Pot luck: Growing successful container tomatoes.

Over on the gram, I field a lot of questions from people starting out in growing veg. This year in particular, so many people are understandably asking about growing vegetables and herbs in pots. Many people live close by in Melbourne, which has been under very severe lockdown restrictions for months now. I can’t think of anything better than growing a few tomatoes on a balcony, kitchen window or a small courtyard, if you are blessed with a little bit of room.


Growing tomatoes in pots differs only a little bit from growing them in a raised vegetable garden bed. The main differences are to remember to keep them watered (but water the pot, not the leaves from above) and to fertilise them frequently as they will be most likely potted into store-bought mix, and not have access to the vast nutrients that are in good soil.

Go for the biggest pot you can accomodate.

Use a medium to large size pot, I prefer terracotta or black plastic, at least 20cm in diameter, but if you can go to 30-45cm, then that’s even better! 

Principe Borghese Tomato - ideal for sundried
Principe Borghese Tomato - ideal for sundried

Tigerella tomato
Tigerella tomato

Use high quality potting mix and compost.

I’d recommend using a premium potting mix, one that costs upwards of $8 (AUD)  for a 25 L bag or more and has the “5 ticks” will give you a really good nutrient mix that will last for the first month of it’s planting. I also would add a couple of handfuls of compost or worm castings if you can, mix it up and then you are ready to go.

Plant them deep.

Tomatoes are one of only a few plants that will thrive if you plant them as deep as you can. The more of the stem you plant, the more vigorous the roots will be in the pot. So go for tall thick stemmed healthy plants when choosing one for your pot.


Traveller tomato - pull them apart
Traveller tomato - pull them apart

Where to situate them.

In the sun! Any spot where there is good sunlight all day, easy access to water and for picking. Yum! 


Varieties to use.

Cherry and small to medium varieties are best for pots, because you can pick them daily, get great yields even if you live in a small place, and they are sweeter than some bigger varieties. My favourites for patio’s include Red Cherry, Tigerella, Genovese Costoluto, Principe Borghese, Pink Bumble Bee and Blueberries.

Spoil them with gardening love.

Water daily. When it’s really hot weather, make sure there is a plate under your pot to hold a little extra water. Water either first thing in the morning and in the evening, as close to dusk as possible, ideally with a glass of something nice for yourself in one hand. Always water the soil at the top of the pot, do not water the leaves from above as this can cause fungal problems in the right climatic conditions and we don’t want that!

Fertilise every week with an all-purpose soluble vegetable fertiliser, and once a fortnight use seaweed soil conditioner or worm tea. Prick out the lateral stems that grow in the V shape between the main stem and a leaf, this allows more air to circulate and the energy of the plant can concentrate on growing fruit. These lateral stems can be planted to form whole new plants! 


What to do with them?

Oh what to do with them!

Salads, soups, Bloody Mary’s (hey its summer), bottle them for sauces, use a dehydrator to dry them, freeze them for future use. Slicing them just to add  to a sandwich or cracker, even an omelette is a simple way to enjoy. 


Happy Planting and happy eating. 


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