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Container Gardening Tomatoes

Updated on December 17, 2014

Container gardening tomatoes is an easy way to enjoy fresh, delicious tomatoes any time you want. You can just step out your door, you don't have to go to the store. You don't need a lot of space if you are growing potted tomatoes. You don't even need a yard. Would you like to grow tomatoes without the pot? Sounds impossible but I can show you an easy way to do it that works really well. If you live in some of the southern states growing potted tomatoes can also give you some defense against pests, growing the right variety can give you some natural pest control especially if you live in Florida. A lot of people would like to grow their own vegetables either to save money, or because they want to eat organic vegetables, or just enjoy food that tastes really good.

Juicy Tasty Tomatoes

Container Grown Cherry Tomatoes from my backyard
Container Grown Cherry Tomatoes from my backyard

Tomato Pots - Ugly but Functional

Yes, they're ugly, and no they're not tomatoes. You're looking at, from left: Rosemary, Lavender, and Oregano.  These plants have lived happily in these ugly buckets for almost 2 years
Yes, they're ugly, and no they're not tomatoes. You're looking at, from left: Rosemary, Lavender, and Oregano. These plants have lived happily in these ugly buckets for almost 2 years

Where to Get Cheap Tomato Growing Pots

I like to use empty cat litter buckets for tomato growing pots. They're just the right size and pretty much the right price (free). I have (my wife has, really) three cats and there's an endless supply of buckets. Granted, they aren't technically free but I have to buy the litter anyway. Before I was married I had friends of mine with cats give me the buckets. They'll be more than happy to I'm sure. They're useful for a lot of things, but after awhile you have more than you can use. Using them for tomato growing pots is another use for them.

Here's What You Need to Do.

You simply need to put a hole in the bottom of your bucket. I use my cordless drill with a half inch spade bit, you can use a smaller bit and drill more holes. Just make sure that it adds up to a half inch worth of holes. You can make your holes a little bigger, it's not rocket science, you just want enough to let the water drain out so the roots don't get soggy. They can rot and mildew if they do, and the plant will die. Think about a typical clay pot, it has about a half inch hole in the middle. Just replicate that with your cat litter bucket.

But They Make Ugly Tomato Planters...

True, they do make ugly tomato pots, but that's pretty easy to fix. Get some spray paint specifically for plastic and paint them. You can use most any color except black so your pots don't get too hot. If you live up north, you could get away with it, but in the south, espically Florida you'd be making an oven. I've never lived in the midwest but I'd imagine it would be even worse there.

Grow Tomatoes in a Bag - You Don't Need a Pot!

Growing tomatoes in a bag of potting soil is the easiest way to grow tomatoes or other vegetables. You only need a large bag of potting soil for 2 plants, a small bag for one plant. Here's what you need to do. Poke 3 or 4 holes in the bottom of the bag to let the water drain out. Sort of like the hole in bucket idea - you don't want a bag of mud. Use a small hand trowel, a knife, scissors, whatever. Be careful and don't cut your self. Turn the side with holes down. Make sure you put the bag in a place where you want it, because you won't be able to move it later. If you put it in the grass, the grass will die because the bag will be there a long time.

If you're using a large bag poke a 4-6 inch hole about six inches from diagonal corners. Then poke a hole in the middle. Plant the tomatoes in the corners and water them from the middle hole. Take a look at the images below.

How to Grow Tomatoes in a Bag

Poke holes in the bag of potting/garden soil.  Conveniently, this bag has a tomato on it.
Poke holes in the bag of potting/garden soil. Conveniently, this bag has a tomato on it.
Flip it over and poke a hole about 6 inches from one corner.
Flip it over and poke a hole about 6 inches from one corner.
Widen the hole so your tomato fits in it.
Widen the hole so your tomato fits in it.
Plant your tomato and water
Plant your tomato and water

Tomato Growing Tips Video

Tomato Growing Tips | Growing Tomatoes in Florida

Growing tomatoes in Florida has it's own set of challenges, especially in south Florida. You will definitely need a tomato that is resistant to nematodes as well as wilts and viruses. Nematodes are tiny parasitic eelworms that can cause plants to become stunted and wilted and eventually die. Wilts and viruses are diseases that can also cause the plants to wither and die. I've had a lot of problems with them and I live south of Orlando. My father who lives north of Orlando, also has problems but not to the same extent. The way to avoid (or diminish) nematode and disease problems is to plant your tomatoes in containers and/or use a hybrid tomato variety.

