Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Growing (cherry) tomatoes in containers

It's a nice story about how I have a cherry tomato plant at my terrace garden. I had picked a packet of cherry tomatoes from the Namdhari store. After a few days, I saw that one of them was rotten. I took that little rotten tomato, dug the soil in one of the containers, put the tomato, and covered the soil.

And, you already know the result of the activity!

After the season, I had pruned this plant, and it grew healthy again, flaunting fruits. That's the photo of the cherry tomatoes (and a variety of spinach and chilies) harvested over the weekend.  The ripened tomatoes taste sweet. 

From this experiment, I learned valuable lessons. Sharing them with you…

How to save tomato seeds?
Take a fully ripe tomato. Wash the seeds, and then let the seeds dry in the shade. After the seeds are completely dry, store the seeds in paper envelopes or zip pouches.

Can I grow tomatoes in containers or earthen pots?
Yes. Ensure that you select a container that is deep enough to accommodate the fast-growing taproot and wide enough to encourage the branching of the taproot. The 14”, 16”, or 24” deep containers work well.
You can also grow tomatoes in hanging baskets. The branches droop down, and flaunt the fruits.

What type of soil can I use?
A combination of Red mud, sand, and manure (organic matter) is good. For the well-drained soil, increase the portion of sand a little. If you hold the soil in your hand, you should feel the looseness. If the soil is hard, the roots have to strain themselves to penetrate inside the soil, and spread.

How should I sow the seeds?
You can use paper cups or seed-germination trays to sow seeds. You can also sow seeds in a container that already has a plant. Ensure that the seeds are not buried deep down or left open. Cover the seeds with sufficient amount of soil.

What kind of environment should I provide?
The tomato plants love the Sun. Give the plants sufficient sunshine. Provide ample water. At regular intervals of the development cycle, provide fertilizer.

How long will the seeds take to germinate?
The seed-germination time depends on soil, temperature, water, age of the seeds, and so on. If all is well, the germination time may range from 4 to 10 days, and also depends on the variety of tomato. The days from seed to harvest may be about 50 to 100 days.

What are the parts of a tomato plant?

When should I replant the plants?
Nurture the germinated seeds. Allow them to grow strong. When they show 3-4 true leaves, remove them from the germination medium (along with the soil). Make deep holes in the containers in which you plan to plant the young plants. One plant per container is a good ratio. Put the plant inside the hole, and cover well. Allow only 2-3 leaves to be visible above the soil. By doing so, the plant stays firm inside the soil, and roots spread well. Keep the plants in good sunlight and good circulation of air.

How should I nurture the growing plants?
Ensure that you provide ample water. Remove dead leaves or leaves that may be infected. Provide fertilizer on regular intervals; nitrogen does wonders to plants. Loosen the surrounding soil so that air circulation is good. If the leaves curl, that’s an indication about the physiological condition – heavily pruned plant. Allow the leaves to grow.

What kind of pests can attack the plants?
Several, actually! See Common Tomato Diseases. My plants suffered from powdery mildew (Leveillula taurica fungus). First, I removed the affected leaves. Then, I sprayed a mix of Neem Oil, water, and a spoonful of detergent to the affected plants, on regular basis.

What should I do when the plant starts flowering?
Admire the lovely Yellow flowers! Plan to provide fertilizer when the first fruits appear. Also, do not replant the plant at this stage. Do not prune heavily. Do not over fertilize or spray excess pesticide. Install support poles, and then tie the branches to the poles. By doing so, you are ensuring that the fruits grow well instead of drooping and touching the ground or some obstruction.

How do I harvest the fruits?
Wait till the fruits ripen or look semi-ripe. You can see the Green turn Yellow or Red. Cut the fruits either by hand or by scissors. The fruits come off without any damage. To reduce damage from birds, pick the tomatoes when they are unripe, or tie polythene or cloth bags to cover the fruits.

What next?
Hmm… When the plants stop flowering or having fruits, that’s when the plants need rest. If you think that the plants are healthy, retain the plants; otherwise, remove them. If you plant to retain the plants, prune them, clean the soil, and loosen it. Continue to nurture the plants; they are alive.
After a while, the tomato plants exhibits tender leaves. And, that’s when you prepare yourself for the next cycle. 

Note: If you want, sow seeds of some herbs or greens (such a mint, fenugreek, coriander, spinach) in the same container.

Always remember to rejoice at each stage of the development cycle.


  1. Hi Asha, Glad to know you had a good harvest of cherry tomatoes. Which Namdhari store did you pick up the cherry tomato seeds from and how much did it cost you?

  2. Hi STS,

    Thanks for stopping by. Namdhari stores doesn't have the seeds; however, they have the tomatoes. I bought the tomatoes, and one was rotten in the packet. Instead of throwing it again I put it in a container. And the plant grew. :)

    Lalbagh nursery had some new variety of seeds; not sure if cherry tomatoes seeds belonged to that lot.

    1) http://www.indamseeds.com/indeterminate.htm

    2) Department of Horticulture, Government of Karnataka, P.B.No.7648, Hulimavu, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore-560076. Tel: 080-26582784, 080-26582775.

    Pls let me know if you weren't able to procure the seeds; I'll get more info or grow a few plants for you.


  3. Hi STS,

    Pls can you check the nearest Namdhari store? Seems cherry tomato seed packets are available.


  4. Thanks! Just what I needed. I am starting to grow (again) cherry tomatoes and I think I forgot what worked last time. Nice, useful tips. Thanks!

  5. You are very welcome, Clara. All the best; would love to see photos of the cherry tomatoes.


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