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Shh, Secret Potting Mix Formula for Growing Great Tomatoes

Updated on July 27, 2015
Mickie Gee profile image

Mickie Gee is a retired librarian and a grandmother. She learned all her book-repair tricks on the job or in the kitchen!

How I grew great tomatoes in containers and pots!

I have found a plan for growing great tomatoes in pots!

The potting mix I used in past container gardens was a mixture of a bag of topsoil and a bag of cow manure with some garden calcium mixed in. Even though I had added the calcium, I was constantly fighting blossom end rot! In spite of the problem with the end rot, it was a good year and I made lots of tomato sandwiches !

I am trying to repeat the success of my first container grown tomatoes, but am I changing up the potting mixture to one developed by Classic Gardens and Landscape in Center Point, AL. Their "Tomato program" is famous nation wide! The program has a secret formula, so I cannot give you the exact recipe here. I will tell you as much as I feel comfortable with. If you live in Alabama, you can visit this garden center and purchase the ingredients.

Read about Mike and Ann Pender. He is Classic Gardens and Landscape!

An Alabama Native should know how to grow great tomatoes!

If you need to know exactly what tomato plants I used, please visit My Small Vegetable Garden.

All but one of the Images of tomatoes belong to me unless otherwise stated:

Tomatoes from my garden. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

NOTE: this page was written a few years ago. I try to update it about one time a year, so some of the product links might not lead you to items that are currently in stock. The information shared, though, is timeless.

Estimated Cost of my Container Tomatoes:

I spent approximately $50 on the ingredients for the potting mixture.

I got my tomato plants from a local supplier. They were under $4 each.

What I used in the pots for growing my tomatoes: - Gardening in pots--easy but do your research!

Mix all the Ingredients listed in the recipe below. Put it in a 10 Gallon Container.

Plant your tomatoes -- usually one or two plants per pot. I am trying two plants. I water daily in the morning being careful not to get moisture on the leaves of the plants. (see my other page Tomato Planting Tips)

Remember, this is formula belongs to Classic Garden and Landscape.

Keeping Tomatoes in the Fridge is a not recommended!

The wooden (monkeypod) leaf shaped bowl in the picture above is from the Philippines. My parents purchased it when we lived there in the 1960s. It is where I keep all my tomatoes after they are picked.

As promised, here is the recipe for the containers:

  1. 40 lb bag Ultimate Potting Mix not "soil".
  2. 1 1lb container Fertilome Start-n-grow Premium Plant Food

    (I love this product! and I use it on everything I plant in soil!!)

  3. One 4lb bag Fertilome Tomato and Vegetable Food

    Great fertilizer, but it is not organic!

  4. A Gallon size Baggie of Classic Garden and Landscape secret calcium mixture (It looks like a mixture of fertilizers.) THIS IS THE REALLY SECRET PART! The ingredients in the bag are a mystery! If you do not live in Alabama and cannot talk the good people at Classic Gardens into sending you the secret calcium formula, you might add this fertilizer (click to see my review for it) Dynamite Tomato and Plant Food. Also be sure to use a garden lime additive. Lime (unless the soil is already alkaline), composted manures or bone meal will supply calcium but take time to work so must be applied prior to planting.

    I would also recommend Fertilome Ready to Use Yield Spray.

  5. 1 Soil Moist 3-Ounce Bag.

    (or use instructions on the container of Soil Moist)

    Mix above 5 ingredients together--thoroughly.

  6. Plant your tomatoes (see Tomato Planting and Growing Tips) and top with mulch. (I have been known to use grass clippings)
  7. Use a Blossom-End Rot Control spray. I use a Ferti-lome product, but any blossom end rot spray would probably do the trick. This was recommended by Mr. Pender, as well. As of June 21st, no blossom end rot has occurred.

Creative Containers for growing tomatoes: - 10 Gallon size for growing 2 tomato plants

Remember to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the containers or tubs that you purchase. I like to use coffee filters over the holes to keep the potting mixture from coming out of the containers. You can put an inch of stone in the bottom for drainage, if you like.

