“There isn’t enough room to grow tomatoes”, you might reply, but if you want to grow tomatoes in a small courtyard or on a patio there is a way to do it. What I am talking about is growing container tomatoes by the espalier method. This means growing plants up a trellis or support system and spreading the branches out along it. In a courtyard a trellis is placed against the wall and the container tomato plant grown up it.
Why grow espalier tomatoes?
Growing espalier tomatoes in courtyards or on patios has several benefits and the most popular is that they can be grown by taking up only a small amount of space that is available. Another benefit of growing this way is that by spreading the branches out the fruit receives maximum sunlight. The warmth from the wall also speeds up the ripening time of the fruit. When using the espalier system it also makes tending the plant easier because all the branches are accessible for control of pests and diseases. As the branches are spread out and the leaves get a better chance to dry, there is less chance of blight and other diseases taking a hold on the plant.
Prepare for growing the container tomato.
The job is to decide on a nice sunny position. Healthy tomato plants need 6 to 8 hours sunlight. Once the location is decided then the next steps can take place:
1. Decide on the trellis style, locate and attach it to the wall
2. Have a pot that is a minimum of 12 inches (preferably 18 inches) across at the top or even bigger
3. Cover the holes on the bottom of the pot with fine mesh and fill the bottom 3 inches with small rocks to help with drainage
4. Prepare the soil so that it is the right mix for tomato plants and it will probably need 8-8-8 fertilizer, organic compost and check for other nutrients as well
5. Plant the tomato seedling in the pot up to the top 4 to 6 leaves (yes, that is right as the stem will grow roots and be a strong plant to support the weight of the tomato tree)
6. During the growth of the plant spread the branches left and right and tie to the trellis (if the pot has been placed at the end of the trellis, train the branches one way along the trellis). When tying to the trellis use 2 inch stips of rage or old nylon stockings as they do not cut through the soft tomato stems.
7. Prune unnecessary branches coming from the V-joints so that the branches that you kept have room to grow.
All other requirements of growing a strong tomato plant apply to one growing in a container, whether espaliered or not. It will need fertilizer, and organic compost. One step not to miss that is very important is to water the plant every day, preferably early morning. So when you have got this all set up, sit back and enjoy the growing process and most of all those delicious tomatoes at the end of the growing season.
Copyright (c) 2010 Kaye Dennan