Growing patio tomatoes can be rewarding and enjoyable. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you grow tomatoes on your patio.
Cherry tomatoes (i.e. Sweet 100) are not patio tomatoes because they have large, sprawling vines that require pruning and support.
Choose a large container with drainage holes to ensure proper drainage. A container with a capacity of at least 5 gallons is ideal. Make sure the container is sturdy won't easily topple over from the weight of the plant when it's fully grown.
Sunshine and water are everything to tomatoes! Place your pot in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you can position the pot up against a south or southwest facing wall that gives back warmth at night, even better.
Use a high-quality potting mix or a blend specifically formulated for container gardening. Avoid using garden soil alone, as it tends to be heavy and may not provide adequate drainage. A mix of garden soil and container soil with some rich compost and sand mixed in is ideal. You definitely do not want a 'heavy' soil - tomatoes like light soil. Fill the container with the potting mix, leaving a couple of inches of space from the top.
Plant your tomato seedling or plant into a deep hole in the pot, making sure to cover the roots and the bottom two or three inches of stem completely with soil (up to the first/bottom leaves of the plant is good). Pat the soil gently around the plant.
Water the tomato plant thoroughly after planting to settle the soil and ensure good root contact. Water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.
Feed your patio tomato plants with a balanced tomato fertilizer. Fertilize your tomato plants just before or during planting, and again around two weeks before bloom begins, and again when the first tomatoes are small.
Support and Pruning: As the tomato plant grows, it may require support to keep it upright. Place a stake or tomato cage near the plant and gently tie the main stem to the support. Prune the tomato plant by removing the suckers (small shoots) that develop in the leaf axils. This encourages better airflow and helps focus energy on fruit production.
Keep an eye out for common tomato pests such as aphids, caterpillars, and whiteflies. If necessary, use organic pest control methods or insecticidal soaps to manage the pests. Monitor the plant for any signs of diseases like blight or wilt, and promptly remove and destroy any affected leaves or plants to prevent further spread. Here's a pdf all about tomato diseases and disorders.
Harvest tomatoes when they reach their desired color and firmness. Gently twist or cut the fruit from the plant, being careful not to damage the stem or other fruits.
Remember to check the specific care instructions for the tomato variety you choose, as different types may have specific needs. With proper care and attention, you can have a successful patio tomato garden and enjoy a bountiful harvest.