for my tomatoes but.rain does not water from the bottom and i have drenched tomatoes. Constantly draining the pot so the water can drain from the soil and occasionally dry out. have concerns about this type of pot.

  2. My home faces west and only has sun in the mornings on my deck which is on the east side of my home..
    I would love to raise some tomatoes but am not sure how to go about it…

    • Hi Harold! We removed your email so it isn’t public. Tomatoes need quite a bit of sun to flourish especially the larger heirloom varieties. You want 6-8 hours of sun, morning sun is good. If you aren’t getting sun for 6 – 8 hours or the sun is weak or speckled you can try growing cherry-sized tomatoes they seem to grow a bit better in lower sun situations. Remember that tomatoes are heavy feeders so make sure to regularly apply organic nutrients. If you don’t have pollinator activity in the area by your deck you may need to hand pollinate your tomatoes to get your blooms to fruit.

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