One of the most popular vegetables to grow is tomatoes. They are generally very easy to grow both indoors and outside. If you want to grow ripe, juicy tomatoes but don’t have space for a garden or have difficulty maintaining one, try growing tomatoes in containers! A container garden can be set up in the backyard, on the porch or balcony, and in any sunny corner of your home.
Tomatoes are a great way for homesteaders to get started in gardening and building a sustainable lifestyle. They don’t require a lot of space, but can produce a lot.
Tomatoes are often used in salsas, salads, sauces and as an ingredient for many other vegetable dishes. Cooking tomatoes are eaten either alone as a snack or added to many different dishes. They are also used in juices and blends, that are healthy and delicious. The tomato is a fruit that is very different from all others because it is both a vegetable and a fruit. It can be related to other vegetables such as squash in that it is both a fruit and vegetable, but this plant bears flowers rather than seeds. This provides us with the occasions to use it as part of our regular diet.
Tomatoes will come in many different varieties, including red, green, yellow, and purple although most people focus on the red color tomatoes and the green tomatoes are just given some seedlings of these varieties each year.
10 Easy Steps to Growing Tomatoes in Containers
- Find a sunny spot in your home that has plenty of fresh air and light. Choose a sunny spot in your garden or house for growing tomatoes as they need at least 7 hours of sunlight daily and will not produce much fruit if planted indoors or in shady areas. If planting to grow in a garden, the soil pH for tomatoes requires acidic soil (6.0 – 6.5) with high potassium (more than 70 ppm).
- Decide what type of container you want to use. You can use any size or shape container that will hold soil and provide stable support for the plants. Wooden planters, pails, wicker baskets, plastic buckets, and ceramic pots are all options.
- Start off by planting your tomato seeds in pots or trays filled with a starter fertilizer. (You can also just plant them in your container or garden directly) Seeds should be ¼ inch deep and ½ inch apart. Keep the soil moist until seedlings appear. If not using a tray, plant the seeds into separate holes or single rows. Use a trowel to make the holes for your tomato plants. It’s important to make sure that the planting holes are no larger than three-quarters of an inch wide and four inches deep. This will prevent your plants from being damaged during transplanting later and will allow them to grow freely without risk of drowning during rainstorms.
- Fertilizing tomatoes is important because they are heavy feeders, so start feeding them at least six weeks before harvesting. Sprinkle a tablespoon (15 ml) of 10-10-10 fertilizer around each plant once a week. A homemade good mixture made up of one pound of fish emulsion, five pounds of bone meal, and two pounds of kelp meal/marl, with a half teaspoon of iron sulfate and 1½ teaspoons of calcium sulfate per quart. Add two quarts to each tray or pot add water to just cover the seedlings. This will encourage them to grow faster in the right direction plus it keeps them from drowning.
- Fill your container with potting soil. Plant your tomatoes in a purchased potting mix or you can make your own by mixing together equal parts of sand, compost, or garden loam and peat moss. For the best results, choose a potting soil that will retain moisture without becoming soggy. First, add one-third of commercial potting mix or compost to the container. Add an inch of sand to the bottom of the container for drainage. Place either custom-made tomato cages or canes in the container before adding soil. The tomato plants will put down roots and grow up through these supports as they grow larger. Add a layer of gravel at least an inch thick on top of the first layer of soil. Water the soil well before planting.
- Transplant to your container when you see a sprout, wait until they have grown about 5-6 inches tall. After about two weeks, when your seedlings have four or five true leaves, transplant them to your container or one-gallon pot filled with good quality potting soil. When inserting roots into a hole, tap gently on the bottom of the pot to loosen soil, then lift it carefully out with a trowel. Place the plant in its hole and use soil gently around it until it sits about 1 inch below its mounds of roots. Place the plant in its container and fill it with the remaining soil. Cover the edges of the container with a ring of rocks or other weights. Water them lightly and add more fertilizer as they grow. As the tomatoes grow taller they will need more sunlight and space for branching out. Space the tomatoes at least 16 inches apart in different rows so they can produce fruit evenly throughout the season.
