11 Common Mistakes When Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Growing your own tomatoes can be a rewarding experience. But, have you ever considered growing them in containers? It’s convenient, practical, and perfect for urban dwellers who may not have a traditional outdoor garden space. However, it’s not as easy as just throwing some seeds in a pot and waiting for a bountiful harvest. 

“Growing tomatoes in containers requires careful attention and avoidance of some common mistakes, which can affect the growth and yield of your plants.”

But don’t worry! We’re here to guide you on this journey. This article will highlight some of the most common mistakes people make when growing tomatoes in containers. We’ll help you understand what to avoid and provide practical solutions to ensure your tomato plants thrive, even in containers. 

  • Mistake 1: Poor Quality Soil
  • Mistake 2: Underwatering or overwatering
  • Mistake 3: Not providing enough sunlight
  • Mistake 4: Planting too many tomatoes in one container
  • Mistake 5: Skipping fertilization
  • Mistake 6: Ignoring pests and diseases
  • Mistake 7: Failing to prune or support the tomato plants
  • Mistake 8: Harvesting too early or too late
  • Mistake 9: Not rotating the container or changing the soil
  • Mistake 10: Ignoring temperature and weather conditions
  • Mistake 11: Not considering the tomato variety

Ready to embark on your container gardening journey? Let’s dive in and start avoiding these common mistakes!

11 Most Common Mistakes When Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Are you dreaming of sun-ripened tomatoes straight from your own garden or balcony? Growing tomatoes in containers can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges. Isn’t it frustrating when your efforts do not produce the bountiful harvest you expected? But, could it be that you’re making some common mistakes that are hindering your tomato plants’ growth? 

Don’t fret, though! You’re not alone in this journey. Many gardening enthusiasts, from beginners to the more experienced, often stumble when it comes to growing tomatoes in containers. In fact, there are 11 common mistakes that most gardeners make. Want to know what they are and how you can avoid them? Well, you’re in just the right place then!

1. Poor quality soil

Imagine investing time, energy, and resources into growing your tomatoes, only to get a less than satisfactory yield. Does this sound familiar? One primary reason could be the use of poor quality soil. 

Why is soil quality so significant? The simple answer is that tomatoes, like any other plant, require nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Using low-quality soil can be likened to feeding your body junk food. How can you expect to be healthy and vibrant? 

“Just as our bodies need good nutrition to thrive, so do plants. The soil is their ‘food’, providing essential nutrients for growth. Quality soil ensures your tomatoes have a fighting chance at robust growth.”

Here are some common mistakes related to soil quality: 

  • Using soil directly from the garden: This soil often lacks in essential nutrients and can be an open invitation for pests and diseases that affect tomato plants.
  • Failing to enrich the soil: Even if you’re using store-bought potting soil, enriching it with organic matter can significantly boost its nutrient content.
  • Ignoring soil pH: Tomatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.8. Ignoring this can lead to poor nutrient absorption.

So, what’s the solution? 

Choosing soilOpt for high-quality potting soil from a reputable source.
Enriching soilAdd compost, manure, or an organic soil conditioner to your soil mix.
Adjusting pHTest the pH of your soil and adjust accordingly using lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it.

Remember, your tomatoes are only as good as the soil they grow in. Choose wisely!

2. Underwatering or overwatering

Understanding the watering needs of tomatoes is crucial, yet it’s a common area where many gardeners stumble. Have you ever questioned how much water is too much, or perhaps too little? Balance is key when it comes to watering tomatoes. 

“The amount of water you provide can make or break your tomato’s growth.”


Firstly, let’s discuss the issue of underwatering. Tomatoes are thirsty plants and they require consistent watering. If the soil in your container isn’t staying moist, it’s a sign that your tomatoes are not getting the water they need. This can lead to a condition known as Blossom End Rot, which is often a result of calcium deficiency caused by underwatering. 


On the flip side, overwatering is just as harmful. Too much water can drown your plants and lead to root rot. If your tomatoes are wilting despite the soil being wet, it’s a sign you may be overdoing it with the watering can. 

How to Avoid Watering Mistakes 

  • Check the Soil: Don’t just water on a set schedule. Instead, check the soil daily. If the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water your tomatoes.
  • Use a Drainage System: Make sure your container has adequate drainage. This prevents water from pooling at the bottom and causing root rot.
  • Water Deeply: When you do water, make sure to do it deeply so that it reaches the root zone of your tomatoes. Shallow watering encourages shallow root development which can stress your plants.

Maintaining the right balance of watering can be a bit of a challenge, but with careful observation and adjustment, you can master it.

