Have you ever wanted to enjoy fresh, wholesome, deliciously homegrown tomatoes without occupying most of your property with unsightly and unruly tomato plants? When grown in a garden, tomato plants and vines can be difficult to contain; however, tomato plants grow quite nicely when placed into large containers.
Tomatoes tend to be a favorite vegetable for most people. For those living in limited space conditions, such as apartment buildings, townhouses, or condos, being able to grow tomatoes on balconies, or even rooftops, is a blessing and one of the many reasons gardeners opt to grow them in containers. Here are the first steps to getting started with you tomato container garden.
Choosing the Right Container:
The first order of business is choosing the container. If you choose a container that is too small, the roots of the tomato plant may not have enough soil, nutrients, and minerals to grow healthy edible fruit. If you choose a container that is too large, you will not be able to grow as many plants or varieties. Gardeners around the world recommend using a container that has at least a 5-gallon capacity. Containers this size can be found at any local hardware store. Bear in mind that containers are constructed out of various composites; stay away from clay and glazed and grab one made of plastic. Clay pots are porous and will dry out the soil rather quickly. Plastic retains the water which is what will work best for the tomato plants.
In the event you decide to build a container garden yourself out of wood, which many gardeners do, make sure it is not constructed from wood that has been chemically treated. Remember that you are growing edible food, you do not want to risk contamination.
You may even want to shop around, or ask neighbors for any unused 5-gallon containers to keep costs at a minimum. A word of caution if considering this option; you can never be sure what others have used containers for, they may have contaminants in them that will harm food cultivation.
Regardless of which container option you choose to grow with, it will need several holes aligned along the bottom to permit drainage of excess water. Again, 5-gallon food grade buckets are the recommended container for this type of project, so you must drill the holes yourself. The holes do not need to be any larger than ¼” but there should be plenty and they should be spaced as evenly as possible across the entire expanse of the bottom of the bucket.
Soil & Location Considerations:
No matter which container selection you make, even if purchasing brand new buckets from a hardware, take the time to thoroughly clean the containers with a warm soapy solution; do this after you have drilled the drainage holes. Next, cut a circle of screen to fit the bottom of the container; this will prevent soil from escaping when it is added. When choosing a soil for your containers, search for one that embodies water retention as well as an abundance of organic plant food.
Gardening experts in agricultural classes recommend mixing the soil to meet the needs of the tomato plant(s) you intend to grow. I personally use a mixture that is equal parts perlite, sphagnum moss, potting soil, and compost. I also add a handful of vermiculite as well.
Container gardens are easy to maintain, even when the buckets are full to the brim with potting soil, they can be moved rather easily. Location is very important when growing tomatoes. Regardless of variety, tomato plants require no less than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to produce a plentiful crop. Avoid placing the containers in an area that receives ample shade throughout the day. If you are unable to arrange the containers in a location that meets these requirements, then you will probably have to consider growing inside under artificial lights.
Do you grow container gardens? What kind of success are you having? Share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions by leaving us a comment below; the gardening community will be very appreciative!