How To Grow Tomatoes Successfully in Containers

How To Grow Tomatoes Successfully in Containers

Tomatoes are by far the most popular garden vegetable in Canada. They are easily grown just about anywhere, and they love sun and heat.  You may think you need a backyard garden to have successful tomato plants, but this is not true.  All you really need is a little space and creativity. If you are strapped for space but love tomatoes, there are still ways how to grow tomatoes successfully in containers. The two most popular methods are half barrels and the relatively new Upside-Down Tomato Planters.

The half barrel is a great choice for growing tomatoes.  It is wide and deep enough to support a good healthy tomato plant.  Drainage is extremely important when growing tomatoes in a container.  Drill 7 or 8 half-inch holes in the bottom of the barrel to ensure good drainage.  Line the bottom of the barrel with a garden fabric to stop the soil from escaping. Add a layer of gravel to keep the drainage holes free from debris. Fill the container with an organic vegetable & herb mix. We recommend PRO-MIX Organic Vegetable & Herb Mix.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require a generous quantity of nutrient-rich soil. Use a good organic fertilizer formulated specifically for tomatoes. We recommend either:

An Upside-Down Tomato Planter allows you to maximize the vertical space of your growing area.  Fill it with the same quality soil mix as above and plant your favourite tomato variety into it. There is no staking with this method as gravity does all the work for you, air circulates freely around the plant and watering is done from above and wicks down into the roots.


Now that we have a couple ways to grow our tomato plants, we must choose a variety. With several hundred varieties of tomatoes grown across Canada choosing the varieties that best suit you and your growing conditions can be a little daunting. However, here are some suggestions:

How To Grow Tomatoes Successfully in Containers

Bush Varieties: The bush varieties of tomatoes work well in containers and are popular with container gardeners.

Cherry Varieties: Cherry tomatoes and Grape tomatoes work well also because of their size and are good for growing when there is limited space.
Determinate Varieties: Most tomato plants labeled “determinate” are suitable for growing in 5 gallon size or larger containers. Plant tags and seed packages will indicate whether a tomato is “determinate”, or “indeterminate”. Determinate tomato plants are varieties that grow to a fixed mature size and ripen all their fruit in a short period, usually about 2 weeks. These varieties are great if you’ll be canning or making batches of tomato sauce.
Indeterminate Varieties: Most “indeterminate” tomato plants grow much larger and will require a 10 gallon size or larger container. Indeterminate tomato plants are actually vines that continue growing in length throughout the growing season. Also referred to as “vining” tomatoes, indeterminate tomato varieties will also continue to set and ripen fruit until killed off by frost.


Blight is a common disease to tomatoes. It thrives in warm, humid conditions.  The first line of defense against this disease is to support tomato plants to keep the foliage off the soil.  A favourite method of support is the spiral tomato stake.  There is no ‘tying’ of tomatoes on the stake and twisting the plant around the spiral is fast and easy.

Maintain good air circulation through the tomato plant by removing suckers which grow between the main stem and the branch, as often as twice a week when plants are actively growing. Remember that all tomatoes love direct sun and lots of heat.

One of the best things you can do to grow the most flavorful tomatoes involves companion planting. This means planting plants side by side that benefit each other in one way or another. There are several plants that are good companions for tomatoes but one actually improves the flavor. That plant is Basil.  The aroma of basil also deters many tomato pests so that the plant can concentrate on flowering and fruit production.
It is also good to spray tomatoes with a natural pest deterrent. Here’s a good natural pest deterrent you can make yourself:
In a jar, combine 1 teaspoon dish washing liquid and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake vigorously. In an empty spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons of this mixture and 1 cup water. Use at ten-day intervals (or more often if needed) to rid plants of whiteflies, mites, aphids, scales, and other pests. See, that’s easy, less expensive, and safe!
Give it a try – and have fun!

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