Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Container gardening is a great way to grow vegetables if you have limited space. Tomatoes are a good choice for this style of gardening. There are a few easy steps you can take to have a successful gardening experience. This is a guide about growing tomatoes in containers.

February 15, 2007 Flag
3 found this helpful

Ideas for growing tomatoes in container gardens from the ThriftyFun community.

Tips For Containers

I have used container pots for many years for tomatoes and peppers, even lima beans and string beans. They are so easy and there are less bugs, less weeding and can be moved if you want more sun. I learned a couple of things about tomatoes which may help. First, there are plants called patio tomatoes, which are smaller sized plants (but give nice sized tomatoes) designed for container gardening. Also, I had noticed black spots on the bottoms of a few tomatoes. This is called blossom end rot, not to worry, just add lime to the soil and work it in and it clears it right up. I have planted cherry tomatos, plum and beefsteaks and have had excellent results.

By LI Roe

Merced, Roma, Heatwave, and Southern Star

I plant varieties such as Merced, Roma, Heatwave, and Southern Star (bhn 444) in 18 gallon (2.5 cu ft) containers with holes drilled for drainage I fill it with Miracle Grow potting mix, 1 cup of Osmocote slow release 13-13-13, 1/4 cup of lime, fed every 12 days with a high phosphorous fertilizer. They do awesome, just watch the high winds as taller plants may blow over if not supported.

By Atascosa, TX

"Window Box" Romas

There is a variety of Roma tomatoes called "Window Box" that would do well in a container, and another variety of cherry tomatoes that I believe is called "Tiny Tom" or "Tiny Tim."

A great fertilizer for tomatoes is fish emulsion because it has a high nitrogen content. The down side of using it is that it stinks so much. I imagine that yellow pear tomatoes would do well in a container; they are incredibly hardy.


The main thing to remember about tomatoes is that they are very temperature sensitive, so they won't do well in cool weather. Even if you plan to put them in a pot, I would leave them outside during the day to harden them off before letting them stay outside for good.

By Skbeal

5 Gallon Buckets

We have used 5 gallon buckets. Fill the bottom with rocks, then newspaper, then add your potting soil and other potting material. You have to be sure you keep them watered. You need to have drain holes because after a heavy rainfall, your plants will drown, hence the reason for constant watering. If your plants are sheltered from the outdoors, you will not need to worry about the drain holes. I prefer this method, as it is easier to weed, and they can be brought in when the weather begins to change, and here in New England, we have a short lived gardening season.

By Laura

My daughter planted one of the patio tomatoes in a 5 gallon bucket last year. She put some corn cobs in the bottom and all soil was from our compost pile. The plant grew to about 8 feet tall, and so many tomatoes they out lasted the growning season. It was a cherry tomato plant, must have gotten thousands from one plant. A lot were still trying when the first frost came! Needless to say, we lost the rest.

By Rosa

I have planted some in 5 gallon paint bucket and flower pots, they turn out great. Tomatoes and mint were my very best plants.

By Elva

Containers On The Deck

I have planted patio tomatoes also. I have about a 4x5 foot square deck. Not much fits on it but I have good success with the tomatoes. Peppers and lettuce were another story.

By Sandy

Upside Down Tomatoes

Last year we did the hanging upside down bucket tomato plants. It worked well, we used 5 gallon buckets with lids. Plant your tomato plants in the buckets, cut a hole in the lid about 4 or 5 inches in diameter and put lid on after you planted tomato plants. Puncture holes, several on the bottom of buckets, so you can water the plants. Attach a rope or wire from handles or sides of bucket, hang from nails in shady area. This worked well for us! All you have to do is go out and water, and when ready, pull from vine, so easy!

By Vicky Hunt

Black Plastic Bags

All 60 of my tomatoes are in containers, big black plastic bags. I feed them home made worm tea, we have done this for years.

By Marsbar

Tiny Tims In Balcony Planters

I have been planting Tiny Tim cherry tomatoes in my patio planters for the last few years with much success. They are so delicious. I live in a short summer season area. If they grow well here, they will grow well anywhere. I plant them in balcony planters available at any department store.

By Marlene

When To Water

To know how often to water container tomato plants, stick your finger in the dirt. If the soil is dry on the top, but you can feel moisture further down, you probably don't need to water them yet. If it feels dry all the way through, just water them. I always water them until the water leaks out. That way, you can be sure that you are watering all of the soil in the container.

By Skbeal

Book Resource

"Square Foot Gardening" by Bartholemew is a very good resource.