You must read:

3. Not providing enough sunlight

Are you a tomato gardener who’s struggling with low yields? One common mistake you might be making is not providing your tomato plants with enough sunlight. This is a grave error, as tomatoes are sun-loving plants that require at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day. 

“Tomatoes need abundant sunlight to produce a healthy and bountiful harvest.”

Why is sunlight important? 

Well, the process of photosynthesis in plants requires sunlight. This is how plants convert light energy into chemical energy, which then fuels their growth. Without enough light, your tomato plants will struggle to grow, let alone bear fruit. 

  • Implications of insufficient sunlight: If tomato plants are grown in inadequate sunlight, they can exhibit a range of problems, from spindly growth to reduced fruit production.
  • Symptoms to look out for: Look out for tall, thin, weak stems and yellowing leaves. These are often signs that your plant is starved of light.

How to ensure your tomatoes get enough sunlight 

Check this simple table to ensure you are providing your tomato plants with the right amount of sunlight: 

ActionWhy it’s important
Position your containers in a sunny spotMaximizes the amount of sunlight the plants can get each day
Rotate your containers regularlyEnsures all sides of the plant receive equal amounts of sunlight
Choose sun-tolerant tomato varieties if you live in a particularly sunny areaHelps prevent sunscald, a condition that can damage the fruit

Remember, every tomato plant is unique, and so is its sunlight requirement. But ensuring that they get at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily is a good thumb rule to keep in mind.

4. Planting too many tomatoes in one container

Who wouldn’t want a container brimming with luscious red tomatoes, right? However, is cramming too many tomato plants in a single pot a good idea? Absolutely not. 

Why is this a mistake? 

It’s quite simple. Just as we humans need our personal space, plants do too. When too many tomato plants are stuffed into one container, they compete for available resources like water, nutrients and sunlight. This can lead to weaker plants, lesser yield, and higher susceptibility to diseases and pests. 

What’s the Correct Approach? 

Instead of imagining an overflowing pot of tomatoes, consider the plant’s need for space and resources. Remember, a successful garden, even if container-based, prioritizes the health and growth of its plants over aesthetic appeal. 

As a rule of thumb, a single tomato plant requires a container with a minimum 14-inch diameter. So, if you’re using a larger pot, calculate accordingly.

Common Indications of Overcrowding 

Not sure if your tomatoes are feeling the squeeze? Here are some common signs to watch out for: 

  • Stunted Growth: If your tomato plants are not growing as expected, it could be due to overcrowding.
  • Yellowing Leaves: A classic sign of nutrient deficiency, often caused by too many plants competing for limited nutrients.
  • Decreased Yield: When plants struggle to survive, their fruit production can also decrease.

So, the next time you are tempted to squeeze in just one more tomato plant, remember these points. It’s always better to give your plants the space they need to thrive. After all, isn’t the aim to grow healthy, juicy tomatoes?

5. Skipping fertilization

Most novice gardeners tend to believe that since tomatoes are robust, they don’t need fertilization. Is that what you think too? Well, it’s time to rethink. 

Skipping fertilization is a common mistake that can lead to yield loss. It’s simply like expecting your car to run without fuel. Tomatoes, just like any other plant, need nutrients to grow and produce fruit. 

Taking care of your tomato plants means more than just watering them. It also involves providing them with the necessary nutrients they need to grow.

What happens when you skip fertilization? 

Without proper nutrients, tomato plants can exhibit several issues such as yellowing leaves, slow growth, and low fruit production. The fruit quality can also suffer, leading to tomatoes with poor taste. So, how do we avoid this calamity? 

The Importance of Proper Fertilization 

It’s simple. Incorporate a regular fertilization schedule into your tomato care routine. Use a balanced tomato fertilizer that contains Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). Here’s a simple guide: 

Nitrogen (N)Phosphorous (P)Potassium (K)
Promotes leaf and stem growthSupports root growth and flower productionBoosts fruit production

Remember, over-fertilization can be as harmful as skipping it. So, always follow the recommended dosage mentioned on the fertilizer package. 

Are you ready to improve your tomato yield now? Great, let’s avoid this common mistake and nourish our tomato plants well.

You must read: Tomato Plants Leaves Turning Yellow: 7 Causes (Explained)

6. Ignoring pests and diseases

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Pests and diseases? Not in my garden!”? Well, we’re here to tell you, that’s a mistake. Many novice gardeners often overlook the potential threat of pests and diseases, especially when it comes to growing tomatoes in containers. 