If you have a problems with nematodes and decide to grow your tomatoes in pots, use fresh soil every season. You should also use new pots every season or clean your pots with a sterilizing bleach solution. The back of a bleach bottle can tell you how to do it. The sterilizing will kill off the viruses and other diseases that can cause your tomato to die. I've had several plants die even when using new pots and soil, I haven't been able to determine why. So far I've had good luck with growing tomatoes in a bag. The tomatoes in the pictures above are doing well at this point.

Hybrid tomatoes are not some "frankenfood", they're two varieties of tomatoes that have been crossed through pollination. Big Boy and Better Boy are two types of popular hybrid tomatoes. Better Boy is a U.S. favorite that does will in Florida. The University of Florida has a web page specifically on growing tomatoes in Florida. They do suggest that you water tomatoes well, once a week instead of smaller waterings. I haven't had much luck with that when I grow my tomatoes in containers, it's just too hot here in the summer. Even tomatoes in the ground need more water than that in my area. There are tomatoes grown ever further south than my area though, Ruskin, Florida is still a large tomato producing area. So, don't let my experience scare you off though, I have had more successes than failures at container gardening tomatoes in Florida.

Cherry Tomatoes From My Container Garden

These are the juicy red cherry tomatoes on the windowsill before ripening.
These are the juicy red cherry tomatoes on the windowsill before ripening.

Juicy Green Tomatoes

Tomato plants from the bag above, about 3-4 weeks later.
Tomato plants from the bag above, about 3-4 weeks later.

Any Juicy Tomato Comments?

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    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

      I have grown quite a few tomatoes in pots, good info in this hub.

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, glad you stopped by.

    • Wallpaper Queen profile image

      Wallpaper Queen 7 years ago from Malaysia

      I loved tomatoes so much, now i plant them myself and it really taste better than supermarket ones.

      here's my hub on sharing some tips and tricks on growing tomatoes https://hubpages.com/living/how-to-grow-tomatoes...

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, yeah supermarket tomatoes aren't even in the same league.

    • mikethegardener profile image

      mikethegardener 7 years ago from New Jersey

      I love the empty kitty litter bucket trick...I do the same. I also cut the tops off of 1 gallon milk containers, drill 5 holes in the bottom (5/8" diameter) and do some plants in there.

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      The milk container is a good one, I've seen one somewhere on making your own seed starters out of newspaper. There's really no need to buy containers unless you're going for something really fancy.

    • profile image

      Marty 7 years ago

      You can plant Sweet Basil with you tomatoes to produce more flavor and deter pests.

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Marty, after the last cold snap my Sweet Basil died, I've been waiting for some seeds to come up, after it goes to seed it grows everywhere. I may need to get another plant.

    • profile image

      pops 7 years ago

      Thank you for all the great container tips. We live in northern Illinois with small deck. We have drilled numerous holes into our containers but notice that our tomato plant leaves are turning yellow. We water each mourning. Do you think we may be overwatering ?

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      It could be overwatering you could maybe try every other day mine do ok even in the hot weather. Leaves can turn yellow for other reasons too, It could be they don't have enough nitrogen, I use a water soluble fertilizer, Peters is good if you want to go all organic you could use fish emulsion. There are also viruses and diseases that can wilt your plants too.

    • barb2082 profile image

      barb2082 7 years ago from Amsterdam/Chicago

      well done, great info

    • britishbirdlover profile image

      britishbirdlover 7 years ago from London, UK

      Fantastic hub full of useful information. And I really enjoyed your photos. Thanks for sharing.

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Glad you like the photos, check out my Spring Flowers hub, that's my parents garden, and it's just a small sampling. My father does it all himself.

    • profile image

      Lori G 7 years ago

      I would love more feedback on growing tomatoes in the soil bag..I spend a fortune on containers and would love a cheap way out Thank you

    • west40 profile image

      west40 7 years ago from Canandaigua, NY

      Thanks for the information - I think many of us are glad we grow our own tomato's after the prices started shooting up. I plant my tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in hanging buckets - leaves more room in the garden for beans, pea's and corn

    • vegetablegarden profile image

      vegetablegarden 7 years ago from New England

      In all the years I've been gardening I never thought of growing right out of the bag...super idea and fun too.

      I'll be trying the bag idea this year for sure.

      thanks for taking the hard labor out of gardening!

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 7 years ago

      Yeah, my dad taught me that trick, if you'd really like to see a gardener that knows what he's doing take a look at my hub "Spring Flowers in Bloom".

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Grow them in a bag of dirt, that is such a good tip! Those big containers can be expensive.

    • AutumnFitz profile image

      AutumnFitz 6 years ago

      Nice hub! I never thought to grow tomatoes out of a bag. That's sort of like pouring milk into those little cereal boxes and eating out of them. These methods seem to shield against many pests also. Do you still use a bug spray when planting with these methods? I just came across this organic spray online since I have to get rid of some aphids:

      http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care/5085. It gets rid of a lot of different types of bugs.

