Tasty and terrific, tomatoes offer garden magic at its best, transforming yellow blossoms into juicy fruits. But perhaps the most amazing thing about tomatoes is their adaptability. These yummy gems grow and thrive in a host of ways, from classic in-ground beds to quirky upside-down planters. Let us help you discover which of these ways to grow tomatoes is best for you.

Ways to Grow Tomatoes: in-ground tomatoes
When the soil is good, tomato plants in the ground grow largest and need the least watering.

1. In the ground

This method is perhaps the most common way to grow tomatoes.

– You can plant almost any variety.
– Plants require less water than those in containers.
– An in-ground garden can produce exceptionally heavy yields.

– It requires yard space that gets a lot of sunshine.
– Wildlife pests like deer, gophers, birds, and squirrels seem to prefer this type of garden.
– If soil-borne diseases occur, it’s tougher to sterilize or replace the soil.

Ways to Grow Tomatoes: tomatoes in raised beds
Raised beds overcome the problem of poor soil, giving roots a healthy environment. Photo by Julie Martens Forney.

2. In a raised bed

Raised beds used to be reserved for folks with a desire to do some DIY. These days, though, you can buy affordable kits that a child could assemble.

– They provide excellent drainage.
– It’s easy to customize, amend, and (if necessary) replace soil.
– Soil doesn’t become compacted from being stepped on, allowing more aeration for root growth.
– Raised beds, especially higher ones, require less bending and stooping than in-ground beds.

– Raised beds require an upfront investment for materials.
– Garden layout may be less efficient, as you need to leave space for walking between boxes.

Ways to Grow Tomatoes: tomato plants in containers
Containers are mobile, allowing you to make use of any sunny space. Photo by Julie Martens Forney.

3. In a container

Containers are an extremely versatile option for growing tomatoes.

– You can grow virtually anywhere there’s sun, including on a patio, deck, or rooftop.
– Pots are mobile, letting you shift tomatoes in or out of cold, hail or whatever else Mother Nature sends your way.
– No need to wait for soil to warm in spring, so you can plant earlier.
– Harvesting is often easier, as pots can be placed near the house and high off the ground.

– You must be sure to choose the right size pot for the variety you’re planting.
– Container gardens dry out more quickly than in-ground ones. During peak growth, expect to water daily.
– In windy areas or on exposed decks, lightweight pots may need support to stay upright.

Ways to Grow Tomatoes: tomato plant in a bucket
Five-gallon buckets make adequate, economical containers.
4. In a bucket

This is perhaps the most inexpensive, readily available type of container.

– You can up-cycle buckets from your home. Bentley Christie of Red Worm Composting uses kitty litter buckets to grow tomatoes in soil taken from his worm bins.
– All kinds of buckets can host tomatoes: galvanized, 5-gallon, food grade, or whatever you can get your hands on.
– Most buckets remain moveable once planted, although they may be top-heavy.

– You have to add drainage holes.
– Metal buckets can rust over time, leaving marks on a patio or deck.
– Many buckets aren’t large enough to grow indeterminate tomatoes.
– Dark colored plastic containers can cause roots to overheat, stunting (or even killing) plants.
– Neighbors might complain about less attractive buckets, especially if you’re growing them in highly visible areas.

Ways to Grow Tomatoes: tomato plant in whiskey barrel
Whiskey barrels are long-lasting, rustic containers with plenty of space for roots.

5. In a whiskey barrel

Handsome whiskey barrels are an all-time favorite container type.

– Large size provides ample root space to grow larger tomatoes.
– Barrels are decorative and complement many settings.

– It’s heavy and usually can’t be moved once filled and planted.
– Adding drainage holes requires a little muscle to push through the wood.
– Barrels eventually rot.


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