- Water the soil well every day and try to keep the soil moist.
- Propagating tomatoes: If you want to grow more than one plant in the same area, there are two ways to do it. One way is by cutting sucker shoots off the main plant. The other, and easier way is by taking cuttings of leaves and stems. The method for propagating tomatoes: Take cuttings of 8 leaves or stems from each tomato plant. The cuttings should be taken at a time when the leaf stems are just beginning to show new growth from the stem base . Inoculate each cutting with tomato seeds or a solution of spores. This will add new seeds or spores to increase the odds of successful growth on the cuttings. Place each cutting in a separate pot with one tablespoon of water per cutting. Keep them moist and protected from intense sunlight, and wait a few weeks for them to start growing.
- As the tomato plants grow, direct sunlight will become more important to your plant’s health and growth. Overhead irrigation is best to keep fruits from rotting or splitting open, as well as help provides water for the roots of the plant. – Keep your tomatoes pruned back to encourage branching and more fruit. This will also bring in more light. Remove any suckers from the stem, which grow to a different length than the main stem, or the plant will continue to produce those fruits of uneven size. When a tomato plant starts to branch, cut all but one leaf and place this in plain water for a week or so to encourage shoots from that leaf. To control fungus diseases in your tomato plants, you can treat them with copper sulfate (the preferred organic product is Triple Action Fungicide with Copper).
- As you harvest them for eating you will need to avoid pulling off their leaves as they are very important for fruit production. They can be pruned any time after 4 to 6 months from the day it is ripe.
Tomato Diseases and Pests:
There are a number of diseases and pests that may affect your tomato plants, such as fungal diseases, powdery mildew, stem rot, and blossom end rot.
Powdery mildew: Powdery mildew is the most common disease of tomatoes in South Africa. It does not only prevent many fruits from being spotted but also decreases plant yield by affecting quality. Powdery mildew mainly affects leaves and stems.
- Rub the leaves with a cloth that has been dipped in a soapy solution to prevent them from spreading.
- You can prevent this disease from spreading by allowing good air circulation, avoiding overhead irrigation, and avoiding overcrowded plants.
Stem rot: This is usually caused by Phytophthora spp., which are soil-borne fungi that penetrate through plant roots. It can cause wilting and death of the plant if not taken care of on time.
- Remove all affected plants from your garden as soon as possible or remove infected soil altogether with new soil that may not contain these organisms, but is rich in organic matter and humus to promote healthy growth.
- Remove diseased plant material and sterilize in boiling water.
- To prevent this disease from spreading spread around a layer of sand on your garden bed to prevent it from clinging to the roots of your plants.
Blossom end rot: This is caused by fungi that can invade tomato fruit or stems. In order for this disease to invade the plant, you will have to allow for good air circulation around your plants as it can also be spread in through irrigation water.
- Remove all signs of this disease from affected fruit as soon as possible, allowing fruits to ripen out of the sun’s light and away from other people touching them or bringing them into direct sunlight with their hands.
- You can prevent this disease from spreading by allowing enough sunlight, as well as allowing water to drain away from the plant, and through adequate air circulation.
Tomato worms are the larval form of a moth called Heliothis. They are very destructive and can cause great damage to tomato plants and fruits. They will start by eating holes in leaves and then proceed to eat fruit as they grow larger. The only way to get rid of them is by picking off their eggs before they hatch or spraying them with Bt Biopower 73. This is an organic pesticide that acts as a poison for the larvae coming into contact with it.
- You can prevent this disease from spreading by ensuring good air circulation and keeping your garden beds well watered.
- Remove all signs of this disease from the affected fruit as soon as possible by picking off the dead and stinky insects.
