For gardening enthusiasts, cultivating tomatoes in containers is always a pleasant and rewarding experience. However, the results can also be disastrous. Failure can occur for reasons beyond your control (e.g., tomato blight, unpredictable climatic conditions, etc.). Still, some common mistakes (made even by experienced gardeners) may also be the cause.
The following are some mistakes you should learn to avoid in order to improve your chances of getting a good harvest from your container tomato garden.
Using containers that are too small
When growing tomatoes in containers, you want to use the biggest containers you can find. Larger containers hold more soil, which holds water more effectively. Moreover, more soil translates to more nutrients for your tomatoes. A consistent supply of food and water is important for growing healthy tomatoes and obtaining rewarding harvests.
Using too much or too little water
As mentioned above, it is imperative that you water your tomato plants adequately. Too much water will drown the plants; too little water leads to blossom end rot. Generally, an inconsistent supply of water results in stressed plants, split tomatoes and blossom end rot. It is therefore important to maintain a consistently balanced moisture level that is damp rather than wet.
Maintaining this level of moisture in your soil is not easy if you’re using regular planters instead of self-watering planters. If you’re using regular planters, check whether the soil is damp before adding more water. This is done by putting your finger about an inch or two into the soil – about the length from the tip of your finger to your second knuckle. If the soil feels dry to the tip of your finger, add more water.
Proper drainage is paramount when learning how to grow tomatoes. Your pot should have large holes at the bottom to drain out excess water. Use “pot feet” if your planter is on a non-porous surface such as your patio. To ensure that all the roots, including the ones at the bottom of the planter, get watered, add water until it begins to drain out of the bottom. For the best results, however, use self-watering pots.
The right amount of water for your tomato plants depends on the weather among other things. The potting soil type, planter size, humidity, heat and wind all determine how frequently you need to water your tomato plants. A large tomato plant might need to be watered once or twice a day by mid-season. Make sure the soil is properly soaked when watering the plants. Avoid wetting the leaves because this may result in fungus.
Don’t bother using expensive water crystals. In any case, some tests have shown that they are not effective enough to justify the cost.
Caging or staking too late
This is among the most common mistakes. Your tomatoes may grow faster than you realize and by them time you think about caging or staking them, they’re already too big. It is always a good idea to install your stakes or cages before the plants become too big.