By Denise

Manure Water For Container Gardening Tomatoes

For container tomatoes or in ground, this will make your tomatoes grow huge! Go to your local stables and get 1/2 bucket (5 gallon) of manure, fresh or old, doesn't matter. This is the gross part, take it outside where people aren't going to see it, and add water right near the top. Leave in a shaded area and cover to keep flies from being attracted. Each day or so, take one cup of the liquid from the top and pour it into your tomato roots. Replace the water as you need into the manure bucket. Tomatoes love it and you don't get any weeds from mixing manure into your soil. Discard after the season.

By Ann

Half Barrels

I have been growing tomatoes in half whiskey barrels. I water daily and feed weekly with a Miracle Grow formula. In addition, I add a tablespoon of Magnesium Sulfate (epsom salts) and a teaspoon of calcium chloride, all to prevent blossom end rot. The plants are now 7 feet tall with many blossoms and lots of set fruit. They need 6 hours of direct sun.

By Sammy

Past Successes

I grew indeterminate Better Boy and Beefsteak tomatoes varieties in 10 inch self-watering planters in 2005 with super success. I caged, staked and raised them about 24 inches off ground to keep away the bunnies. I have 2.5 and 5 gallon buckets I'd like to use this year. I'm glad I stopped by this site.

By Bernie

Window Box

I planted my tomato garden in a 3 ft. window box because I didn't have enough room and I have 6 green tomatoes ready to turn red.

By Jen

August 3, 20080 found this helpful

I set out to imitate the expensive Earth Box system.

This year we have 4 kinds of tomatoes in the self-watering containers from the Wal-Mart, about 12 inches wide (about $6 here in Canada). I put Miracle Grow potting soil in them and mixed in about a quarter cup of dolomite in each pot. I am filling the reservoir with Miracle Grow tomato fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.

I am using 14" cages but cut the bottom ring and shortened the legs. I use bungee cords to guy the cages to the rim of the containers. I keep the reservoirs filled since the weight is needed to prevent the plants from falling over - this has happened a couple of time in high winds (with very little damage). The big indeterminate plants empty the reservoir on a hot day.

The "window box Roma" from Stokes is heavy with fruit and has a very compact from. We are most pleased with it. For some reason the cherry tomatoes are not doing well in this setup - I think we have some kind of wilt, although there is a fair bit of fruit.

Yellow Pear has too much foliage for the amount of fruit and has become top-heavy. I think I fertilized too much early in the season. We will not repeat this variety next year.

Lemon Boy is also sprawling and hard to keep caged but has a good number of medium to large tomatoes. Our most successful plant with this system is Little Fingers eggplant - we are seeing dozens of fruit on our two plants.

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September 26, 20080 found this helpful

I had wonderful success this year with the Bush Goliath Tomato plants in containers. I planted them in May and moved them in and out of the garage until the danger of frost passed. Off of 2 plants we harvested over 50 tomatoes of about 5"-6" in diameter. Believe me I will definitely be doing these again and using more containers.

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December 7, 20090 found this helpful

June 3, 2016 Flag
4 found this helpful

Plant from sibling as early as possible in large flower pot. When the temperature is nice set the plant outside. Bring it in before evening. A week after blossoms appear, sprinkle with a little fertilizer (do not sprinkle close to the stem) and give a lot of water. Check plants in early morning for insects and bad leaves, pinch them off. Always cut in the morning, plants can easily get diseases, early morning dew heals the cut.

The picture was taken 3 weeks ago. I have these two growing on my balcony, it's just enough for the family.

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August 19, 2016 Flag
1 found this helpful

Take an empty clear plastic water bottle, cut off the bottom, drill a hole or bang a nail hole thru the plastic cap, and screw the cap back on to the neck of the bottle.

plant with bottle sunk into the soil next to it

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April 19, 2016 Flag
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This is a guide about growing tomatoes in hanging planters. We have seen the upside down planters for growing tomatoes, but you can also grow them in normal hanging planters.

Hanging planter baskets holding tomato plants with numerous yellow blossoms and green cherry tomatoes against a rustic background.

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July 10, 2008 Flag
1 found this helpful

I used an old bench that no one could sit on and sat my potted tomato plants on and around the bench. As they grow, I can tie them to the bench for support. I have red, yellow and black cherry plants, so I am hoping for a little color also.

By Wanda from Climax, NC

Potted tomatoes sitting on old garden bench.

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April 17, 20140 found this helpful

Thanks for this neat tip!

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June 25, 2009 Flag
2 found this helpful

The new tomato plants were out today, and I couldn't resist, thinking surely, I had some large planters at my apartment. You guessed it, no planters, but I do have a cat. He's particular about the cat sand he uses, and fortunately for me, I had several of the "plastic" bags in the recycle bins. They're wide and fairly tall. When filled with soil and a plant is about the same size and a large planter. It looks kinda funky, but hey, the cat wasn't going to use them, and they was free.