Behrens 1GS 11 Gallon Round Galvanized Steel Tub
Behrens 1GS 11 Gallon Round Galvanized Steel Tub

I have seen many galvanized tubs used for growing all kinds of plants.


You are allowed to use pretty containers to grow vegetables!

TubTrug SP42PST Large Pistacio Flex Tub, 38 Liter
TubTrug SP42PST Large Pistacio Flex Tub, 38 Liter

A Pretty alternative to ceramic pots. Remember to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the container.


Blossom End Rot is a problem for container grown tomatoes!

Blossom End Rot is a problem for container grown tomatoes!
Blossom End Rot is a problem for container grown tomatoes!

How to Prevent Blossom End Rot! - add calcium to the soil in the container

Lime (calcium) is essential to preventing blossom end rot when growing any vegetable in a container or pot.

Green Light 14816 Blossom-End Rot Control
Green Light 14816 Blossom-End Rot Control

This product helps correct the calcium deficiency in your potting mix.


Fertilizing Container Tomatoes:

Mr. Pender recommends applying 1 cup of Fertilome Tomato and Vegetable food per pot after the fourth week. Apply every 7 days.

Water plants before and after applying the fertilizer to minimize burn.

Fresh Food From Small Spaces--I Highly Recommend this book! - An alternative method for growing vegetables in pots

I read this book and it has a lot of great ideas for the small vegetable gardener. It actually disagrees with the method I am using now.

I don't mind, though. I consider this year's crop from pots a "growing" experience. I am learning something new every day about vegetable gardening. I am also being open-minded. After all, I am no expert.

Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting
Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting

This book shares some great ideas for growing vegetables in the city. There are ideas that people with yards can use, too.


Tomato Gardening Supplies:

Here is a list of products I would recommend that you use for growing tomatoes in pots. I have used the products listed below with great success.

FYI: I get a small commission if you purchase a product from this webpage at Amazon.

Delicious vegetables start with Healthy Plants! Plant the best looking plants you can find.

What I learned about growing tomatoes in pots can be written in FOUR sentences.

#1: Use a highly recommended fertilizer product for producing lots of fruit and beautiful plants.

#2: Spray container vegetables with a blossom end rot formula or make sure there is plenty of calcium in the soil.

#3: If you must grow tomatoes in a pot, buy plants that are labeled "Great in a Container" or "Patio" tomato.

#4: Place containers in sun--plants should get at least 6hrs.

That is about it.

What is your secret?

What Is Your Secret Formula for growing vegetables in a container? - How does your tomato garden grow?

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    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      Hi, Mickie! I thought I had liked this lens a year or two ago, but apparently not. So, I'm back visiting again. I have pinned it to my Pinterest board entitled, Gardening Tips.

    • sha-ron profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens, I had a bad year for tomatoes this year. Very little rain did not help.

    • DawnRae64 profile image


      5 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Nice lens. I got a late start with my tomatoes on my new balcony, but they are doing great. I'm on the lookout for good ideas fand i found some here. thank you.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      6 years ago

      @GardenerDon: I lived in CO for three years and never was successful with tomatoes. The South is a great place for gardens--except when it gets too hot (believe it or not, tomatoes do not like it too hot) and there is a drought like last year.

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 

      6 years ago

      Sadly we get really cool nights here on the Prairies, and it's tough to get tomatoes growing successfully - even in pots. Some years they grow well enough, so I always try a few

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      6 years ago

      @JimHofman: Yes, do add calcium. I use agricultural lime.

    • geosum profile image


      6 years ago

      Can't have a garden where we live - but we sure could put out a pot or two.

    • JimHofman profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting lens with great photos! I'll try adding calcium to the soil this year. Thanks for the good advice.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I appreciate your detailed advice and wonderful pictures! Homegrown tomatoes are the very best!

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      6 years ago

      @RinchenChodron: If you are thinking about growing tomatoes, then you need to check out my Tomato Growing Tips page here on Squidoo. I show you step by step how to plant tomatoes in the ground or in a pot.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've never grown tomatoes. Great job on this lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      An awesome lens. Thanks for the information.

    • CarrieM925 profile image


      6 years ago

      These tips look great. Going to give them a try for our tomatoes this year.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I will be growing toms in pots next season, so will try some of the tips here. Thanks!

