How To: Grow Tomatoes in the City of Houston

Categories: Garden Fresh

Photo by Molly Dunn
It's not too late to grow tomatoes, and you don't need a garden to do so.
One would think that living in the heart of Houston doesn't lend itself well to growing tomatoes for the summer season. Things would be much easier if there were more open space and more sunlight to grow a pot of tomatoes, right?

Recently, I spoke with Sherri Harrah, from Plants For All Seasons on 249, and learned how to successfully plant a pot of tomatoes in an urban community. Although it is optimal to start growing them in January, Harrah says that you can still grow tomatoes even though it's later in the year.

Photo courtesy of Sherri Harrah
Tomatoes need a large pot to grow adequately.
Harrah says there are three important components in growing tomatoes.

  1. Big container size
  2. Support
  3. Sunlight

Large containers allow the tomatoes to grow properly even if you don't have a garden bed for them to grow in. Harrah says that large pottery, ceramic or plastic pots work best.

Because tomatoes grow very long naturally -- Harrah says they are considered vines -- they need support. The pots must provide support for the tomatoes as they begin to grow. This is why a big pot is necessary; the bigger the pot, the sturdier it is, so there is less of a chance it will topple over.
For adequate growth, tomatoes need a ton of sunlight. In fact, Harrah says they need to be in the sunniest place and receive sunlight for five to six hours during the day.

In addition to the most important components in harvesting tomatoes, you need to make sure that the container is well-drained.

"Water is a biggie," Harrah says. "Make sure the container is well-drained and water at the soil level. The foliage needs to be dry...less fungal problems."

Photo courtesy of Sherri Harrah
Heirloom tomatoes, like these, are wonderful types of tomatoes to grow in the city.

Although it does take about four months for tomatoes to completely grow, Harrah offers advice in growing them later in the year, as well as what type of tomatoes do best during the warmer time of year.

"Start a variety that sets longer into the heat. When we get over 76 degrees at nighttime, start with a cherry type. It is not as long a form of maturity," Harrah says.

If you are limited on space, the patio-type tomato is easiest to maintain. According to Harrah, you can grow up to 15 or 20 pounds of tomatoes in a single pot at home.

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gossamersixteen topcommenter

Things I've learned growing tomatoes since 2009, tomatoes need a ton of calcium and the sun literally bakes it out of the soil -- long term solutions (organic) can be egg shells, or short term powered milk (no added sugar). Also when the soil gets baked, a little hydrogen peroxide (3%) cap full with a gallon of water really helps get O2 back in the soil. Tomatoes also like fertilizer, and mulch covering but for heavens sake do not use Miracle Grow crap it eventually winds up making your soil very salty, go for a better more balanced fertilizer like hasta grow, or ladybird brand out of Austin. Start growing for Spring in February no later than Valentines day, and for fall start them in a shady place in July for a nice September/October harvest.. I've had tomato plants outdoors that are now 3 years old and producing like mad, though it's a royal pain the rear to grow larger tomatoes here, stick with medium and smaller -- trust me on that especially if we see another bad drought this year.

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