Tomato plants are a bountiful addition to your home garden. Even just one plant is extremely productive and financially rewarding. Tomatoes are easily grown without the use of chemicals and homegrown, organic tomatoes will yield a higher nutritional value. There are thousands of tomato varieties and an even larger amount of uses and recipes for tomatoes. If you’re limited in space, or would like to fit a few more tomato plants conveniently on your porch or patio, tune in as Grange Co-op’s very own Gardening Expert, Kraig Rucker, shares some of his best practices and success tips for container planting tomatoes. Reference the video included to see just how easy it is to container plant your own tomato start or read more in the details below.
Type of Container
Kraig is using a #15 gal SmartPot container to plant the tomato start in; this is the smallest pot we recommend using for tomato starts due to their expansive root system once mature. This type of pot naturally air prunes the plants. The fabric siding exposes the potted plant to air in the absence of high humidity. The roots are effectively “burned” off, causing the plant to constantly produce new and healthy branching roots. If roots were not exposed to air, as they would be in a normal pot, they continue to grow around the container in a constricted pattern.
Using the Ideal Soil
Kraig is using G&B Organics Eden Valley Garden Soil to fill the SmartPot. This organic soil is ideal for container planting vegetable starts as it improves moisture retention to reduce frequent watering and nutrient retention, attracting beneficial soil microbes. Eden Valley Garden Soil is formulated with BiocharMax™, a soft-wood biochar that provides soil, plant and environmental benefits. Biochar is an excellent soil amendment created through a process called pyrolysis – the burning of organic material in a high heat-no oxygen environment. The end-result is highly porous charcoal-like material that helps soil hold more water and nutrients.
The tomato chosen to container plant for this demonstration is an heirloom variety called German Johnson. The German Johnson is a vine tomato, indeterminate growing, mature fruit are large, slicing tomatoes. It originates from West Virginia, turning a deep red-pink as it ripens on the vine. This open-pollinated tomato takes 78 to 80 days from the time it is transplanted out in the garden to produce its tasty one-pound beefsteak type tomatoes.
Steps for a Successful Transplanting
Create a hole in the potting soil to set your tomato in. Tomato plants do extremely well when planted deep in the soil. You may notice small ‘hairs’ on the stalk of your tomato plant. These will eventually form into roots, creating a larger root mass and ultimately a healthier, bigger plant. When planting your tomato start, gently remove your plants from their plastic liners. If there is an abundance of white roots, circling around the soil – bound by the container they were in – gently pull or slightly tear them free. Remove the bottom layer of the tomato’s leaves and branches and place the tomato start deep in the soil.
Fertilizing your Tomato Start
Next, its important to feed the tomato plant. We recommend G&B Organics Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer. This organic fertilizer is excellent for tomatoes, and other vegetables and herbs as well. It helps produce more abundant crops that are better tasting and more nutritious. The N-P-K numbers, 4-6-3, are formulated to feed for several months, as well as provide quick-release nutrients – including kelp meal for extra micronutrients – for great results. It’s important to use a fertilizer specifically designed for tomatoes as they are prone to blossom end rot, often resulting from a lack of calcium. This can be a difficult condition to rid your tomatoes of once the rot is visible, but it is extremely easy to prevent if the correct fertilizer is applied upon planting.
Lastly, you can stake or cage your tomato plant as it will grow large enough that without additional support, will fall over and break. There are a variety of methods gardeners use to protect their tomato plants. Visit a Grange Co-op store near you to discuss which method is best for you.