The Consequence of Ignorance 

Ignoring the existence of pests and diseases in your container garden might lead to complete devastation of your tomato plants. A small pest infestation or disease can quickly spread and harm not only your tomato plants, but also the surrounding flora.

Common Pests and Diseases 

Let’s take a look at some common pests and diseases that could affect your tomato plants: 

  1. Aphids: These tiny insects suck the sap from your tomato plants, leading to deformed leaves and stunted growth.
  2. Tomato Hornworms: These caterpillars can defoliate your plants and eat into your tomatoes.
  3. Blight: This fungal disease causes spots on leaves, stems, and fruits. If not treated early, it can kill the plant.
  4. Fusarium Wilt: This soil-borne disease causes wilting and yellowing of leaves, eventually leading to plant death.

Prevention and Control 

Preventing and controlling pests and diseases is essential for healthy tomato plants. Here are a few steps you can take: 

  • Regular Inspection: Check your plants frequently for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection can often prevent a full-blown infestation.
  • Proper Watering: Over-watering can cause fungal diseases. Water your plants adequately but do not let them sit in water.
  • Pesticides and Fungicides: Use organic or chemical pesticides and fungicides as needed. However, use them sparingly and only as a last resort.

In the end, maintaining a healthy environment for your tomato plants to grow in is key to preventing most pests and diseases. Don’t let these issues sneak up on you. Stay vigilant, and happy gardening!

7. Failing to prune or support the tomato plants

Ever wondered why your tomato plants aren’t growing as you’d like them to? Could it be that you’re forgetting to prune or support them appropriately? 

Pruning and supporting your plants are crucial steps that many novice gardeners tend to overlook. This negligence can be quite detrimental to your plants. 

Pruning helps eliminate unnecessary growth that might be taking energy away from the fruit production, while supporting ensures the plant won’t collapse under its own weight.

Common Pruning Mistakes 

  1. Not pruning at all: By simply letting your tomato plant grow without control, you’re permitting it to focus on leaf and stem growth rather than fruit production.
  2. Over-pruning: On the other side of the spectrum, excessive pruning can stress the plant and hamper its growth, leading to fewer tomatoes.

Common Supporting Mistakes 

  1. Using inadequate support: Tomato plants can become quite heavy. If the support system isn’t robust enough, the plant might collapse, damaging the fruit and possibly the plant itself.
  2. Not adding support early enough: It’s essential to install support structures early in the plant’s life. Adding them late can disrupt the root system and stress the plant.

So, are you guilty of these mistakes? If so, don’t worry. Now that you’re aware, you can start making the necessary changes and watch your tomatoes flourish.

8. Harvesting too early or too late

So, you’ve put in the hard work, you’ve watered, you’ve watched, and now it’s finally time to reap the rewards of your labor, right? But here’s the question, when is the perfect time to harvest your tomatoes? Unfortunately, many home gardeners make the mistake of harvesting their tomatoes either too early or too late. Let’s dig into this, shall we? 

Harvesting too early 

The temptation to pluck those beautiful red orbs as soon as they turn color is hard to resist, isn’t it? But wait, here’s the catch – harvesting your tomatoes too early can lead to a lack of flavor. Tomatoes need time to develop their full flavor profile, which happens during the final stages of ripening. 

Remember: Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to harvesting tomatoes. Let the sun do its magic!

Harvesting too late 

On the other hand, leaving your tomatoes on the vine for too long isn’t good either. Overripe tomatoes can become mushy and lose their delicious tanginess. Worse yet, they can start to rot right on the vine, attracting pests and diseases. Doesn’t sound appealing, does it? 

Pro tip: Keep a close eye on your tomatoes as they ripen. When they’re fully colored and slightly soft to the touch, it’s time to harvest.

Now, you might wonder, how can you avoid these common mistakes? Let’s look at some solutions. 

How to avoid these mistakes 

  • Understanding ripening stages: Familiarize yourself with the various stages of tomato ripening. This will help you know when your tomatoes are just right for picking.
  • Regular checks: Keep a close eye on your tomato plants. Regular checks will help you spot any tomatoes that are ready to be harvested.
  • Proper storage: If you have to pick your tomatoes early due to weather or pests, store them in a warm place to ripen. Never refrigerate unripe tomatoes as it can hinder the ripening process and affect the flavor.

So, are you ready to harvest your perfectly ripe, flavor-packed tomatoes? With these tips in mind, you’re well-equipped to avoid the common mistake of harvesting your tomatoes too early or too late. Happy gardening!

9. Not rotating the container or changing the soil

Did you know that a common mistake when growing tomatoes in containers is not rotating the pots or changing the soil? It may sound strange, but it’s true. 

Understanding the Issue 

Imagine a tomato plant bathed in sunlight on one side, while the other side remains in the shade. What do you think happens? The plant grows unevenly, right? That’s exactly what happens. Regularly rotating the pot ensures equal sunlight distribution, leading to balanced growth. Similarly, reusing the same soil without replenishing it deprives the plant of essential nutrients. 

How to rotate your pots properly 

  1. Observe the sunlight: Note the direction and intensity of sunlight on the pot.
  2. Rotate regularly: Turn the pot a quarter of a circle every 2-3 days.
  3. Check growth: If you observe that the tomato plant is growing more on one side, adjust the rotation accordingly.

Refreshing the Soil 

Remember, tomatoes are heavy feeders and require a lot of nutrients, which they take from the soil.

  • Change the soil: At the start of each planting season, remove the old soil and replace it with new, nutrient-rich potting mix.
  • Add compost or fertilizer: During the growing season, you can add compost or a specialized tomato plant fertilizer to replenish nutrients.

In summary, to grow healthy tomato plants in containers, don’t forget these two simple steps: rotate your pots for even sunlight and refresh your soil to provide the nutrients your plants need. It’s simple once you get into the habit, and your tomato plants will thank you for it!

10. Ignoring temperature and weather conditions

Just coming off the bat, let’s address a question that many novice gardeners often overlook: how important are temperature and weather conditions when growing tomatoes in containers? Well, the answer is, tremendously important! 

Tomatoes are warm-weather crops, which means they thrive in conditions where the temperatures range between 60-85°F. Too hot or too cold, and your plants could suffer. 

Remember, ignoring the weather and temperature conditions is a common mistake that many gardeners make. But not you, right?

Common Errors with Weather and Temperature 

  • Planting tomatoes too early in the season: Remember, tomatoes love warmth. Planting them too early when the weather is still chilly can stunt their growth.
  • Not protecting your tomatoes from extreme heat: While tomatoes love the sun, extreme heat can cause blossom drop and can halt fruit production.
  • Ignoring nightly low temperatures: Even if daytime temperatures are ideal, don’t forget that tomatoes can suffer if the nighttime temperatures drop too low.

To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to monitor weather forecasts and adjust your care routine accordingly. After all, a bit of foresight can go a long way in ensuring a bountiful harvest, don’t you agree?

11. Not considering the tomato variety

One common mistake you might make when trying to grow tomatoes in containers is not considering the type of tomato you’re planting. All tomatoes are not created equal, especially when it comes to container gardening. 

Understanding Tomato Varieties 

There are two primary types of tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate varieties are bushy, compact plants that don’t grow as large as their Indeterminate counterparts. The size of Determinate plants makes them better suited for container gardening. On the other hand, Indeterminate varieties grow larger and require more room and support, making them less ideal for container cultivation. 

“Choosing the right tomato variety can make the difference between a bountiful harvest and a disappointing yield.”

Determinate Varieties for Container Gardening 

Here are a few Determinate tomato varieties that are well-suited to container gardening: 

  • Patio: A compact variety that produces small, flavorful tomatoes.
  • Roma: Known for their thick, meaty flesh, Roma tomatoes are great for sauces and pastes.
  • Tumbling Tom: This variety is perfect for hanging baskets as the tomatoes grow over the sides of the container.

Common Mistake: Overcrowding 

Regardless of the variety you choose, you should be careful not to overcrowd your container. Overcrowding can lead to inadequate air circulation and increased disease pressure. How many plants you can fit in a container depends on the variety of tomato and the size of the container, but a general rule is one plant per 5-gallon container. 

By considering the tomato variety and avoiding overcrowding, you’re well on your way to a successful container tomato garden.


Sure, here’s how the concluding section could look like:

So, you see, growing tomatoes in containers, although rewarding, can sometimes be tricky. It’s easy to make a few common mistakes, especially if you’re a beginner. However, once you’re aware of these pitfalls, you can easily avoid them, can’t you? 

Remember, the secret to successful container gardening lies in understanding the specific needs of your plants and catering to them effectively. And isn’t that what gardening is all about? Nurturing life and watching it grow?

Let’s recap the common mistakes and their solutions: 

Using a small containerChoose a larger, deeper container to allow roots to spread
Underwatering or OverwateringWater regularly but ensure proper drainage
Not enough sun exposurePlace containers in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight
Poor soil qualityUse nutrient-rich potting mix

Now that you know what to watch out for, isn’t it time to start reaping the rewards of your hard work? So, go ahead. Start growing your container tomatoes now, and tell me how it goes, will you?