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