Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

       Today I was going through my tomato seeds it's that time of year to start thinking about what your garden plans are going to be for the upcoming season. To my amazement and utter astonishment; I found that I have accumulated more varieties of tomato seeds than I have garden to grow them. As I look at the number of tomato seeds I had to look again I double checked it but the numbers were there. I just don't have enough room in my garden to plant them all...
      DANG IT !!!! Well, what's a guy to do? WHAT IS A GUY TO DO!?! Well, let's see... I can use a plot at my brother's house for an additional thirty tomato plants. Okay, okay. That's good. No, no forty plants! He-he, even better! Yeah, much better! Okay, okay. About fifty here at my place, give or take a few. Okay, okay. OH CRAP, I am still in need of space for about fifty more tomatoes NOOOOO!!!!!!
    Has this ever happened to you? It happens to me every year...THE AGONY, THE AGONY. What am I going to DO!? Growing in containers works well in situation like this. You can plop a container here, there, and everywhere. Ha-ha. Picking tomatoes varieties that like to grow in containers can be difficult but here's what to look for. I usually look for a determinate tomato for containers. The reason behind this madness is determinate tomatoes are bred to grow to a determinate size and shape and there fruit usually comes ripe all at once or over a two to three week period. Some tomato varieties that tend to do well in containers are Early Girl Bush, Bush Goliath, Celebrity, Big Boy Bush, Roma VF hybrid;  hybrids have disease resistance bred into them, which is great for gardeners for their productivity and disease resistance.
 Heirloom varieties such as the San Marzano nano or bush variety  have done very well for me as has the Green Zebra. There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes, I am sure you have your favorites.
    Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow all season long or until a final frost takes it's wonderful soul to the great tomato garden in the sky.  In areas where the extreme heat is the norm, that's when the heat incinerates the tomato plants to an intense sun scalding ash and finally an agonizing death. Okay, so let's garden!
  The indeterminate tomatoes that I select for container gardening are usually tough and hard to kill; types such as the Cherry tomato. The Cherry tomato thrives well in many conditions.The smaller fruited tomatoes do very well in containers there also usually the sweetest of all tomatoes. The Cherry tomato can be very aggressive growers and are amazingly tough plants.

   Some of the Cherry tomatoes I like are the Chocolate Cherry, Juliet hybrid, and the Sun Gold hybrid all have done well in my garden but just about any of the Cherry tomato varieties would work well, plus they are heavy producers so much, so you might have to cut them back during the year they grow extremely well.

  The placement of these containers for me will depend on the container's color. What we are trying to do is protect the roots of the plant so they do not get to hot. As summer strikes the heat can steam their roots. Dark containers absorb lots of heat, great in the spring, not so great during the summer. Morning sun and afternoon shade is the rule and still you might have to shade the containers with cloth or something else. Sometimes I just lean a pallet against the container just to give it a little shade.

    If you have no afternoon shade in your gardening area do what you can to shade them from the afternoon heat. I do like the idea of a dark barrel for spring it gathers the warmth to the soil; the tomatoes and peppers love it but when the summer heat comes try wrapping the dark container with something light in color like a fabric, light color burlap, or shade it.

    I use big containers mainly because I want to grow big plants and I can grow almost any variety whether it be a beef steak or a cherry tomato in a half drum, approximately twenty-five to thirty gallons. I also grow in smaller five gallon buckets and do fantastic but the varieties I can grow in the bigger containers, they're bigger and better.  Also, I don't have to water as often.  That is a Plus Plus.

 I start off with fifty-five gallon plastic barrels. I can find these around pretty often pretty cheap. I have never bought one myself.  I find them broken cracked and some people just give them to me to haul off, which is great I like the free pricing. I can be cheap. Ha-ha...

 Be careful now were going to cut these bad boys in half. I get my circular saw out and cut the drum in half. I then drill some holes in the bottom for drainage. I do the same for the other half of the barrel and we're done. We now have two containers. Now to find twenty-four more barrels. Remember always to keep your eyes peeled for containers you never know when you have more tomato plants then garden space. Five gallon buckets work great as containers for tomatoes too but make sure you drill holes in the bottom of your buckets to allow for drainage it is just so much easier to keep the soil moist in the bigger containers.

  A soil mix I suggest is approximately forty percent compost twenty five percent peat moss twenty five percent vermiculite 10 percent rock dust.

  I will be doing some Dwarf tomato varieties in five gallon containers this year. It should be a fun year coming up. As always later, see ya.. Dusty...

I know, I know those are pepper plants in the containers but they do well in containers as well.


  1. Hey Dusty!

    Looks like we have the same taste in tomatoes! :)

    Love the containers...I saw some of those on Craigslist 'round these parts. I'll have to go round up some!

    1. I love tomatoes. I do lots of different sauces and catsup and so I have to have at least 10 San Marzano tomato plants. In my seed collection I have about 65 different varieties and I am going to have to sit down and figure out what I am using this year always tough because I want to grow them all.

  2. I haven't grown tomatoes for at least two years and am looking forward to growing some in pots outdoors, very different from where I presently live in Scotland, where they have always been grown in the greenhouse. I love how you've recycled the containers.

    1. I really enjoy a home grown tomato its one of the things I miss the most when I run out. Scotland has got to be a challenging environment for a tomato plant what types of tomatoes do well in Scotland?

  3. Hi Dusty,

    Thank you so much again for your comment on my blog-really, really appreciated!

    Have to say I’m in awe at the number of tomatoes you grow. I have tried many varieties but only the cherry tomatoes growing in the greenhouse do well in my location. I would love to grow some San Marzano one day!

    1. I really like the San Marzano wow they make a great sauce. There is a f1 hybrid called a Mini Marzano also called Ravello that might be good I will try this one this year also most of my varieties are open pollinated but there are a couple of hybrids I have grown for years that I just love. I would suggest everyone check out Green Dragonette on her blog she can tell a story that brightens my day thank you very much...

  4. Hi,
    I have no idea , how I found your blog, but I love it.
    Love the style, the narration ,the tips you give and the practical way of growing stuff..

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I really do enjoy writing this blog I would have liked to have done more this spring but I broke an ankle and it has really put me way behind. I am about to get caught up thank goodness. Thanks again...dusty..