This post has been compensated by WD-40 company. Views and opinions are wholly my own.
Container garden tomatoes can supply you and your family with a bounty of fresh, delicious fruit, for slicing, cooking and canning. Even in the smallest backyard, on the patio or deck you can reap a plentiful harvest. It’s a matter of managing the size of your plants and allowing the energy they’re producing to be channeled into production of tomatoes instead of huge, sprawling vines.
While there are many varieties of tomatoes, there are only two separate types. Tomato plants are classified either as determinate or indeterminate.
My preference is usually indeterminate plants, so we can enjoy fresh tomatoes throughout the growing season and into early fall. This year, I chose two heirloom varieties of indeterminate tomatoes, Beefsteak and Rutgers. I transplanted them into one of my favorite container garden options, self-watering Earth Boxes. I own four of these fantastic garden boxes and two are devoted to tomatoes, this summer.
I’m not going to go into any detail on the best way to transplant tomatoes to your garden, since I’ve already done that post and video. If you have planting questions, I hope you’ll refer to it as you start putting out your tomato plants. But, today I want to specifically focus on how I will be managing the size of these tomato vines, that can grow up to 10 feet, in my garden boxes on the deck. The quantity and quality of tomatoes I can harvest will be amazing, even with the careful controls I’m going to put into place.
I do have a new gardening tip video for you, today, though. And, I hope you’ll watch it BEFORE you start planting your tomatoes, because I think you’re going to want to add this inexpensive and highly effective item to your gardening tool bucket. 🙂 Soap is obviously an important part of garden clean-up AFTER a project is complete, but I’ll bet you’ve never thought to use it like this!
Ok, go get some LAVA Soap under your nails and get those tomatoes planted. I’m about to show you how to keep them the perfect size for your space and still producing tons of fruit. The first few weeks, all your tomato plants’ energy will be going into making new leaves and a stronger, healthier plant. New branches will come off the main stem and fill with leaves. That’s really good, because through photosynthesis, the sun on those leaves is going to help create the food and energy your plant needs to stay healthy and productive. In the place where a new branch begins growing out of the main stem, a v-shaped “crotch” area is formed. “Suckers” often emerge in that space.
When your tomato plants are still small, like mine, the first step in keeping them from becoming overgrown is to watch for “suckers” to form. In my big garden, a sucker would be just another branch on my tomato vine, but in my Earth Boxes, I will be very careful to remove them. If you’re growing indeterminate tomatoes in a container garden, you should remove them, too. There are some other potentially great reasons for removing suckers, besides managing the size of your plant. When plants get overgrown, leaves are shaded by other branches and get less sunlight, which means less food and energy for the plant. Removing suckers means the main stem and side branches are not competing for sunlight and all the energy created in your plant goes into producing larger, healthier fruit.
When the plants are small, I just pinch the suckers off between my thumb and forefinger. Those “pinches” seem to heal more quickly than cuts do, on little plants. As it gets larger, it may take a sharp blade or pruners to remove the sucker stems. Be sure your blade is clean and isinfected, though, so ou don’t risk spreading a disease to your plant, through the cut. Try to prune suckers out of your tomato vine early in the mornings on dry days. That gives the wound all day to heal before the dampness of evening sets in and helps to prevent blights and disaeses.
This also keeps the plant from becoming more heavy and from drooping lower branches down into the soil. As I have mentioned in other posts, it’s critically important to prevent tomato plant leaves from laying in the dirt where they are more likely to come in contact with blights, diseases or fungus. As the plant continues to grow, and eventually sets on fruit, I will prune out all those side stems below the first cluster of tomatoes.
Another common problem as a tomato plant ages is yellowing and drying of the bottom leaves. Prune out those stems, as they develop, as well, so that the plant’s energy continues to be channeled into the healthy foliage and growing fruit.
Once your tomatoes have reached a height where they need extra support, I recommend using zip ties to loosely attach branches to stakes, cages or trellises. I choose a support system that is the height I want to work with in the space that I am growing my vegetables in. In containers, I don’t usually go taller than three, or at most four feet. Once my healthy, indeterminate tomato plants are loaded with foliage and reach the maximum height of their support, I use disinfected pruners to keep foliage trimmed back to that maximum height.
Remember that pruning is for indeterminate varieties of tomatoes. Determinate (bush tomatoes) are not good candidates for pruning because they set all their blooms and fruit at one specific time, and only once, during the growing season. Pruning back your determinate tomato plants can limit your potential harvest.
It’s that simple! I hope you’ll consider trying Container Garden Tomatoes, even if you previously thought you didn’t have enough space!
What other fruits or vegetables have you successfully grown in containers?