I have grown Tomatoes in containers and the permanent raised garden beds on my Balcony and previous homes for many years. Here is a list of some of the things I have found to be the most important aspects of growing Tomatoes on my Balcony in containers.
There are many available so select those that will suit your space and container size. There are many marked as "Patio" varieties which are a specific cultivar that’s been bred with container life in mind. A dwarf variety, the Patio tomato plant grows to just 60 cm in height.
It is important to note that there are two different types of tomato plants. The indeterminate tomato plant is generally large and vining. It will produce fruit continually over the course of the growing season.
A determinate tomato plant is smaller and bushier. It will produce one bulk harvest, and then the plant will die. If you would prefer a smaller and more compact plant that you probably won’t have to stake, choose determinate varieties. Determinate varieties are very compatible with container gardening. A great resource to "determine" (sorry !😆) your indeterminate and determinate Tommies is Sustainable Gardening Australia
18 Litres is the minimum recommended size for patio varieties and larger indeterminate ones will be happiest in larger containers. You can plant in a smaller pot if you choose a determinate tomato variety, which stops growing at a certain height. Determinate tomatoes form smaller, bushier plants than indeterminate varieties, so need less soil and less staking to support their growth. Clay pots are not recommended as the soil will dry out too quickly for thirsty tomatoes plants.
Some tomato growers suggest planting herbs or other plants in the same container. Beginners should refrain from adding additional plants to the container, unless it's a massive container. You do not want other plants competing with the tomato plant for water or nutrients. Different tomato varieties require different spacing, so consult the seed packet or tag on your tomato plant for information.
The container should have good drainage.
I recommend our Root Pouch grow bags for Tomatoes as they tick so many boxes for the health of fruiting plants.
Find our more about Root Pouch bags HERE
Tomato plants need high-light intensity and not high-heat intensity. When planting tomato plants, the goal is to maximise light while minimising any harmful effects of heat. The ideal amount of sunlight for tomato plants changes depending on the stage of growth.
The great benefit of container growing is that you can move your plants to find the most beneficial direct sunlight to their growth!
6 hours of sun is a minimum requirement, 7-8 hours is optimal. At fruiting stage the tomatoes are susceptible to being scalded by the sun so it's important not to have them constantly exposed. This can be avoided by not pruning the leaves too heavily so that they shade the fruit whilst they still receive sunlight. Whilst there's no such thing as too much sun, provided the plant receives sufficient water and is in a stable ecosystem, but when things are out of balance or when the flowers and fruit are not protected, too much sun can be detrimental. It can however, get TOO hot for tomatoes (sunlight and heat are two different but related things) If it's too hot, the plant will be stressed so monitor the location throughout the growing season.
When planting a tomato seedling, remove some of the lower leaves and dig a hole in your potting mix or soil deep enough so that most of the plant is buried in the hole. New roots will be produced along the buried portion of stem which will develop a strong root system and a sturdy plant.
When they are planted in containers they require feeding about every two weeks, the primary nutrients they require are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They like regular feedings of small amounts of fertiliser rather than infrequent, large doses. Check that your potting mix has these essential nutrients. If not you can feed them with a tomato-specific fertiliser.
The soil's moisture content is always a challenge with container gardens. Tomatoes have particular water requirements - basically they need consistent watering. If a tomato plant receives too little water, the plant will wilt and weaken, and the tomatoes could develop blossom end rot. Blossom-end rot is caused by insufficient calcium supply. However, the most common cause is from irregular watering during the critical growing period of the young fruit. Even when calcium levels in the soil are sufficient, a plant receiving insufficient or irregular water will have difficulty absorbing and delivering calcium to the fruit. If your plants are receiving inconsistent watering, tomato fruits can crack or split.
I recommend the use of Waterpot Ollas to keep tomatoes hydrated and provide them with ready access to water when they need it. One vessel planted in the container hosing your tomato will ensure consistent delivery to the roots even on the hottest, driest days. No guesswork involved whatsoever. Find out more about Waterpot Ollas HERE
Autumn has arrived and thoughts on the Balcony are turning to planning the Autumn-Winter garden. Many would-be gardeners don't realise that living in a certain place actually determines the type of garden you will have and the plants that you will grow. Focussing on what plants grow best where you live wil help you create a healthy and productive container garden.