Container-Growing Tomato Sauce

There are real benefits to growing tomato plants in containers. For one thing--you can place it anywhere! Container-growing allows you to place the container in the spot with the best microclimate for tomatoes. Maybe you have a huge yard but it's mostly shaded or possibly you live in an apartment with a small, sunny balcony.  You can place your tomato-growing container where it will receive the most warmth from the sun and the most protection from wind and rain. This is usually a south-facing wall; and if you can place it on concrete or stone, that will provide even more warmth.  To be successful, consider the following factors when creating a container garden for growing tomato sauce.

Plant variety, container and support

You can grow any variety of tomato sauce plant in a container, but there are some things to consider in order to be successful.

Use at least a 2.5-gallon-sized container per plant. Tomato plants tend to have a very large root system and the more space you give, the more fruit the plant can support.

Provide a strong support that is at least 4-feet tall. Tomato plants in general are vines that want to sprawl and therefore require varying degrees of support to keep them off the ground depending on whether they are determinant or indeterminant.

Indeterminant varieties will grow the largest vines with the most tomatoes over the course of the season. If you plant one in a 5-gallon container or larger, with a strong support such as a bamboo teepee that is at least 6 feet tall, you should do just fine but this set-up wouldn't fit well on a small apartment balcony.

For determinant varieties, a 2.5 gallon container with a 4-foot tomato cage or bamboo teepee would fit a smaller growing space and still produce plenty of tomatoes for one or two people. Determinant tomato plants tend to be shorter overall and more stocky although that can vary.

The best bet is to research varieties in your seed catalogues or plant varieties in the garden center and choose the best option for your situation. There are even new varieties available that are especially developed for container growing. One example is "Windowbox Roma."

Soil

Tomato plants grown in a container garden are limited to the soil, water and nutrients that you add to the container as opposed to their counterparts in the ground that can send deep roots in all directions.

For soil, choose a certified-organic, ready-to-use mix at your local garden center. This will be a better option than digging some soil from your yard because containers need a special balance of drainage and water retention with no weed seeds or possible fungal issues. If you feel adventurous, there are lots of recipes on the internet for creating your own potting mix. 

For fertilizer, choose one that is specifically designed for tomato plants and follow the application directions on the label. 

Cover

Having an option for covering tomato plants allows you to start your plants outdoors sooner in the season and ripen more of them  late in the season. Best placement scenario would be hugging a south-facing wall under an eave.  If that's not possible, consider constructing a way to drape clear plastic over the plant, that can be added or removed depending on the weather. Tomato plants that can be protected with a removable cover are more likely to produce fully ripened fruit especially in climates that are not always consistently warm and dry.

A few more things to consider

--Container weight. Being able to move the container once it's planted can be helpful if something changes in the spot you have chosen. There are wheeled bases available for placing under heavy plant pots to make them easier to move.

--Your container's material. More porous materials such as terra cotta or wood will evaporate moisture from them more quickly on a hot day requiring more frequent watering. Also the color of the container can make a difference. In general, darker colors retain more heat. Also, be sure the container has not been exposed to any hazardous chemicals.

Drainage holes. Make sure the container has drainage holes on the bottom. In addition, place large gravel or broken clay pot pieces in the bottom before filling with soil.

Ready to plant? Click here for planting steps.