Do you live in an apartment? Are you unable to care for a large vegetable garden? In small spaces or otherwise, having tomatoes close at hand is as practical as it is delicious. Here are a few tips for growing tomatoes in containers this season.
Did you know that when it comes to tomatoes, there are two types of growing habits?
Determinate growth: These varieties are bushy, compact, and early. They don’t need pruning, making them ideal for containers. Their yield is impressive, and the tomatoes all ripen at virtually the same time.
Indeterminate growth: Indeterminate growth varieties tend to climb. They must be solidly staked because they bear abundantly and continuously all season long. The head of the plants should be pruned in early August so they can focus their resources on ripening the existing fruits. Most cherry tomatoes are in this group.
What varieties are best?
Potted tomatoes grow very well, even on small balconies. If this is your method, opt for determined growth varieties. Indeterminate growth varieties are ideal for growing in the ground; however, they can also be wonderful grown in pots if they are sheltered from the wind and can enjoy the sunshine. Make sure you remember to stake them!
Versatile and delicious, regular tomatoes are simply charming, and are essential in both the vegetable garden and the kitchen. They are perfect for sauces and canned, and delectable on summer sandwiches. Yum!!
Hardy and tasty with round, firm, dark red fruits, these offer excellent value! “Celebrity” is one of the most popular varieties on the market due to its delicious flavour. This determined growth variety yields an abundant harvest of gorgeous uniform red tomatoes with a diameter of around 9 cm. They are very resistant to several diseases. These can be grown on the balcony!
This bright red variety was developed in… Manitoba! It stands out for its early yield. Plants with determined growth are compact, and their fruit is slightly flat and medium in size. Its firm, meaty flesh has a refreshing acidic flavour. This tomato is excellent freshly sliced or canned!
- “Czech’s Bush”
Originally from Czechoslovakia, this variety is extremely productive and yields bunches of medium-sized fruits. The tomatoes ripen early, and the plants consistently produce all season long. Although this is a determined growth variety, you may need to cage your plants due to the high fruit volume.
Further to being children’s favourites, cherry, grape and cocktail tomato plants yield until the fall. Highly prolific, they come in a variety of colours and their flavour can vary from one to the next.
- “Sweet and Neat”
“Sweet and Neat” tomatoes come in red and yellow and are perfect for container growing. This variety can be grown in small pots (minimum 8 inches). The plants are compact and provide an excellent yield of sweet fruits. Although it is a determined growth variety, “Sweet and Neat” plants produce cherry tomatoes all season long.
- “Little Napoli”
This Italian mini tomato is a determined growth variety that grows well in containers. It yields small, long red fruits shaped like grapes, with a delicious flavour. “Little Napoli” contain 50% more antioxidants than other varieties. Further to being resistant to disease, this variety offers an excellent yield despite its small stature.
- “Sun Gold”
With their orange hue and sweet flavour, “Sun Gold” tomatoes frequently rank among the best tomatoes in the world. This indeterminate growth variety often has a plentiful yield and is very resistant to disease. “Sun Gold” tomatoes can easily grow to 2 m (78 in) and need staking or trellis for support.
- “Sweet 100”
As sweet as they are popular, “Sweet 100” tomatoes generally yield until the first frost. If you choose this indeterminate growth variety, make sure you use a tall stake because it grows vigorously.
Tastes like candy! “Candyland” tomatoes have a bright red colour and a deliciously sweet flavour. This indeterminate growth variety produces plentiful fruits and is easy to harvest because the bunches grow on the outside of the plant, making them readily accessible.
Planting – When and how?
Once the risk of frost is a mere memory, usually in mid-May, it’s time to plant tomatoes in containers!
A few steps to success:
- The container you select should be deep enough to allow for vigorous root growth and should not drain too quickly. A depth of between 30 and 50 cm (12 to 20 in) is ideal. Containers should have a drain hole. Otherwise, use a drill to make one.
Container with water reservoir and pipe: These containers are excellent for plants that require a lot of water, like tomatoes. The reservoir means that you can occasionally forget to water, and easily survive heatwaves!
- Pour 2.5 cm (1 in) Biosol Compost into the container. The roots will benefit from a mid-season energy surge. Tomatoes are greedy, so added compost is the key to an abundant, successful harvest.
- Arrange the plants so that their base is 1.25 cm (1/2 in) below the edge.
- Top with Urban Garden Container Mixup to the base leaves, or even better, to halfway up the stem to promote secondary roots. Lightly pat the soil.
- Plant a stake if necessary.
Suckers: Do they really need pruning?
Did you know that tomato plants don’t tend to produce suckers? In fact, a sucker is, by definition, a stalk that does not produce! But if we allow secondary stalks to grow, they end up producing flowers and therefore, fruit! Because we use the term “suckers”, we tend to think these stalks consume all a plant’s energy. In fact, if the secondary stems are left, under ideal conditions they will yield tomatoes. They will be slightly smaller, but their flavour will be better because the plants convert solar energy into sugar!
Tips and advice
Tomatoes need a minimum of 8 hours of full sunlight. If possible, select a warm spot that is sheltered from the wind.
Fertilizer for Urban Gardens every 3 to 4 weeks. This will produce an abundant yield all season long.
Soil in containers dries up much faster than the ground, so it is important to water generously and regularly (even daily). As soon as the soil feels dry for the first 3 cm, add water, preferably in the morning. Avoid watering the leaves to prevent fungal disease.
If you will be away for a few days, generously water your plants and place them out of direct sunlight.
Beware of calcium deficiencies!
Tomatoes often experience calcium deficiencies. Among other things, these can cause blossom-end rot (brown-black spots). Even if the soil contains enough calcium, the tomato plants may not be able to absorb it for several reasons, such as overly acidic soil and/or irregular watering. Ideally, periods of drought followed by abundant rain or intense watering should be avoided. In fact, if the plant is lacking water during the period when its fruits form, less calcium will reach the tomatoes and blossom-end rot could occur. The solution? Maintain consistent moisture at the roots. Added mulch can also help preserve moisture.
Don’t hesitate to grow your tomatoes in containers with cucumbers, basil or lettuce, among others. These companion plants will promote the healthy growth of your tomato plants. Peppers, potatoes and eggplant are not good companions for tomatoes and should be kept away. For good and bad companions in the vegetable garden, refer to our article on companion planting.