How to grow tomatoes in containers – first year

I’ve decided to experiment and try out a new approach in the garden (or better yet – by the garden). I’ve decided to grow tomatoes in containers. Homegrown tomatoes have been a big wish of mine for the past few years but it just didn’t work out due to environmental conditions in my garden.

For those of you more experienced gardeners out there who are wondering how someone is unable to grow tomatoes allow me to explain. Last year I’ve dedicated a special bed in my garden solely for tomatoes. After initial planning and the final frost of the season I finally got my tomato plants. Every year I get my batch of tomato and pepper plants from my grandmother who grows them from seed throughout the winter. All her daughters and granddaughters receive tomato and pepper plants in the spring. 🙂

So I got my hands on high quality home grown plants of my favorite tomato variety that I named grandma’s tomato. I think it stems from Beefsteak tomato and has later crossed with different varieties to today’s shape and form.

Tomato plants in containers accompanied by basil plants.


Last year I planted the tomatoes in the garden. Despite their vigorous growth and poly roof the tomato plants got infected with plant rust and have dies off in August, right by the time that I came back from my seaside vacation. I wouldn’t mind this nearly as much were I able to produce a decent amount of juicy tomatoes beforehand. But due to House by the woods specific location in the sub-alpine valley my garden doesn’t have as much sun as in the other, more conventional parts of Slovenia and my little tomato fruits were still small and undeveloped. Therefore I didn’t produce a single tomato. I composted the dead plants and bitterly watched the images of friend and family who had gardens in more tomato-friendly parts of our country and had an abundant tomato harvest that year. I suspect that tomato plant weren’t big fans of ROSA and humidity that sets in in the evenings because of the nearby creek.

Stubbornness and perseverance

Determined not to make the same mistake this year I weaved against tomatoes and made room in the garden for the plants that will be more likely to grow and produce or novelties that I could make new mistakes on and learn new things in the process.
But so it happened that my grandma got a bit too good in raising her own seedlings and this year I received 10 young tomato plants next to the pepper plants that we agreed on. And me being me I couldn’t allow the tomato plants to die in their small containers not giving them a chance to prove themselves. Since my garden was already completely full I decided to plant the tomatoes in containers.

Planting and growing tomatoes in Containers

After doing my share of research on the World Wide Web I decided to try out mini core bed system in my containers.

What is core gardening?

Core gardening is a method of preparing the soil that has long been practiced in drier parts of the world especially by tribes in Africa. In the middle of the bed we dig a 50cm deep trench throughout the entire length of the bed. We fill the trench with water retaining material like partly rotten straw, leaves etc. We cover our water-retaining core with soil and plant the bed with desired plants or seeds. This method of soil prep ensures that minimum watering is required on the bed. The water from the rain is stored in the core and later slowly transfers to soil during drought. Due to material retuning extra nutrient are also added to the soil.

core gardening mulch maure soil container pot
Preparation for planting – leaves for “core”, manure and garden soil and a layer of leaves for mulch.
How does core gardening work in containers?

Because I found the principle of core gardening very interesting I decided to try a similar approach with growing tomatoes in containers. Due to the fact that are containers with planted tomatoes situated under the roof of the house, right next to the south facing wall I didn’t expect to never have to plant the tomatoes but I wanted to reduce the time, energy and water quantity to do so.

core gardening leaves tomato container plant
Layer of leaves to hold the moisture in my mini “core gardening bed”.
Container preparation and tomato planting

I filled the bottom of the container with mid-rotten leaves soaked in water. I topped the leaves with garden soil mixed with aged manure. After that I planted the tomato plants and mulched them with leaves to prevent water vaporizing from the container.

tomatoe seedling planting container growing core gardening
Planting seedlings of tomatoes in a mixture of garden soil and manure which is placed on a layer of leaves.
Good neighbors of tomato and the result if the experiment

After a month or so after plating the tomatoes I added a small basil plant next to each tomato in container. I harvested first tomatoes in the middle of July which was a big event especially considering the fact that I didn’t produce a single tomato a year before.

The basil also did pretty well – it developed into nice small bushes.

I had to water the containers once in every three days which is still a lot but somewhat expected due to hot and dry summer.

how to grow tomatoes in container pot basil core gardening
Planted tomatoes and basil in a container.
Possible improvements

Despite the general success of this year’s experiment, there’s always room for improvement. For example one of the improvements will be the size of containers – I plan to use bigger containers to maintain the nutrients and humidity in the soil for longer time.

But this is all for next year, this year I’m making tomato sauce.

homegrown tomatoes container pot how to
Homegrown tomatoes – finally!

1 Comment

  • Homemade tomato sauce - House by the Woods

    September 11, 2018 at 11:49 am Reply

    […] year I was finally able to produce bigger quantities of tomatoes (I wrote a little bit about me growing tomatoes in containers right here). Because I seemed that we won’t be able to eat it all fresh I decided to make some homemade […]

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