Container Gardening

Growing Tomatoes in Containers Is Easy and Fun

By Jean Starr

Last year I started three tomato varieties from seed, including ‘Tasmanian Chocolate’ from Renee’s Garden. Two others, ‘Dwarf Confetti’, and ‘Dwarf Velvet Night’, came from Victory Seeds’ generous roster of dwarf tomato varieties. I grew them in 20” diameter containers, fed them at planting time with Osmocote®, and made sure they were well-watered.

‘Tasmanian Chocolate’ formed fruit by July 1. Photo by Jean Starr

‘Dwarf Confetti’ has a red & yellow fruit with a sweet flavor. Photo by Jean Starr

Don’t try to get a head start on their growth by setting them outside until the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F, at least. And, try not to feel sorry for the lonely tomato in the huge pot. It will fill that pot out in no time, and won’t appreciate a bunkmate.

Tomato ‘Tasmanian Chocolate’, performed the best for me, ripening in mid-July and producing until early September. I made the mistake of crowding the other two plants together in the same pot. They took much longer to ripen, and produced fewer tomatoes. I especially liked the smoky flavor of the meaty ‘Tasmanian Chocolate’. However, the ‘Dwarf Confetti’ had a very nice, sweet flavor. I’m not discounting ‘Dwarf Velvet Night’, but it didn’t get a fair shake as its pot partner fought for food and water all summer long.

So, save a container for a tomato this year. You don’t have to start them from seed, as there should be several available at garden centers and online. You might even find a variety called ‘Ketchup ‘n’ Fries’, which has a tomato growing above ground and a potato growing under the surface. It’s done by grafting a tomato plant on top of a potato plant. It grows to seven feet in height, so it’s best planted in the ground, but can be grown in a very large container of at least 20” in diameter. Ellen Wells, our own Just Veggies blogger, describes her encounter with the concept in her blog about TomTatoes.

Tomato varieties for containers are becoming as numerous as those that are grown in the ground. But, no matter where you plant them, tomatoes need around eight hours of sun a day for the highest yield. My tomatoes are lucky to get six hours, but since I’m the only one in my household that eats them, they produce plenty. While you are at it, look for other vegetables bred for containers, such as peppers, cucumbers and eggplant.

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