Should I Rotate My Container Tomatoes?

“If I grew tomatoes in a container last year, what CANNOT  be grown in that container this year? I’ve read about crop rotation but can’t find this answer anywhere. Hope you can help me.” Question from Debbie of Hoquiam, Washington

Answer: You cannot plant a tomato in that pot unless you refresh its potting soil. Tomatoes are rife with soil-borne diseases that can carry over from year to year, so it is better to be safe than sorry. (Click here to learn more about tomato diseases and disease-resistant tomato varieties.) If you opt for rotation, tomatoes should be rotated on a three-year cycle–tomato one year and other vegetables the next two years. (Either way, the potting soil should be refreshed every one to two years.) Good vegetables to rotate in after tomatoes include beans and peas because they naturally fortify soils with nitrogen, and greens, because they are not too demanding.

I encourage you to read my article about vegetable rotation titled Spring to Fall Vegetable Rotation: Planting for Non-stop Garden Produce. It will provide all of the information you will need to effectively rotate your crops, whether container- or garden-grown. You might also like to watch the video below about successfully growing tomatoes in containers.

Happy potted tomato growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Why Won’t Tomatoes Grow Well in My Garden Box?

‘Sunrise’ sauce tomato shown. (Image thanks to Johnny’s Selected Seeds

“I have a deep garden box with soil and fertilizer. I plant tomatoes and they never do well. I am getting frustrated. This year will be my 3rd try!” Question from Janis of North Attleboro, Massachusetts

Answer: There are several reasons why your potted tomatoes may not be succeeding. I will list several potential reasons, and then provide some suggestions for this year’s container tomatoes.

Potential reasons for container tomato failure:

  1. The garden box is not draining well.
  2. The box is not big enough.
  3. You are watering too often or not often enough.
  4. You are growing indeterminate, or vining, tomatoes.
  5. Your tomatoes are diseased.

For your third try, follow these tips for success.

  1. Make sure your container is draining very well and its soil is fast-draining and porous. Also, consider planting your tomatoes in a larger pot. Watch the video below to see what size containers work for me.
  2. Add new potting soil. Tomatoes are susceptible to many soil-borne diseases (click here to learn more), so fresh soil is essential. Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix is approved for organic gardening and my tomatoes like it.
  3. Feed with a fertilizer formulated for tomato growing.
  4. Choose a determinate, or bush, tomato that is certain to grow well in your Massachusetts climate. ‘Celebrity’ is an award-winning red slicer that always performs well in containers. ‘Glacier‘ is a flavorful cocktail tomato that grows well up North. ‘Sunrise’ sauce tomato is a super sweet, golden sauce tomato that is perfect for pots.
  5. Place pots in full sun and keep them evenly moist but not wet. Water most frequently in hot, summer weather.
  6. Cage your tomatoes.

I hope that these tips help!

Happy tomato growing,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Help Me Grow Better Potted Tomatoes in NYC

“I like to grow tomatoes on my steps in Brooklyn, NY. I believe I can do better and get a better product by having guidance.” Question from Chante or Brooklyn, New York

Answer: The plant in your photo looks quite healthy! As long as you have a spot with at least 8 hours of sunlight, you can grow great tomatoes. Here are five steps to growing strong, vigorous tomatoes in containers:

Chante’s Tomato
  1. Start with great tomatoes. The best for patio or urban step gardens should be compact, heavy producers with great flavor. I suggest trying the new, red-fruited  ‘Tidy Treats’ dwarf cherry tomato, the golden-fruited sauce tomato ‘Sunrise Sauce’, and the delicious red slicer ‘Mountain Fresh Plus’. All of these tomatoes are compact and perfect for container growing. (If you want to try growing your own tomatoes from seed, click here to learn more.)
  2. Plant in large containers. Tomatoes develop vast root systems and require a lot of fertilizer and water for good growth, so planting them in large containers is smart. Big pots hold more water and ensure roots will spread for better overall growth and higher tomato yields. (Be sure to provide extra water on hot summer days.)
  3. Choose a really good potting soil that is OMRI Listed for organic gardening. I suggest Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix for urban tomato growing. It holds extra water, which is a good thing in harsh urban areas.
  4. Provide fertilizer formulated for tomatoes. Tomatoes will grow and produce best if provided a quality tomato fertilizer at the start of the season.
  5. Cage your tomatoes. Even more compact potted tomatoes grow better and are easier to harvest if caged.

For an easy tutorial, I also recommend you watch our video below about growing tomatoes in containers.

Happy tomato growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist