When I started growing tomatoes my Grandma told me not to put grass clippings on them as they do not like so much nitrogen. She advised using coffee grounds or tea bags for the mulch. She also added calcium by way of finely ground egg shells. She said blossom rot is often caused by lack of calcium. She also fed them with Epsom salts that have magnesium sulfate in them which helps with the chlorophyll process. The plants will grow greener and healthier with these basics. You can buy the calcium at the nursery, but I recycle our shells.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots
Since I had my Grandma, the master gardener, start me I have learned much more about growing tomatoes. That is part of the fun of gardening, all the learning and growing with the fruit of your labors. Here you can see the blossoms and the start of fruit as well as the healthy green leaves. I will save the lesson on suckers, pruning, and starting fresh plants from suckers for another tutorial. Also, watch out for nurseries that use insecticides, it will kill your bees!
When we first started using planters or pots I would get lots of blossoms and very little fruit. For every 10 blooms, I might see 3 or 4 tomatoes. I learned the hanging blossoms can self-pollinate with a little encouragement. Notice the blooms hang down. Using your fingers gently do an act like the fingers are "walking" against a bloom, barely bumping it in a gentle way. I tried to get a video but my camera messed up. It isn't difficult and you will see more fruit if you do not leave all the pollinating to the bees. Now I have close to 100% of my blossoms making fruit.
It is so exciting to see so much more fruit coming on and more blossoms too. Our garden is behind most the country because we live in a higher elevation and have a shorter growing season, but we do see many more tomatoes now. These are my cherry tomatoes.
Next year I plan to start a dozen or more potted tomatoes to make salsa and eat fresh organic fruit all summer and fall. If you start with seeds, the Dollar stores have fewer seeds in a packet at 4 packets for $1, but they are good seeds that do grow, unlike other department store seeds.
Tomatoes love heat but need lots of water that drains out the bottom. Do not set their pot in a tub of water to absorb unused water. They need the drainage. If you want to save the drainage water, let it leak into another container and pour that water on other plants in the garden. If the leaves curl around the edges your plant may not have enough drainage or may need to be watered more often in the heat of summer.
My first ripe cherry tomatoes! One other new lesson this year was growing determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Determinates will get a certain size and stop. They produce for a set amount of time. However, indeterminates will grow all through the season and get bigger until the fall frost and produce as long as they grow. The label will tell you which type you are buying.
My farmer friends from Iowa told me one last trick about tomatoes. If you live where the hard frost is coming and you have fruit on the vine that is not quite ripe, you can pull them up by the roots and hang them upside down from the rafters in the garage or basement. They will finish ripening and be sweeter than if you just pick them to avoid frost.
- Planter pots (Dollart Tree or on hand)
- Tomatoe starters (nursery from home improvement)
- Epsom Salts (Grocery store or home improvement)