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      6 years ago

      @CatJGB: Don't forget the lime in those containers. That is the most important element in container growing tomatoes.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      6 years ago

      @InfoCoop: Good luck with those tomatoes. I found that "Mater Magic" is a good organic fertilizer to use.

    • InfoCoop profile image


      6 years ago

      Good info. Maybe I can get my tomatoes to thrive as well as your do.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 

      6 years ago

      Your tips about growing tomatoes are really great!

    • MayaIxchel profile image


      7 years ago

      Great info! I am always looking for a way to get better tomatoes from our terrace garden. Thanks! Greetings from 'the land of eternal spring'!

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      7 years ago

      @Melissa Miotke: Just remember to use fertilizer and water the plants every morning. Sunshine for 6 hours is highly recommended.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Great lens. We started growing tomatoes but our last "crop" we only got one very small tomato. Hopefully we'll get better as we go!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thanks for sharing. a lot of great information on this lens!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your tomato secrets! Everybody loves a homegrown tomato. Our crop last year was a little on the lacklustre side... hoping for bushels and bushels to grill, stuff, and enjoy straight off the vine this year!

    • Mariajomith profile image


      7 years ago

      great lens, i will be sharing these tips with my husband, the green thumb in our family

    • BubblesRFun profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens and I hope my tomatoes are awesome this summer....

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What awesome info here! Blessed by a SquidAngel for this extremely useful lens! :)

    • jenniferteacher1 profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm just planting my first balcony "garden" in my apartment. I hope my tomatoes come out-- I'll have to find some fertilizer with calcium!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 

      7 years ago

      I have had tomatoes for a couple of years now with very disappointing results. Lots of growth but little fruit. I am going to pay more attention to the nutrients this year. Thanks for your article.

    • PuttinUpWithSuzy profile image


      7 years ago

      This is great! I want to grow tomatoes this year for my husband and daughter, who love tomatoes. I use them a lot in canning, plus I want to make ketchup and bbq sauce this year, so I need lots of tomatoes!

    • martyp lm profile image

      martyp lm 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Tried my hands at growing cherry tomatoes last year and was disappointed. Going to try your blend this year. Thanks!

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Good luck, AJ! I wish I had a greenhouse so I could grow tomatoes all year long. We do have cool winters here in the southeastern USA.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't use any special compost other than one from our local garden centre. However, I do have to grow my tomatoes in a plastic greenhouse because the vagaries of the English weather mean we could still have the occasional frost in April. Most years my tomatioes do OK and coincidentally I just bought some small plants today!

    • Xine profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens - great ideas we will have to try.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i learned from your lens. thanks for sharing. i hope my tomatoes grow this time.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i learned from your lens. thanks for sharing. i hope my tomatoes grow this time.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      7 years ago

      @DiscoverWithAndy: Thank you for your kind comment.

    • DiscoverWithAndy profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, really great lens! I can't believe that this isn't a featured lens. When I look at some of the garden lenses on the homepage and compare with yours, your lens is way, WAY better - hands down!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens. Container garden is really great and efficiently uses space.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      The secret is in the sauce. Well said Thanks for a great looking lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @Anthony Altorenna: The tips are great! I do have one contribution though: I save egg shells during the winter and crush them as they dry out. Once my tomatoes start showing fruit, I use them as top dressing. They add calcium as they dissolve, slow but steady. I've been growing tomatoes (all kinds!) in 5 gal buckets with holes drilled around the bottom edge for about 8 years, and we always have more than I can fit in the freezer!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The best cure ever for blossom end rot: Save egg shells all winter, crush them and use as top dressing for the soil as soon as fruit begins to form. You can start sooner but do need to keep it up until fruit is fully grown, no quitting when the tomatoes are half sized.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      8 years ago from Connecticut

      Great advice! I never knew why my container grown tomatoes developed blossom end rot. Thank you for the helpful tips!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      8 years ago from Washington KS

      This is a really helpful lens. All our attempts to grow tomatoes in containers have failed.

      The info here may just help us have success.

    • MomTips profile image


      8 years ago

      growing tomatoes ,I will do it..Great lens!!!Thank you!

    • sousababy profile image


      8 years ago

      Dear Mickie_G,

      Thank you so very much for your question on my 'Brilliant Inventions you need NOW' lens about the balcony planter. I would like to say 'yes' to growing tomato plants in it, BUT depending on the size. (Also, if you were living very high up with the larger variety of Beefsteak tomatoes, not sure if neighbors below would like that in high winds). Since tal191 actually owns one (I do not have a balcony), I put the question to her. Given your expertise, you may wish to contact her yourself via her Bio page at:

      I'd really like you to express your needs to someone who has one. For sure, I don't think larger tomato plants would do well in it.



    • CherrrieB profile image


      8 years ago

      I love growing tomatoes and it's a must have every year for the garden. Thanks for sharing such nice photos of your garden

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      This lens made me happy. Growing tomatoes was my dad's passion. He always had the best tomato garden in the universe. Of course, at the time I did not appreciate eating tomatoes for every meal! Now I would be thrilled to be able to go back in time and enjoy every single bite of those amazing tomatoes. I'm going to use your tips to grow tomatoes in tribute of my dad. :-) Thank you!

    • kathysart profile image


      8 years ago

      I really appreciate your tips and am going to use them this summer when I plant tomatoes, YAY. Happy day, Kathy

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 

      8 years ago

      As an ex farmer it was lovely to see you make use of such a novel idea. I bet you had a lot of fun and they sure taste, tastier when they are your own? Terrific lens and I loved the photos.

    • Asinka profile image

      Asinka Fields 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Loved your lens. So well presented. It will help me when I pot my tomato plants for this summer ...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Home grown tomatoes are the best:)

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      8 years ago from Kansas

      I love homegrown tomatoes, but I'm the only one in my family that will eat them. I always plant at least one plant, and give away the ones I can't eat. Will have to try growing mine in a pot. Thanks for the info.

    • Mayapearl profile image


      8 years ago

      I am about to plant some tomatoes, I already have the seedlings and will put them into pots to protect them from the ever hungry wildlife [bush turkeys, wallabies etc]

      The ones that grow ever so well here are the cherry tomatoes.

      Great lens, thumbs up.

    • The-Java-Gal profile image


      8 years ago

      Great tips for tomatoes. This was my first year for container tomatoes, and they got off to a really bad start from windstorm damage when I was away from home. It took them over a month to recuperate, but I am now enjoying the harvest. I will be better prepared for next spring.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      This year I will be growing my tomatoes in pots, but I'm trying those upside down pots. I just love fresh homegrown tomatoes

    • AlisonMeacham profile image


      8 years ago

      I couldn't plant tomatoes earlier this year as I was traveling quite a bit but now I am back home I really need to get around to planting some more.

    • puzzlerpaige profile image


      8 years ago

      Your tomatoes are simply beautiful. I wish I had a secret to share. I have used a wide variety of mixes in my pots and they usually do very well. Black Kow is VERY popular here. In Florida, my main problem is bugs!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just started my container gardening and trying to grow tomatoes as well. Added this lens to my lensroll so I can find it easyly. Great tips, thank you

    • LoKackl profile image


      9 years ago

      A fabulous "How-To" lens. Congratulations on da purple STAR!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      9 years ago from Covington, LA

      This fabulous lens has been featured on Nature at Its Best Blog ( )

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      @Karicor: I use a commercial insecticidal soap product for pests. If that does not work I go find a safe insecticide that reads "safe for use up to harvest". Sometimes one must be drastic to save those wonderful fruits.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      @WindyWintersHubs: Thanks Windy!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      9 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congratulations on your Purple Star!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I really enjoyed seeing your great Tomatoes in Pots. Wonderful lens and very informative. Great Photos. Congrats on your purple star. I am trying to grow one upside down this year. Lensrolling this to my Tomato Pie Recipe lens.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I have successfully grown a lot of tomatoes in pots out of sheer ignorance. They worked in pots even though they might have worked better in the raised beds. Most were cherry types, but I've also grown Anna Russian and Roma in pots and even larger plants. i'm going to lensrolls this to my lens: My Tomatoes Were Hit by a Late Frost in April.

