how to grow tomatoes in a container
If you’re asking, “Can I grow cherry tomatoes in a container – successfully?” then the answer is yes – with a few small qualifications. Here’s what you need to know about growing your cherry tomato plant in a pot/container.
Growing Cherry Tomato Plants – Soil
First off, growing cherry tomato plants really isn’t any different from growing any other kind of tomato plant. They all need direct sunlight (at least 6 hours a day), water and fertilizer (preferably organic). A good soil to use in the container is a combination of compost and organic potting mix. (I like half and half myself).
I’ve tried growing tomato plants in just compost and in just organic potting soil, but I find that the two mixed together have produced the best growth. Mix in some extra perlite or vermiculite for drainage.
Another option is to use compost mixed in with some sphagnum moss and perlite.
Don’t use soil from your yard in the container; it may compact easily in a container, and it’s quite possible there are unfriendly bacteria in it.
What size of a container should you use for your cherry tomatoes? Part of the answer depends on the variety of cherry tomato you plan to grow – determinate or indeterminate. (Learn more about the difference between determinate or indeterminate on the tomato growing terms page.)
In general, determinate varieties are shorter and smaller than indeterminates. Unless you are growing something like Micro-Tom (smallest tomato there is), the minimum size for a container should hold 3 gallons of potting mix/compost. However, if you can manage a 5-gallon container, your tomato plants will thank you by providing more fruit.
Now for the indeterminate cherry tomato plants. While I certainly have grown indeterminate cherry tomatoes in a 5-gallon container, they grow much better in a 10-gallon. (I even have a few 20-gallon pots for the cherry tomato plants that get very large like Blondkopfchen.) So, a 5 gallon container is the minimum, and a 10 gallon will have your plants thanking you. While I haven’t grown SuperSweet 100 in a container (yet!) I think it would work quite well.
Fertilizer for Cherry Tomatoes
The general rule of thumb for container growing is apply half as much fertilizer, twice as often. I like to use liquid fertilizer that I dilute to half-strength, then apply it twice a month.
You need to fertilize more often in containers for two reasons. First, what fertilizer you do use gets washed out from the extra waterings that container plants need. Second, your cherry tomato plant’s roots only have so much room to grow, and sooner or later, they will run out of space. Since they can’t expand further, they need to extract everything they can from a limited area.
Which fertilizer to use? I primarily use organic methods (compost, fish emulsion, kelp meal, Terracycle and Tomatoes Alive!), there are times of extremely rapid growth where I admit to using Miracle-Gro for Tomatoes. While my in-the-ground-garden tomatoes get organic, I find that the container-grown plants do need a little boost at times. Of course, that could be because I am in a hot climate. You’ll have to experiment for yourself.
Watering Your Cherry Tomato Plants
You really do want to put your containers where you have easy access to water. Especially as they grow larger and the weather gets warmer, you will find that you’ll have to water often. During warm and windy times, I have to water my containers daily — and there have been very dry times where I’ve needed to do it twice a day!
Try to keep the soil moist but not wet. The more of an even moisture level of the soil, the less the chance your tomatoes will crack badly should a heavy rain arise.
A mulch will help to keep moisture in the soil longer. I like to use an inch or two of hay, but I realize not everyone has easy access to it. Other mulches can be bark chips, dried grass clippings, chopped leaves and even shredded paper! (Just make sure the paper doesn’t have colored ink on it.) In addition, some people also swear by red plastic for a mulch.
Can I Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container?
By now you see the answer is yes, you can successfully grow and harvest cherry tomatoes in a container. With just a little preparation and attention, you’ll find yourself with tasty snacks that are good for you!