Gardening for Everyone - Container Tomatoes

Tomato Plants in a pot

Simon Howden

Grab a planting pot, potting soil and fertilizer, and get a tomato plant. 

A little dedication, patience, sunlight and water, and you're set to go.

The desire for a fresh, juicy, ripe tomato gets to me every spring. I crave them so bad all I can think about is gardening. I personally I have a large garden every summer (about one acre in size), but I have grown tomatoes easily in a pot on the back porch.  I have friends that "roof-garden" or use pots exclusively for planting a small garden.  That just goes to show that a garden can be the size of a football field or the size of a small flower pot.

Don't have a green thumb but love veggies and fruits?  It's alright, it just takes a little practice.  Here's a how-to for planting a tomato plant in a pot (and tips to keeping it alive) to harvest this lush fruit:

Step 1: Make sure the container you've picked out has drainage holes at the bottom.  Also, a really small pot may not hold enough water on hot summer days, so a bigger size is much more suitable.  A four or five quart container is good enough.  I use plastic ones because they're lighter to move around.  With that being said, you may want to first place your pot where you want your plant to grow to avoid moving a heavy container later.

Step 2: Once you've picked out your pot, start out with some gravel (I have used stones from my driveway, but if you're around concrete or black top all the time, you can buy horticultural charcoal or a small bag of fine gravel.  I fill my pots with about an inch of gravel for drainage. 

Step 3: Now it's time to get dirty!  Fill your pot with a potting mix 2/3 of the way full.  Soil-free mixes with fertilizers already in it have worked wonderful for my 'maters.  The mix is lighter than anything with soil in it, helps with drainage, and and the roots get the oxygen they need.

Step 4: Dig a hole in the potting mix big enough to accomodate the size of the container the tomato plant comes in.   Gently remove the plant from the container it came in from the store, spread out the roots (this helps them spread out in the potting mix over time) and place in the hole. 

Step 5: Cover with more potting mix until you're about an inch or two below the top of the container.

Step 6: Water your plant gently.  This may create some air pockets so lightly pack down the soil and add a little bit more mix if it's necessary to keep it about an inch below the top of the container.

Step 7: Buy a tomato cage and put it in now.  Don't wait until the roots of the plants have already established because you could disturb the roots.  You could use a stake, but cages promote upright growth of your plant and you won't have to tie up your tomato plant as much as you would with a stake.

You've done it!  However, you're not finished...

One important thing to remember is this: no water = no tomatoes.  You want to keep your potting mix moist, but you also do not want to keep it so wet that your plant will end up rotting. 

If you didn't use a mix with fertilizer already in it, try fertilizing your tomato plant every week with small amount of fertilizer.  I have found that my container tomatoes respond much better to smaller doses more frequently instead of large amounts of fertilizer every couple of weeks.

Depending on the harvest time of the tomato you have picked out, keep giving your plant a little tender loving care, and you will have tomatoes in no time. 


Photos have been uploaded with permission from: &


Tomatoes still on the vine

Lindsey Baird

I love living the country life in New Springfield, Ohio and enjoy sharing my experiences with the rest of the world. I'm an animal lover and an avid vegetable and flower gardener and love to spend time outside. My entire life isn't country though - I'm an office manager for a large industrial distributor which keeps me busy five days a week. However, when I'm not at work, I'm usually digg...(Read More)

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