    • profile image

      peiorevuelta 6 years ago

      Tomatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are quickly growing plants and are favorite among most amateur gardeners so as me.

      I will start to grow tomatoes in my farm and now learning watever i can about them, thanks for information. I also

      found another good site about tomatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.

      http://agricultureguide.org/

    • ASFA123 profile image

      ASFA123 6 years ago

      something so much interseting.

    • profile image

      HELP USED MIRACLE GRO GARDEN SOIL 6 years ago

      I planted 4 tomato plants in MG Garden Soil in 5 gallon buckets (each), with multiple holes drilled, pot shards in the bottom, planted according to instructions on plant, used cages. Have tomato's forming. NOW I FIND OUT THAT THE SOIL IS NOT FOR CONTAINERS. This was a month ago. When I water, the water does "pee" out the bottom. Should I be worrying?

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 6 years ago

      ASFA, I wouldn't worry too much about it, if tomatoes are forming then you're fine. If the water leaks out the bottom that's normal, that's why you put holes in the containers.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 6 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Great piece. I think I will start sterilizing my pots, via your advice. It would be sad to loose a crop by overlooking this easy advice.

      Thank You.

    • profile image

      ARLENE 6 years ago

      HI DAVID. I HAVE ALL MY PLANTS IN 5 GAL BUCKETS BECAUSE OF OUR WATER SITUATION. QUESTION.I HAVE ONE TOM PLANT THAT HAS WRINKLED FRUITS ON IT THEY LOOK LIKE SOMETHING YOU PICKED AND LEFT ON YOUR COUNTER FOR SEVERAL DAYS WHAT`S UP. EVERYTHING ELSE IS OK. I LIVE IN NEW MEXICO ELEVATION 7900 ft.

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 6 years ago

      Arlene, it sounds like it could be lack of water, it's too hot to grow tomatoes here in Florida at the moment, I'm sure it's hot and dry in NM too. There are also some parasites that will cause this, but I'd guess it probably the watering.

    • profile image

      Plastic Greenhouse Guy 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed your Hub David, its true you can grow tomatoes in literally any container, I grow several varieties each year and most of the time do so in buckets or large margarine tubs, they're so easy and produce lovely fresh fruit with very little know how!

    • profile image

      Brenda 6 years ago

      I am about to try container tomatoe planting, but every year my plants grow nicely and have green tomatoes on the vine, then some kind of worm starts eating the tomatoe. what can I do to prevent this worm?

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 6 years ago

      There are commercial pesticides that will work, but try looking at my hub on Organic Pest Control. https://hubpages.com/living/Natural-Pest-Control-f...

    • profile image

      container vegetable gardening 6 years ago

      Hi David, What would you recommend is the best course of action for out tomato plants for winter if we don't have a green house? The are in containers and so moveable. Thanks.

    • kimbrewaa profile image

      kimbrewaa 6 years ago

      Great info! I am going to try my hand at growing this year and I had no idea that you could actually grow right from the bag!! GREAT! Thank you for all the useful tips..vote up, useful, awesome!

    • profile image

      Cynthia prater 6 years ago

      Liked the idea of growing tomatoes in a bag. how many

      tomato plants could you grow in a 1 cu ft, bag,

      should this be garden soil and not potting soil

    • David Verde profile image
      Author

      David Verde 5 years ago

      I'd think one tomato plant per 1 cubic foot would be about right, roughly the size of a three gallon pot per plant. Potting or garden soil should work.

    • almasi profile image

      almasi 5 years ago

      Thanks for an awesome hub. I am now inspired to grow tomatoes in a bag.

    • profile image

      Wooden Greenhouse 5 years ago

      No doubt about it, growing your own tomatoes is the way forward! Thanks for the info David, great hub. I'm going to try growing right from bags, normally i drop my plug plants into the ground, but lets see! Thanks

    • profile image

      heritage seeds 5 years ago

      Interesting post and thanks for sharing. Some things in here I have not thought about before.Thanks for making such a cool post which is really very well written.will be referring a lot of friends about this.Keep blogging

    • profile image

      DoruP51 5 years ago

      Thank you for such a wondeful idea growing tomatoes.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      Thanks for this very informative hub. I´ll try planting tomatoes in the bags. It´s a good idea. Voted up and useful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mr Deltoid 1966 profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Black Tomatoes are the best.....nice hub, thanks

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      You make a good point, it is not about how the pot looks, it is about the tomato taste.

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