How to grow tomatoes in containers
Tomatoes love the sun. Place the container in a spot where plants will get six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.
Tomatoes are warm-season, frost susceptible plants that need a growing season of at least three months, so they’ll grow in all climate zones of Australia. In warm, frost-free regions, tomatoes can be grown throughout the year; in temperate and cooler climes, the best time to plant is from the end of winter right through spring. However, to give tomatoes in cooler climates a head start in life, the seeds can be germinated in small pots under glass, or in a mini propagator. Simply sow your seeds six to eight weeks before you intend to plant them out, and keep them in a warm, sunny spot.
Look for a good-quality potting mix for your container; never use garden soil. Good potting mix that drains well while holding some moisture is one of the keys to successful tomato container gardening.
Containers dry out more quickly than an in-ground garden, so it's important to check them daily. During hot, dry weather, expect to water tomatoes daily. When watering, add enough water to allow a small amount to drain out the bottom of the container. To reduce diseases, avoid spraying the foliage.
Before adding your tomato plant, add a slow-release fertiliser into the potting mix. Fertilise with a liquid fertiliser every two weeks.
Keep an eye out for pests such as caterpillars, aphids.
How to plant your tomato container
- Purchase seedlings of tomato from your local nursery and transplant them to a pot.
- Space plants according to the label instructions.
- Bury the roots and a few inches of the stem of a young tomato plant in the potting mix.
- Unless you're planting dwarf or patio varieties, add a plant stake or tomato cage for support. Push a four-foot-tall plant stake into the pot, about 10cm from the plant. As the plant grows, pull the stems toward the stake and loosely tie them with twine. If using a tomato cage, simply place it over the plant.
Select the right container
The style of container isn’t nearly as important as its size; most vegetables need ample room for root growth.
Save your largest containers for tomatoes as they can grow quite large. Opt for something 18L or larger. Larger containers hold more soil and are easier to manage, because there’s less chance of the soil drying out in hot weather.
Plastic pots are a great choice as they're lightweight and easier to move around than ceramic. But ensure each container has drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn't, drill three to five holes in the bottom of the container before planting.
Self-watering pots, or containers that recycle excess water and nutrients, are handy on balconies.
Picks for small spaces
Not all little tomatoes grow on small vines, so make sure you plant compact small fruiting varieties if you’re growing them on a balcony or patio. Consider:
- Pot Tom
- Tumbling Red
- Tomato berry
- Tiny Tom
- Cherry Fountain
- Red and Yellow Pygmy
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