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Friday, July 22, 2011

Tomato Talk

The first time I planted tomatoes, the plants died. I’m 99.9999% sure the soil in our garden plot was diseased, so I don’t blame myself entirely. But it still felt like a big failure.

This year I decided to give tomato growing another go. I had several friends tell me they had great success growing tomato plants in pots, so I decided that would be our approach this time. And, so far, so good. No diseased soil. My plants are staked and growing upward. I’ve fertilized every 7-10 days. I’ve taken care of the suckers. And we’ve actually gotten some tomatoes this year (they sure were yummy in the watermelon salad). Woo-hoo!

But then…then…last week, I went to my friend Natalee’s house for dinner and saw THIS on her back porch.

Just to give some perspective, this is my pot of tomatoes compared to Natalee’s.

Left: My ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ tomato plant. Well-loved, but seriously more of a novelty at this point. Right: Natalee’s organic behemoth of a tomato plant.

Both of our planters only have two tomato plants planted. And they get the same exact sun exposure. And yet, it’s downright stunning how different our plants are. I asked Natalee what in the world she did. She and I are at about the same level of tomato growing expertise, so her bounteous plants give me hope that one day I will be able to to grow decent tomatoes.

  • She used an EarthBox garden kit. Natalee swears by this system. It basically allows you to water your plants perfectly and you can grow all kinds of vegetables in them. Natalee bought her EarthBox planters at one of our local nurseries, but you can also buy them online, and you can use them year after year.
  • She used a soil that the local nursery recommended highly for growing tomatoes. Apparently that soil has a little pixie dust mixed in because seriously, look at those plants!

That is ALL she did differently than me. The pot was a little different and the soil was tailored for tomato growing. When I first saw the plants, she hadn’t even fertilized them yet, if you can believe it! She’s still planning to fertilize, of course, but, yeah, whatever. Her tomato plants are still knocking my socks off.

Maybe next year I’ll actually get tomato-growing all figured out!

Calling all green thumbs! If you actually know what you are doing with tomato plants, please share your tips!


  1. I’m pretty sure you are over fertilizing. Too much fertilizer can kill the plant. If you are using brand new soil, many come already mixed with fertilizer so you shouldn’t have to fertilize all season. If not, then once a month is plenty.

    I’ve never had much success growing tomatoes in planters (in the ground, yes). If it gets too hot, the plant fries in the box – so make sure you are watering well (veggie soil should always be moist).

    I didn’t plant a garden this year — thought it would be too much with the baby. But now I miss having fresh veggies that are literally just footsteps away.

    • Jane Maynard

      interesting…I just bought tomato fertilizer and followed the directions on the pack, and, in all honesty, I probably only have done it every 2 weeks or so…they say 7-10 days. but maybe I should try just laying off! 🙂

      thanks for all the great tips!!!

  2. 2
    Angie .

    I’ve tried planting tomatoes in containers on the back patio with absolutely no luck. Early in the season, I get blossoms, and I may even get a tomato or two. But I live in Texas and my patio faces west, and I think the Texas summer sun/heat is just too much for patio tomatoes.

    Maybe next year I’ll plant them in the ground on the back fence to get some shade in the late/hottest part of the day.

    • Jane Maynard

      I am no expert, but I think tomatoes love the heat and sun…does anyone who knows what they’re talking about have any help for angie? 🙂

  3. 3
    Amanda Lewis

    I’m not an expert, but I’ve read that tomatoes love sun and heat, but only up to a certain point. After 95ish degree (+/- 5 degrees?) consistent temperatures, they start to die. Also, in hot parts of Arizona, tomatoes are grown much earlier and are pretty much done fruiting in early July.

  4. Every year we plant tomato plants and they grow to astronomical sizes. We live in Northern California too (the East Bay) and the plants receive bright sunlight for most of the day. My mom, the gardener in family swears by a few things. She only puts one tomato plant per large pot, apparently any more and it restricts their growth. She also plants herbs around the tomatoes to fill up the base, but they are help keep the bugs away. Hope these tips help!

  5. 5

    I’m also not an expert, but lots and lots of sun is what they need. I have a few pots on my deck, but unfortunately all the local animals keep lunching on them! I need to find a way now to keep them from getting eaten before we pick them.

  6. 6
    Stephanie P.

    Seriously those EarthBoxes are incredible! We started with one, and now have 6 because they just work so well. There’s something about them that they always yield so much more than what we have in ground or in other containers, our tomato plants also look like your friend’s does. Spend the money for them, you won’t regret it! (I have no affiliation with them what-so-ever either!)

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