Seed selection is very important when growing food. I personally recommend avoiding GMO seeds at all costs, and I tend to shy away from hybrids as well. We grow all our crops from heirloom seeds, and we harvest seeds from our crops for future seasons. The same will apply to selecting seeds for growing tomatoes in container gardens.
In laymen’s terms, there are generally two varieties of tomato plants; determinate and indeterminate. The determinate variety grows in smaller, bushier clumps. They will produce a bumper crop and then the plant dies. The indeterminate variety tend to be the large unruly sorts that send vines growing in all directions. This variety will produce fruit throughout the growing season. This means that you can harvest from the vine as needed rather than all at once. Either variety is acceptable for container gardens, and both will do fine in them if you follow the advice given in a previous post.
For the larger variety of tomato plants, consider employing chicken wire fencing, or prefabricated tomato cages designed to make management of the unruly vines easier to accommodate. Use a bamboo rod for support of the main trunk.
If you have seriously limited space, consider going with a determinate variety. These smaller, bushier varieties do not normally need as much support as their larger cousins. There are several options in this category to choose from, and all will do just fine in the confines of a container. Remember that the fruit from the determinate will all come to harvest simultaneously, so you may have to can the surplus, or give them to neighbors.
Once you have chosen a variety to grow, you are ready to get the seeds in the soil. Each of your containers will be home to a single plant. You should start out by planting 3-4 seeds in the middle of each container approximately 1” apart and ½” deep. When the seedlings sprout above the soil and show at least two leaves, select the heartiest looking of the lot to keep, and thin the rest by plucking them free of the soil.
In the event you are purchasing seedlings, then you will want to transplant them into the containers once your soil reaches at least 60°F. Seedlings can be set deep in the soil, as a matter of fact they thrive on it, so bury them deep enough to cover the lowest leaves.
Feeding & Fertilizing:
Tomato plants require a good supply of fresh, clean water. Your aim should be to keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. If the weather is wet, consider covering the containers, or moving them to a drier location. If the weather is dry and arid, then you must water the plants frequently. The method I use for testing the moisture content of the soil is as follows:
• Stick a finger into the soil to the depth of the first knuckle. Remove the finger and visibly check it for soil. If soil has stuck to the finger, then the container has enough moisture for that day. If the finger comes out dry or dusty, and no soil sticks to it, then the container needs water. Do not oversaturate the plants as this may be disastrous.
Container gardens tend to be drier than conventional backyard gardens, so check them once or twice a day and attend to them as needed.
As mentioned previously, tomato plants appreciate plenty of nutrients and minerals. If you did the research and selected a well-balanced soil to start with, then you probably won’t need to add fertilizer during the growing season. However, there are a few crucial moments when fertilizer will provide a boost to the growth and production of your tomato plants:
1. When starting the seeds, during the germination process, apply a very small sample of granular fertilizer.
2. When burying transplants in fresh soil for the first time, add a small handful of the same granular style fertilizer to the soil it is being inserted into.
3. When the plant blossoms for the first time, and signals it is about to produce fruit, add fish emulsion during the watering cycle, but do so on a rotating schedule, every other time.
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!