Summer to me means juicy ripe tomatoes (corn and squash also make the menu often, as well). Finally, after months of insipid, tasteless impersonators, there are flavorful, luscious orbs in many shades of green, yellow and red to eat out of hand or include in salads and salsas. Growing up in the central valley of California, tomatoes were easy and plentiful. Both my dad and grandpa had prolific gardens; the days were long, the weather warm to hot and the soil rich and fertile. Just the right conditions for success.
I am not so lucky. I live just a mile from the coast and under a very shady oak tree. Not only does the oak steal the sun, its roots suck up all the moisture and nutrients present in the soil of my small garden plot. So, I have resorted to growing my tomatoes in pots. I plant them in large containers with all the nutrients and drainage they require and place them in the sunniest spot I have.
Choosing the Right Plants
Some years, I’ve started seeds of interesting or heirloom varieties. Some years, I buy already sturdy plants from local nurseries or home improvement centers. One of the characters to look for in choosing tomatoes for containers is the word “determinate.” Some tomatoes just want to keep growing and growing (like the vines some of their ancestors are). These are called “indeterminate” and are less well suited for container culture. The determinate selections have a genetic set-point that limits their ultimate size. They may still require some support, especially as they start bearing those juicy fruits, so provide a tomato cage or sturdy stake when planting to keep them upright.
Consider the Varieties
The scope of varieties is huge, both in size, color and texture. There are those designated as cherry tomatoes (some of the sweetest), perfect, one-serving patio tomatoes and big, beefy tomatoes suitable for accompanying grilled meats at the cookout. Whichever you choose, tomatoes can thrive happily in a planter if your garden plot is less than ideal (like mine). Now is the time to search out your favorites and get them started for those summer feasts. Browse tomatogrowers.com for an introduction to the wonderful world of tomatoes.