By debit4857 from Vancouver, WA

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June 28, 20091 found this helpful

I really love your idea! This is one very green way to garden! About the way they look. You can always wrap a recycled solid colored plastic bag around them!

Several years back, I also posted a tip about not using planters. Just the bag of soil! You lay the bag of potting soil on it's side then cut an X in what's now the top & poke some drainage holes around the sides & towards the bottom of the bag. Now plant your tomato or whatever, right into the bag filled with the soil. NO planter needed! When you water, place the spout of a watering can or the hose right into the X-shaped hole.

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April 18, 2011 Flag

I am planning on planting in five gallon containers. Before planting my tomato plants in plastic containers should I cut holes in bottom for drainage?

Hardiness Zone: 6b

By Elena from White Plains

April 19, 20110 found this helpful

Elena, Hello! Yes you will have to drill or poke some holes in a plastic container, but may I offer something else to consider? We live in a number 7 (seven) hardiness zone and our experience with the plastic containers was that they got too hot in late summer, and eventually burned the roots of our plants. (Tomatoes and peppers, mostly.)

Over the years, we have found that five to ten gallon styrofoam containers (picnic coolers or bait containers if you are searching for them at a Wal Mart style store) actually caused less heat damage to the roots of the plants and increased the yield of each plant. We poked holes through the bottom of these containers, too, and added a very shallow layer of river rock or gravel before filling the bin with the appropriate soil/manure mix.

The only drawback with this approach was if an unsuspected virus or bacteria took hold in one of our porous, styrofoam containers we had to trash such, but truth be told, that's only happened a very few times (in single containers) in over ten years of using this method.

Hoping you find something that works well for you and yours, just wanted to alert you to the possible down side of using hard, plastic containers in the garden. Good luck and happy eats with the garden fresh foods!

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April 25, 20110 found this helpful

The foal ice chests are a wonderful idea. You can also mix in styrofoam "peanuts" to make the weight less...

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September 30, 20110 found this helpful

February 11, 2012 Flag
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What size container and how much soil will I need?

By Wendy M.

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February 11, 20120 found this helpful

I have planted tomatos in five gallon buckets with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. I fill them to within about six inches from the top with soil. I use regular black dirt in the bottom half and potting soil in the top half. The reason I use black dirt in the bottom is that is heavier and therefore the buckets aren't as apt to be blown over in a storm or knocked over by some of the overly zealous wild critters around here or by unsupervised little kids, that don't know enough to stay off my patio.

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Anonymous Flag
February 12, 20120 found this helpful

I have tried several times to grow Tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets with garden soil in the bottom and Potting soil on top, Miracle Grow brand with watering, but they do not do well for me. I find that if I plant them in the ground it works better.

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May 18, 2011 Flag
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How often do you have to change the potting soil used to grow tomatoes in large pots on a patio?


By Bob

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May 18, 20110 found this helpful

I would do it every year. I have always been told that when you plant a garden you shouldn't plant the different veggies in the same spot every year.

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August 19, 2005 Flag
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Q: How many hours of full sunshine should container tomato plants have? Mine have all day sun and they're producing but getting spindly. I can't fertilize in this heat if that is the problem?


A: Poopsey,

Tomatoes grown in containers need the same amount of sunshine as those cultivated in the ground-at least 6-8 hours per day. They also need even amounts of water, so make sure to check the container's moisture levels daily, especially in hot weather. As for your plant getting spindly, all tomato plants benefit from regular pruning. Snap off the suckers (shoots that appear between the main stem of the plant and the petioles (stems of the leaves). Proper pruning will help channel the plants energy into producing fruit rather than leaves and improve the air circulation around the fruits. Fertilizing with too much nitrogen can also result in spindly plants.

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August 8, 20050 found this helpful

Sounds like you need more nitrogen in the soil. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and expect supplementary fertilizer during the growing season. Be sure to provide lots of water in hot weather. Tomatoes use a lot of moisture.

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July 29, 20090 found this helpful

Containers dry out quickly. Keep well watered and much top of container. Also fertilize often because if you are watering correctly (by watering till water is coming out of the bottom or side drain holes ). The fertilizer gets washed out. Also if you are growing a determinate variety (growth is pre determined ) you do not need to prune suckers or any other pruning other than removing dead leaves.

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April 18, 2011 Flag
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I have Big Boy tomato plants that I am growing in smart pots on my deck. I went through some bottom end rot, and added tomato-tone feedings. I lost about 15 tomatoes.

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August 5, 2010 Flag
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Is it okay to plant a Roma tomato plant with a dwarf citrus tree in a wine barrel? Do tomatoes have to planted all by themselves? I live in San Luis Obispo where everything seems to grow great.

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