One of the great things about growing tomatoes, other than getting great tasting fruit, is they are very adaptable to different conditions. Because of this, tomatoes can easily be grown in containers in case you don’t have a lot of space.
Many people actually prefer growing tomatoes in containers over growing them in the ground, because they can be moved around along with other reasons.
There are as many different ways to plant a tomato as there are tomato varieties, and everyone has their own methods for planting them. There really isn’t a right or wrong way as long as you follow a couple easy steps.
Here are some of the steps I use for planting a tomato in a container.
Preparing the Container and Tomato for Planting
The first thing you should do to plant a tomato in a container is to gather everything you will need for the task. I like to have the container and the tomato plant (of course), enough organic potting soil to fill the container, some earthworm castings, and a pair of sharp scissors.
A quick note on the container – You can use any container that you like. I like to use a container that is at least twelve inches deep and twelve inches wide. I wouldn’t suggest using one smaller than that for tomatoes. Try to use the largest container you can afford, and have room for, because you need the room for the roots to grow and spread. I recommend only planting one tomato plant per container unless it’s a really huge container.
If there are any other items you add when planting a tomato then have them ready to go. Some people like to add tomato fertilizer, Epsom salt, egg shells, cotton balls, and a huge variety of other items, but the items listed above are the essentials.
The tomato I’m planting was picked up at a local nursery and is a bit taller than I normally buy. I like the tomato transplant to be stocky rather than this tall, lanky guy, but I can plant it deep in the container and it should be fine.
Before adding soil to the container check to make sure it has drain holes on the bottom. This is very important because you want good drainage. The container may have a drain hole tab that you can knock out using a punch, but I just grab the drill and add a couple holes.
Once the drain holes are drilled it is time to add a one to two inch layer of organic potting soil to the container. Add a handful of the earthworm castings and mix it into the potting soil.
Now remove the tomato plant from the pot it came in by supporting the plant with one hand and flipping it upside and gently squeezing the plastic pot at the same time. The tomato plant should slide right out.
Take a look at the roots of the tomato plant. If they are root bound (like these) then carefully “tear” the roots apart at the bottom to loosen them up.
How to Plant the Tomato In the Container
With the container and the tomato plant prepared it is now time to plant it!
You want to plant the tomato deep, with only the top two sets of leaves above the soil. The tomato plant will form roots along the stem of the plant creating a stronger root system. A stronger root system means a stronger, healthier plant and more delicious tomatoes.
With the one to two inches of potting soil and earthworm castings mix in the bottom of the container, set the tomato plant in the center of the container.
After placing the plant in the container, look at where the top of the plant is with the top of the container. The top of the tomato plant should be a few inches above the top of the container.
This height might be different depending on the height of the tomato plant and the height of the container. Adjust the soil level as needed.
With the height of the tomato figured out, it is time to trim off any of the limbs that will be below the soil level. I trim the limbs off as close as possible to the main stem, then just add the trimmings to the potting soil for added organic matter. Be careful not to cut into the stem of the plant.
If you want to leave more than the top two sets of leaves on the plant that is fine. Always make sure to leave a minimum of two sets of leaves.
Now fill the container up with soil until you have only the top three to four inches of the tomato plant sticking out. Having a little less, or a little more above the soil line is fine.
Water the tomato plant well until the potting soil is saturated. Watering may cause the potting soil to settle a bit, so simply top off the container with more potting soil later.
Keep the soil in the container consistently moist, but not soggy. After a couple weeks give the tomato plant a good drink of diluted fish emulsion or an organic tomato fertilizer.