These are also known as tomato leaf rollers and these worms are very common in South Africa. There are two types of horns, one when they first hatch that is black and yellow, and a brown colored horn that turns into an orange oval pattern at the end of their life cycle. They can either eat leaves from their host plant or leave them alone. Hornworm can damage both tomato and crop plants but the preferred host is tomato. These worms can also cause the fruit to ripen early, causing it to rot.
Pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses can all be a problem when growing tomatoes in a greenhouse but the solution is usually very simple; simply ensure good ventilation and keep them away from other plants. Rusts are also very common on tomatoes so ensure that you spray your garden with Fungicide Krysantheum.
What is the best month to plant tomatoes?
In order to grow tomatoes successfully in your garden, you will need to be aware of the different types of winter and early spring frosts in your area. Whereas I can grow tomatoes all year round in regions where winter temperatures do not frequently drop below freezing, I wouldn’t want to be growing them in a frost-free, sub-tropical climate.
I recommend planting the tomatoes from late June until mid September. However, it is important not to leave them too long on plants as this can make them more susceptible to getting damaged by frost.
What are the best tomato varieties for growing indoors?
In my opinion, then there are no top choices when it comes to indoor grown tomatoes. I would recommend using the variety that you feel comfortable with as long as it is a smaller growing type and not one of the giant cherry types or large slicing tomatoes.
My favorite is ‘Roma’ because it is a small variety, it is a heavy producer and the taste is superb. I also grow ‘Ace’, which is another favorite that I would consider to be an ideal tomato plant for indoor growing.
What are the most common problems faced when growing tomatoes?
The most common problem that I have found when growing them indoors will be mold on the leaves and watering problems. Insects and other pest create problems for my outside gardens.
The easiest way to avoid mold and overwatering are to use a good quality soilless potting mix. Although this will keep the roots of the plant healthy, it will also stop me from having to worry about it wilting too quickly. I am also always happy that I can simply remove the tomato before it gets any worse.
Do tomatoes prefer sun or shade?
Although tomatoes can be planted outside, I would recommend using a greenhouse as it is an ideal place to grow them indoors. There are many ways that I have experimented with growing tomatoes outdoors. I have been trying to grow them outside in my garden for many years, but I did not quite get the results that I expected. Most of the time they would not even turn red when ripe and this was because they were still too cold at night for them to ripen and set fruit.
In addition, there were other problems that I faced as well.
Although I did try to grow them outside in a protected shelter from frosty weather and with good light regardless of the type of climate that I was in, the tomatoes would still not ripen properly.
If we compare it with growing indoors then there are many more advantages because they can be grown hydroponically. This allows us, to control the source of water and nutrients that we give to our plants as well as allowing us to make them bigger and more productive if we decide to do so.
On top of this, we can also control the environment that they are growing in as well and therefore keep them warm enough to grow fruit. For example, if you live in a cold climate then you could ripen them off first in a greenhouse or conservatory. Then when it is time to plant them outdoors, it would be best to dig up the plants and keep inside for at least another few weeks. This way, they will produce fruit more successfully as well as become stronger.
How long does a tomato plant last?
A tomato plant can last anywhere between six months to one year as a tomato plant. There are some tomatoes that will need to be replanted every year, which I do with my ‘Ace’ tomatoes, while the others I keep on my plants for longer.
How deep do you plant tomatoes?
This will depend on the type of tomato plant that you are growing. For example, if it is a bush growing type then about 8-12 inches deep will be fine but if it is a vining type you may need to put out more cultivation.
How long does it take for tomatoes to grow?
I have found that tomatoes take between four to eight weeks until they start producing fruit. I have found that I can get about three fruit per week, which will last up to one month after they are picked.
What are the best garden tools for growing tomatoes?
There are several tools that I use on a daily basis when I am trying to grow and produce my tomatoes the right way. The most important tool is a good quality trowel. When digging up plants from the ground or transplanting them indoors, you need this tool as it allows you to get into wherever you need to without hurting yourself.
You can subscribe to our newsletter below to get regular updates, tips, and ideas.