By: Liz Baessler
Tomatoes famously come in all shapes and sizes – this is true for both the plants and the fruits themselves. This is true even for gardeners who want to grow in containers. Keep reading to learn more about Patio tomato care and how to grow Patio tomatoes at home.
What is a Patio tomato? “Patio” isn’t just a generic name for a plant that can be grown in a pot. It’s actually the name of a specific cultivar that’s been bred with container life in mind. A dwarf variety, the Patio tomato plant grows to just 2 feet (60 cm.) in height.
It is a very bushy determinate variety, which means it usually doesn’t even require any staking. Like all tomatoes, however, it can get a little floppy, especially when it’s covered with fruit, so some support won’t go amiss.
It is very productive for its size and will usually produce around 50 fruits per plant over an 8-week harvest period. The fruits are round, 3 to 4 ounces (85-155 g.), and very flavorful.
Patio tomato care is very easy and no different than what you would give them out in the garden. The plants need full sun and should be placed somewhere that receives at least 6 hours per day.
They like fertile, well-drained soil and should be planted in containers that are a minimum of 12 inches (30 cm.) across.
Like all tomatoes, they are very frost sensitive. Since they live in containers, however, it’s possible to bring them indoors on cold nights in order to extend the growing season somewhat.
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Any tomato variety regardless of size can be grown in a container.
‘Jasper’ is a deep red cherry tomato with a rich, sweet flavor and a slightly chewy texture. It’s an AAS (All-American Selection) winner, and it’s great for snacking. The fruits resist cracking and the indeterminate plants are vigorous.
Photo by: Image courtesy of Johnny's Select Seeds
Image courtesy of Johnny's Select Seeds
Q: My garden is shady but I have a sunny patio. Are there any varieties of tomatoes that will grow well in pots?
Sure, gardeners like to take advantage of freebies, and with volunteer tomatoes, you never know what you’ll get — maybe even a brand new hybrid. But you shouldn’t count on them for your main tomato production. For one, they might not taste very good.
Let them grow, if they aren’t taking up valuable space, but plant some varieties that you know will be tasty and will produce.
When you say sometimes it's a flop--what do you mean? Does the foliage go limp and sad or are the tomatoes not abundant or form late? Where are you, and what kind of tomatoes?
Some stuff that impacts how satisfying it is to grow tomatoes:
-the cultivar. I like Brandywine, but I've never gotten more than one a year, so I do grow them, but also others
-calcium uptake/blossom end rot: if the soil is too acid the fruit fails. You can side dress with wood ash or lime.
-sometimes it's just too freaking hot for them to set fruit they stop producing in order to survive
-intermittent water availability -- mulch them, with straw or leaves or whatever. If they are in containers, water them on a regular basis (whatever makes sense to you)
-pruning! you can harass them into production by severing the root system in addition to the 'pruning tomatoes' that Google will get you. If you stick a shovel about five inches from the stem into the dirt once or twice, late in the season (say late July) the plants will be startled into setting fruit
Tomatoes are awesome and there is tons to learn about them. I grow a bunch of different kinds. I had one year where every single one failed--late blight, it's called. Now I know a little.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:46 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]
When you say sometimes it's a flop--what do you mean? Does the foliage go limp and sad or are the tomatoes not abundant or form late?
I have had tomatoes that are not abundant, that form late, and that are malformed. Also, later in the season the foliage sometimes gets thin, spotty, and yellow before the tomatoes are ripe. They also sometimes split and scar. Last year I also had a ton of whiteflies. So . I guess that I have had all of the problems??
Where are you, and what kind of tomatoes?
I am in hardiness zone 5 in the US. The tomatoes that I have tried range from cherries to grapes to yellow pears to romas to heirloom to early girls. That said, I would be most interested in having success with small or heirloom tomatoes.
posted by mortaddams at 7:21 PM on March 26
Here are my best tips after 20 years of growing tomatoes in pots in Zone 4A/B:
1) Tomatoes are nitrogen hogs-- fish emulsion, worm castings made into tea, aged chicken manure. none sound appealing but produce great tomatoes when applied in small amounts with water regularly.
2) Water in the morning, only at the base of the plant. (Yeah, you may be shaking your head at this one, but I even see it on garden television shows.)
3) Pinch out suckers and focus the growth of the plant-- you don't want a huge plant-- you want fruit set and production.
4) Put the pot on wheels if you can-- yeah, it's nice to be able to move the thing when conditions don't play nicely. (Storms, high winds, etc.)
5) Stake your tomato plant-- support really helps and put it in early, as staking a tomato later can kinda suck.
6) Soil quality-- you can't regrow tomatoes in the same pot / spot each year (see nitrogen) unless you really, really revive that soil. For a great start, Promix is super light with great drainage.
7) Be consistent with care-- daylight varies a LOT during the season, so water accordingly to only the correct amount needed. Yeah, stress the plant later if you want to, but over the first days, be proactive with your morning coffee.
8) Pick the right varieties-- some tomatoes are great in containers, others (Black Icicle, Matt's Wild Cherry) not so much. What annoys me most in the big box stores that sell tomatoes is spotting a tomato plant in a planter that most folks will think is all they need-- and the plant needs something three times that size.
9) Have some serious fun with your choices. Totally Tomatoes catalog has a lot of varieties that have hooked me, from Taste of a Flying Dragon to my personal favorite, Garden Peach.
Happy to answer anything else I can-- I planted 28 different varieties of tomatoes in my city lot last year, and I have 72 starting to grow their first sets of true leaves down under lights so I can provide plants to my co-workers. The range of growing days runs from 40-ish (Oregon Spring and one called, yes, 42 days) to Black Krim and Big Rainbow.
posted by Arch1 at 7:01 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]
Nth Arch1's and ananci's comments. The only other thing I would add is that, after I add the soil and hollow it out, ready to receive the plant, I've had really good luck with adding a double handful of compost and a substantial pinch of bonemeal to the hollow.
Also, pots dry out more quickly than gardens, so while you don't want to over-water, you also want to check it frequently, perhaps every other day during hot season.
I have a community garden plot, but in the past, I've had really good results with cherry tomatoes in pots, especially Sun Golds and currant tomatoes.
posted by dancing_angel at 10:14 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]
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