Are you craving the taste of fresh garden tomatoes but lack the room or desire for a full-sized garden? Patio tomatoes are the perfect solution. In this article, we will explore the world of patio tomatoes and discover the best container varieties to grow.
- The Best Tomatoes for Small Spaces
- How to Grow Patio Tomatoes at Home
- Maintaining Your Patio Tomato Plants
- Time to Harvest!
- What to do with all of your Homegrown Patio Tomatoes
The Best Tomatoes for Small Spaces
Patio tomatoes offer a multitude of options, each with its unique flair and taste. Let’s take a look at ten of the best tomatoes to grow on your patio or in a container:
Bush Goliath: These large, tasty tomatoes are perfect for those who want the flavor of garden tomatoes in a small space. They require support such as tomato cages or stakes due to their vigorous growth.
Currant Tomato: If you prefer tiny tomatoes, the currant tomato is the way to go. These small fruits, the size of a currant, come in varieties like Gold Rush and Sweet Pea. They can be grown in containers or staked in the garden.
Tiny Tim Tomato: This compact plant produces small red cherry tomatoes, making it ideal for window sill gardens or small pots. It grows to a height of approximately 18 inches.
Little Bing Cherry Tomato: With its 1-inch diameter fruit, the Little Bing Cherry Tomato is perfect for small spaces. This bush tomato reaches a height of 18-24 inches.
Yellow Canary Tomato: The dwarf Yellow Canary Tomato produces delicious yellow fruits, approximately 1 inch in diameter. It thrives in small pots as small as 7 inches and tolerates lower light levels.
Red Robin: This super dwarf tomato plant grows to about 1 foot in height and produces mild-tasting, approximately 1¼-inch tomatoes. It is perfect for limited space, hanging pots, or indoor growing.
Elfin: Elfin tomatoes are grape-shaped, approximately 1½ inches in length, and known for their crispness and delicious flavor. The mature plant should reach a height of 3 feet.
Sprite: These oval-shaped tomatoes, approximately 1 inch in length, are thin-skinned, incredibly sweet, and a treat to eat on their own. The 3-foot-tall plant produces a high yield.
Red Torch Tomato: Despite its height of 5 feet, the Red Torch Tomato thrives in small gardens and containers. It produces oblong, lightly striped tomatoes measuring 1½ inches long.
Patio Hybrid Tomato: This aptly named tomato variety tops out at 2 feet tall but still yields a considerable number of tomatoes weighing 3-4 ounces. Staking may be necessary.
How to Grow Patio Tomatoes at Home
Growing patio tomatoes is easy and rewarding. You’ll be able to enjoy fresh and flavorful tomatoes within weeks. Here are some essential steps to help you get started:
Choose the Right Pot
Your tomato plant needs sufficient space to spread its roots. Select a medium to a large container with proper drainage holes. For determinate tomatoes, a pot with at least an 18-inch diameter is recommended. Indeterminate tomatoes require a 24-inch diameter pot. Avoid overcrowding by growing only one tomato plant per container.
Start at the Right Time
Patio tomatoes thrive with lots of sunlight, so plan your planting accordingly. Plant your seeds in April for a July to September harvest. If you’re starting later, consider purchasing seedlings from your local garden center. This will give you a head start, and you can plant them in late May or early June.
Choosing Your Soil
Patio tomatoes require nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Opt for lightweight potting garden soil that is rich in phosphorus and potassium, with a pH range of 5.5 – 7.5. Some recommended soil options include Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil, Miracle Grow Potting Mix, and Espoma Organic Potting Mix. You can also add compost or pulverized eggshells to enhance the soil’s nutrients.
Find the Perfect Home for Your Patio Tomato Plant
Tomatoes need plenty of bright sunlight, so choose a location on your patio or in your yard that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Avoid placing your plant under shade, such as large trees or patio roofs. If needed, you can move the container throughout the day to ensure it gets optimal sunlight.
Watering Your Potted Tomato Plant
Proper watering is crucial for healthy tomato plants. Daily watering is often necessary, especially in warmer climates. To determine if your plant needs watering, push your finger about 2 inches into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. Consider using a soil meter for more accurate results.
Fertilizing Your Tomatoes
Feed your tomato plants with a small amount of granular tomato fertilizer every two to three weeks or as instructed. Choose a fertilizer with higher potassium levels than nitrogen or phosphorous. Additionally, compost tea can be used to support the soil and its organisms.
Don’t Forget to Prune Your Plants
To maximize fruit production, prune your patio tomato plants. Pinch off suckers and remove damaged branches below the lowest fruit-bearing branch. This practice improves airflow and reduces the risk of disease.
Maintaining Your Patio Tomato Plants
Continue caring for your patio tomato plants to ensure a successful harvest. Here are a few tips:
Disease and Pests: While most patio tomato varieties are disease-resistant, be vigilant for any discoloration of leaves and remove them immediately. Also, watch out for pests like birds and tomato hornworms, which can damage your tomatoes. Consider using organic caterpillar killer spray or manually picking off pests.
Freezing Temperatures: Protect your plants from freezing temperatures by bringing them indoors, especially during early development. Harvest green tomatoes early and let them ripen indoors away from sunlight.
Time to Harvest!
Harvest your patio tomatoes when they become firm and fully colored. Be diligent in checking your plants daily, as ripe tomatoes can quickly become over-ripe and soft. A single patio tomato plant can yield around 50 tomatoes in just a few weeks, so get ready to enjoy an abundance of delicious tomato dishes!
What to do with all of your Homegrown Patio Tomatoes
Once you’ve harvested your patio tomatoes, you’ll need some inspiration for using them. Here are a few ideas:
Green Tomato Recipes: Explore recipes that make use of green tomatoes, such as fried green tomatoes or green tomato chutney.
Spice, Smoky Tomato Jam: Create a delightful and flavorful tomato jam that can be enjoyed with various dishes.
Mozzarella Bruschetta Recipe: Impress your guests with a delicious bruschetta topped with fresh mozzarella and homegrown tomatoes.
Roasting and Freezing: Roast your tomatoes with garlic and freeze them for later use. They are perfect for topping brothy beans or tossing in pasta for a quick sauce.
Growing patio tomatoes is a fulfilling and flavorful experience. Follow these tips and enjoy the taste of homegrown tomatoes all summer long. Start your patio tomato journey now and create a bountiful harvest that will impress your friends and neighbors. For more information and gardening inspiration, visit Ames Farm Center.