Gardening with Kids: Growing Tomatoes in Containers, a How-to Guide
A lot of people prefer growing tomatoes in containers instead of planting them directly into the garden. If we stop for a second and consider the benefits of growing tomatoes (or anything else) in pots, it’s not difficult to understand why. For children, planting something and tending to it is much easier when there’s a container involved. If you want to grow your own tomatoes and also get your child interested in gardening, you can suggest a collaborative effort in which you both make sure you get a successful tomato harvest. Today, we’re going to take you through all the steps of growing tomatoes in containers that you and your child should be aware of.
Growing Tomatoes in Containers: A Parent and Child Effort
Benefits of Growing Tomatoes in Containers
Before going into the actual steps of growing tomatoes in containers, we thought it would be useful for your child to understand the reasons behind this choice. That’s why we came up with a brief list of benefits of growing tomatoes in containers.
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits of growing tomatoes in containers is the fact that almost anyone can do it. So if you don’t have a garden at home, you can still keep the containers in the house and get a delicious yield. Even if you don’t want to fill your home with extremely large pots, you can find tomato varieties that grow in smaller ones as well.
Unlike the commitment of growing tomatoes in the garden, where you can’t move them around as you wish, growing tomatoes in containers allows you to change the location of the pots so as to provide your plants with the best conditions.
Especially if you’re gardening with your child, containers noticeably lower the amount of time you have to spend planting your tomatoes and tending to them. Since children tend to be impatient, a compact way of growing tomatoes is more than welcome.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers
1. Choose a Spot
Now, let’s move on to the actual steps of growing tomatoes in containers! The first thing that should concern you is choosing the perfect spot for the container. Remember that you can always move the containers to a new location, so this is only a starting point. Still, there are a few things that you should consider when choosing an initial location.
First of all, your tomatoes have to get plenty of sun exposure (around 6 hours a day). They should also be kept moist. So if you don’t want to constantly carry a watering can back and forth, you might want to consider placing them next to a water source. However, if you don’t have many tomatoes to tend to, it can be fun to water them with your child. Buy an extra watering can that’s only his/hers and get them to help you water the plants.
An additional tip would be to also make sure that if you have more than one tomato container, the leaves of your plants don’t touch. This is because if one of them catches a disease, it can spread it to the others as well.
2. Choose a Container
The next and one of the most important steps is choosing the container that’s going to host your plants. The first thing that determines the tomato container size is the tomato variety that you plan on growing. While some varieties do just fine in smaller containers, most of them require quite a lot of space to grow and develop. When it comes to the material of the containers, we recommend plastic ones. They’re the most practical and easy to maintain. Just make sure that the container drains well because you don’t want to drown your tomatoes.
Since choosing containers might not be such an exciting job for a child, you can make the process more interesting by asking your little one to help you decorate the pots. For instance, if you choose the typical brown plastic container, this means you have plenty of possibilities to spruce it up. You can either paint on top of it or add all sorts of decorations.
3. Choose the Potting Soil
The success of your yield depends a lot on the quality of the potting soil that you use. While some people choose to use soil from their garden, we don’t recommend that. That’s because most containers would find this soil to be too heavy. Plus, you can’t know what types of disease the soil has, diseases which can easily affect your tomatoes. The best way to make sure your tomatoes will be healthy is to purchase a premium quality potting soil. This is lighter than regular soil. Moreover, it comes with all the nutrients your plants need and it allows for easy moisture and air circulation. If you want to involve your child in this step as well, ask him or her to help you fill the containers with potting soil.
4. Plant the Tomatoes
On to the most anticipated step of today’s guide to growing tomatoes in containers, it’s time for you and your little helper to actually plant the tomato seedlings. You could also grow tomatoes from seeds, but for beginners, growing them from seedlings is much easier. The first thing you should do is dig the hole where you’re going to place the seedling. The hole should cover two-thirds of it. This will help more roots to grow and develop. After you make sure the seedling is properly fixated in the soil, cover the rest of the hole with some more potting mix.
5. Think of a Support System
It’s a known fact that tomatoes need support in order to develop properly and offer a successful yield. What you should know is that finding the best support system for them is something you have to consider the minute you plant the seedlings. If you choose to add the support later on, you might end up disturbing your plant’s roots. If you’re wondering what you can choose for support, allow us to recommend a typical tomato cage. Other options can involve a trellis or even a stake. Regardless of your choice, remember to teach your child why supporting the tomatoes is so important for their growth.
6. Add Mulch
If you want to make sure growing tomatoes in containers will be a successful experience for you and your kid, you’re going to want to provide your plants with a layer of mulch as well. Mulch helps the soil preserve moisture and encourages the growth of your tomatoes. The best mulch materials you could use are shredded bark, straw, or chopped leaves.
7. Water the Plants
As we’ve already mentioned, tomatoes require plenty of moisture to develop. Which is why you should ask your child to help you keep the soil moist at all times. Just be careful not to overwater the tomatoes, because this will have the opposite effect. The best way to test whether your plants need water or not is to put your finger in the top inch of the soil. If you notice it is dry, then it’s time to water the tomatoes again.
Another thing we should mention is that you have to be consistent when it comes to watering your tomatoes. This means that if you water them too much one day and then too little the next, this will cause them to crack. Try to use approximately the same amount of water each time. Moreover, when you do water them, avoid getting the leaves wet, since this can encourage fungus growth. The best time to water the tomatoes is in the morning when they use moisture more efficiently.
8. Fertilize the Plants
Finally, as with any other type of plant, tomatoes too require fertilizing for a healthy and rich harvest. If you want your tomatoes to get a great head-start, mix some continuous-release fertilizer into the potting soil. Still, this is not enough to properly fertilize your plants. Every week, you’re going to have to use a liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the package.
Summing It All Up
If you’re considering gardening with your child, growing tomatoes in containers can be a great first step. Even if tomatoes are not the easiest plants to grow and they require a lot of attention and care, as long as you start small, there’s no reason why you can’t obtain a successful yield. In fact, we recommend you to start with just one container. This will make it much easier for both you and your child to keep an eye on it and make sure it has everything it needs.
As an alternative, you could have two containers, one for you and one for your child. That way, he or she will feel like you trust his or her abilities enough. Moreover, this might motivate your kid to take great care of his/her container. After all, the fate of the entire yield depends on it. Regardless of the strategy you choose for growing tomatoes in containers, doing this with your child can be a fun and interesting experience for both of you.