Q: My garden is shady but I have a sunny patio. Are there any varieties of tomatoes that will grow well in pots?
Tomatoes are an incredibly diverse and varied edible plant that comes in all manner of shapes, sizes, and growth habits ranging from short dwarf varieties that come in under two feet tops, all the way up to the sprawling, monstrous vines called indeterminates. Right smack dab in the middle are determinates or bushing varieties that stay within the 2-4 foot range.
Fortunately, any tomato variety regardless of size can be grown in a container, provided that you furnish your plant with a pot that is large enough to accommodate its size and needs. Tomatoes are generally demanding plants with amply-sized root systems. The bigger the plant, the bigger the pot you should provide. By that rule, indeterminate varieties need no less than a 16 inch-deep container (I like large garbage cans). They also require staking, which can be inconvenient on a small patio. Dwarves on the other hand are compact and tidy, but the most popular varieties tend to taste rather bland. My favorite is a prolific, yellow cherry variety called ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate,’ but it can be difficult to source. For these reasons, I’d suggest growing a determinate (bushing) variety. They rarely require staking and most will fare well in a 12” deep bucket or pot with holes punched into the bottom for drainage.
There are lots of excellent determinate varieties available and despite the compact nature of the plant you will not be limited to cherry-sized fruit only. ‘Black Seaman’ is hands down my favorite variety for eating on a summer sandwich. ‘Czech’s Bush’ is a dependable and sturdy plant that produces delicious red fruit. ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘Silver Fir Tree’ also produce red fruit, however the later is unusually beautiful, with wispy, silvery foliage as the name suggests.
If cherries are in fact what you’re after, I highly suggest ‘Whippersnapper,’ an early producer that seems to adjust its size and yield depending on the size of the container. Grow it in a very big pot and you’ll be rewarded with hundreds of fruit. ‘Korlik’ is another nice cherry-sized option to enjoy fresh off the vine and ‘Principe Borghese’ is perfect for drying.
If you do have space for larger indeterminates, I never go a year without growing ‘Black Plum.’ The smoky, rich fruit are divine roasted in the oven for sauce or soup. ‘Green Grape’ produces colorful little jewels that are tart and tasty sliced up on a salad.
What’s more, all of the varieties I have suggested are open-pollinated, which means you can save the seeds to grow next year. Have fun!
Garden authority Gayla Trail is the creator of YouGrowGirl.com.