Container gardening is the solution for anyone that is lacking space for a garden, or the time to properly maintain one. It has been the ideal solution for me with two toddlers that do not allow me the time needed to keep up my old vegetable garden. My front porch, or kitchen depending on the season, is now my garden. It is easy and rewarding to have fresh produce literally at my fingertips.
Step One: The fist thing you need to do, if this is an option you are considering, is to decide where you will put the container. You will need a place in your home, porch, deck, or yard that receives plenty of sun. You will also need to be able to easily water the container wherever it is.
Step Two: Decide what style of tomatoes you want to grow. Plum, Patio, Cherry, Pixie, Tiny Tim and Roma varieties tend to do best in containers, but I have grown Better Boy tomatoes this way as well. Look for tomatoes described as bush, compact or space saver.
Step Three: Decide on a container. The variety of tomato plant you chose will help you decide on the container you use. For the smaller varieties of tomato, you can use hanging baskets, window boxes or medium to large buckets or planters. For larger varieties I would suggest using a five gallon container, whether planter or modified container. Buckets, empty kitty litter containers, garbage cans or other miscellaneous containers can be used.
Step Four: Prepare container for soil. If you are using a planter than drainage, holes are already where you need them. If you are modifying a bucket or other container, you need to make drainage holes in the bottom of the container to make sure your plants to not drown. Using an awl and hammer simply punch around five holes in the bottom of the container. You should now add a layer of material in the bottom few inches of the container or planter to aid drainage. Suggested items include rocks, clay shards, packing peanuts or corncobs. If you are worried that the soil will filter between your filler and leak out the drainage hole then place a section of newspaper in the container before adding the soil.
Step Five: Add the soil. Now this should be the easy part, but of course, nothing is simple anymore. There are countless varieties of potting and planting soils available in the stores these days. I suggest going with a peat based artificial soil. You do not want to use soil from your yard or plan old top soil; they will be too heavy and become compacted after repeated watering. If you really want to use Miracle Grow or another, widely know name then mix it at least half-and-half with peat moss before putting in the container to make sure that the mix is consistent.
Step Six: Plant tomatoes and care of the growing plant. If you are planning to start your tomatoes from seed, the start with the seed in cup of soil and place on a window still. Grow the seed indoors until the seedling is at least two inches tall and the last frost of the season has already past. It will not hurt to keep the seedling indoors longer, but if that is your plan start it off in a larger container. When the weather and the plant are both ready transplant the young plant into the permanent container. If you purchase a young plant then you should still keep the plant indoors until the last frost of the season has past before transplanting your tomatoes into your container. Water your transplanted tomato well. You can cage or stake your tomatoes to help support them as they grow.
Step Seven: Care for your tomatoes. Water your tomatoes daily. Weeds are not a concern in container gardening by bugs, fungus disease are still possibilities. Blossom end rot is a common issue, which will show up as black spots on the bottom of young tomatoes. To solve this you need to add a calcium rich fertilizer. Insects can be discouraged by planting marigold in the base of your tomato container or in nearby pots. My father told me about this trick and I am still not sure why this works, but insects and some animals do not like the scent or taste of marigolds. When planting a regular garden in the backyard marigolds do the same, and have work for me in both kinds of garden every year.
Step Eight: Enjoy the bounty. As tomatoes ripen, pick them immediately and enjoy. If picked before fully ripe accidentally they will ripen on a windowsill. Enjoy you tomatoes and your success. I always think that a tomato, or any other fresh produce, picked fresh from my garden tastes far better than anything does from the store.
There are even easier routes to take if you want. Some tomatoes can be purchase in containers suitable for simply leaving the plant as you purchased it. Simply make sure it receives enough sun and water. The upside down or topsy-turvy hanging containers can also yield good results.