Container Tomato Gardening – How To-sday

May 24, 2011 separator DIY Tutorial

Container Tomato Gardening

I have recently become obsessed with gardening. I don’t really have much in the way of outdoor space, so I generally stick to containers. Today’s tutorial will show you how to grow tomatoes in containers, organic-style. This may seem pretty basic, but I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that I didn’t know during my research.

But first, here are more great gardening posts:

Container Tomato Gardening


  • 3-5+ gallon pot
  • Organic potting soil
  • Organic compost
  • Organic fertilizer mix
  • Young tomato plant
  • Hand spade
  • Marigold plant

1.   Begin by filling your pot with alternating layers of soil and compost. The layers should be around three inches deep. Break up any clumps with your fingers as you go.

2. When you get the pot completely full, use your hands to blend the mixture together a bit, as if you were tossing up a salad.

3.   Add a big handful of your organic soil amendment mix to the top of your soil-compost mixture. I used Espoma’s Garden-tone. Use your hands to work it into the top four inches of soil mix.
3.   Cradle your tomato seedling around the base with one hand. Flip it over, and gently squeeze the little pot while wiggling it back and forth. Your plant should slide out pretty easily without any tugging or pulling. I used three varieties of tomatoes, one per pot, based on their maturity date so that I will have ripe tomatoes throughout the season. Mine are Early Girl, Sweet 100 Cherry, and Better Boy.
5.   Gently loosen the root ball to encourage it to grow outward, rather than in the shape of its little pot. Just squeeze it with your fingers in a few places to break it up gently.
6.   Use your little spade to dig a small well out for your tomato plant. This next bit will seem counterintuitive but will help a lot in the long run. Snip off the first set of leaves, and plant the tomato in all the way up to the lowest set. You can see this in the picture by where I’ve got my fingers. Tomatoes grow roots out of their stems, so this will enable your little seedling to grow a much stronger root network.
7.   Tuck it in all the way up to that lowest set of leaves, and then gently press the soil down around it, being sure not to pack it down too tightly.
8.   Pot a little marigold plant or two into the edges of the pot if you’d like. The marigold serves as a natural form of pest control, repelling a great variety of bugs.
9.   If you’re growing multiple varieties, be sure to mark each plant so that you can tell them apart later. Go put your new baby in a full-sun area, and keep it watered!


  1. Worms DO attack tomato plants. Next year, place aluminum foil about an inch around the stem, after planting them.
    They so eat the leaves, which give nutrients to the roots. Then the roots cannot enrich the tomatoes.
    Hope this helps.

  2. I container gardened a lot when I lived in my apartment. I loved it, until one day I went out on the balcony, saw my kale and thought “the leaves look really bizarre and curly”. Only when I got a closer look did I notice it was about 1-2cm THICK in aphids! It was so so disgusting

  3. I have had container tomatoes for several years. Last year I got these awful worms laying eggs everywhere. Someone told me they were called cutworms.
    Any advice?

    1. Cutworms live just under the soil and come out and chew the plant off at the soil level. To control, use a barrier, like a toilet paper roll. Just 2″ will protect the base of the plant.

      If the worms are on the stems, you can pick them off. They are green and difficult to see. Or you can just snip them with scissors.

      1. Thanks for sharing this tip, Diana. I hadn’t thought about the toilet paper roll – brilliant!

  4. Tomato plants also love a combination of crushed eggshells and coffee grounds. I keep a small bucket in the laundry room to empty my coffee grounds and egg shells into. I mix them together and when planting I amend the potting mix with the grounds and shells. Lots of good nutrient rich food to get those little seedlings started.

  5. If you add a banana peel once in a while it helps, gives potassium and a piece of ‘rebar’ , just stick it in beside the plant, provides iron.
    In my garden…for plants that would be larger (like tomato) I would use a 3″, 3 ft PVC pipe, insert one ft in the ground and use it to water…just fill up the PVC pipe. Marigolds work well and I look forward to trying container gardening this year…thank you!

  6. Good morning!! I found your blog and I liked it very much!! So I decide to follow you!! Your work is fantastic!! Best regards from Greece!!

  7. I’m a plant novice, I had no idea Marigold’s would keep a lot of pests away! Thanks for the tip! 🙂

  8. Lindsay,

    When dealing with a large container, I have kept all those annoying peanuts that come in packing and will put a layer of them in the bottom before I add all the potting mixture. I have a couple of rubber tubs and with those, I add empty plastic water bottles to the bottom.

    Both of these have no adverse effect on the plants and make it much easier to move the containers around. Always a good idea if a hurricane comes up or if you move to an new abode.

    Trisha who has some tomatoes already on the vines. Yeah!!

    1. That’s so smart, and I can definitely relate about hurricane season or moving!

  9. ooh we just planted some over the weekend, out on our back porch. i REALLY hope they survive and start growing!

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