    • Karicor profile image


      9 years ago

      Your tomato plants look great! I've had good luck with cherry tomatoes which grew like weeds and produced so much fruit we had to give them away. Then they were plagued by some kind of pests and I didn't want to spray them with chemicals. Thanks for sharing your tips, I'll give them a try!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice tomatoes. I would love to grow them. Thanks for the information. 5*

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      9 years ago

      Awesome! I'm going to add this link to my new lens, The Kitchen Garden.


    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      @spunkyduckling: I have had trouble with my pepper plants! The tomatoes did pretty well until the beginning of October. I still have a few tomato and pepper plants with buds today-November 16th. That is the south for you.

    • spunkyduckling profile image


      9 years ago

      I used to do gardening as a teenager but can't remember any's been so long ago! Really nice organized gallery of tomatoes. Thanks makes me think about going back to gardening and I have always loved the idea of plants in a pot-kitchen gardening. Tomatoes are a bit more challenging though than sweet peppers at least in my experience.

    • KOrazem profile image

      Seeking Pearls 

      9 years ago from Pueblo West

      I have to share this lens with my Dad. He is the vegetable gardener and I am sure would love your recipe. The photo of your tomatoes is beautiful. Lensrolled this back to Container Gardening. Wonderfully informative lens.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      [in reply to Les] My garage and drive are on the southern side of the house. However, I think your suggestion about the pots not getting enough afternoon sun is a valid one. Next year, though, I am probably not going to grow anything but "patio" or "cherry" tomatoes in my pots.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      is it possible the tomato plants that were located next to the house and garage were not getting enough sunlight? Tomato plants like red, orange light for fruiting, and you may not be getting much since most of the red, orange light comes from late afternoon or early evening sun. By that time the sun is being blocked by your house and garage. They will be very green and lush but wont fruit without sufficient afternoon/evening sun.

    • MikkiGVee profile image


      10 years ago

      Loved this lens and how you have the pics rotating to show the new growth. There's nothing like the taste of a freshly sliced tomato in the summer.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      I particularly like that slide show! An excellent lens....and perfect for rolling to two of my own.

    • AppalachianCoun profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens. Thank-you for the tips and the progress pics.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very good advice here and great pictures showing your progress.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      My mom used to grow two gardens of fruit and vegetables when I was a kid and the tomatoes were always my favorite. We used to slice them and sprinkle them with a little bit of sugar - maybe that was to get us kids to eat them, but I'd have eaten them anyway! Yum.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      There's no comparison between fresh tomatoes and those you buy from the grocery store. Grow, grow, grow! Very nice lens. :)

    • monarch13 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens! 5 stars and faved.

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      10 years ago

      [in reply to susannaduffy] Believe it or not, there is mulch in the pots. It is a dark, rich color similar to dirt. Mulching is always a good idea, but you have to be careful when using cedar mulch around herbs. Do not let the cedar mulch touch the base of rosemary. I cannot remember where I read this, but trust me on this one.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      They're looking good! I have to cover with mulch otherwise they burn out

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 

      10 years ago

      Your babies look great! I was late getting mine started this year but they look pretty good. I fear this year may not be as good for tomatoes in Alabama as last year. '08 was a dry summer and the moisture seems to be back this year. I'm adding this lens to my new Tiny Tomatoes lens . I'm planning a tomato series.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      love your site, very informative! thanks.. ive twittered it for ya :)

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Are those US brand name products? I wonder how easy it will be to find out the UK equivalents? Excellent lens, will look forward to seeing hoe the tomatoes develop. 5* and a sprinkling of Angel Dust to help the plants along

    • Mickie Gee profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickie Gee 

      10 years ago

      [in reply to Stazjia] Does your apartment have a roof with access? Tomatoes and vegetables need lots of sun and a roof gets plenty!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      10 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Nothing tastes as good as your own home-grown tomatoes. I live in an apartment now with no outside space so can't grow them anymore. Lovely lens.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      10 years ago

      Wow...I just rotate my tomaters with the, very nice lens:)


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