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How to Grow Tomatoes on your Deck, and why you should

Last October my husband and I moved from New York to Tennessee. We left behind our entire homestead to start a new life. The most dear things that we had to leave behind were our chickens, who are actually doing absolutely wonderful with their new owners, the folks who bought our house.

The second most dear thing we left behind was our vast veggie and herb gardens that took us years to build up.

This spring I knew for sure I wanted to grow at least a few veggies but the weeks and months passed and we just couldn’t find time to put a whole garden bed together, so what did we do?

We grew tomatoes and peppers on our deck! And it worked fantastically well. So well that I’m not even sure we’ll ever go back to growing them in the garden, especially with all the deer friends who come to visit our new home!

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What we loved about growing tomatoes on our deck

Harvest is as easy as stepping right outside your door

At our old house, we had to walk through half the house, three doors, the garage, and half the yard to get to our veggie garden.

That’s all well and good if you have time to spend in the garden, but if you just need to pick one or two things and get back to working the kitchen with a toddler hanging off you, it sure is nice to have the veggies so close.

Our deck is right outside of our kitchen, so this year it was just a matter of opening the door and harvesting our crops.

Total control over the soil

This one was also important in our new home. The soil here is pretty terrible, it’s sandy and rocky with very low fertility. There’s just no way we could stick some seedlings in the ground and expect tomatoes, we would have had to build raised beds and bring in soil, which would be expensive and a ton of work.

Buying potting soil that’s organic and high in nutrients was easy and pretty cheap. I know for a fact that my plants are getting good nutrition from their soil. We didn’t even need to fertilize the tomatoes once this summer, they produced a bounty just from the top notch soil we used.

Very few weeds

By very few, I mean almost none. I think I pulled one weed out of the 10 pots of plants we had this year. Weed seeds just didn’t find their way up onto the deck and into the potting soil. Weeding is one of my least favorite homesteading chores, so this one was huge for me.

Takes up less space

If you have limited yard space, or none at all, growing deck tomatoes is ideal! Our tomatoes took up a small portion of our deck this year and we didn’t have to build a whole garden.

More control over sunlight

We’re very lucky that our deck gets loads of sun, but even if we didn’t, there’s still a huge benefit to growing tomatoes in pots on your deck, you can move them!

Putting your plants on a rolling plant holder gives you the option to scoot them into more sunshine whenever you want. It’s a benefit you just can’t have with tomatoes planted in the ground.

And yes, I know, it’s a pain in the butt to have to move your plants to the sunshine, but for some people that’s the only option if they have limited sunny spots and want homegrown veggies.

Much easier than planting a whole garden

Growing tomatoes in containers means way less work for you, which means more time to do what you want, and who doesn’t want that?

Planting our tomatoes in pots this year took me about 30 minutes to do 10 plants. I didn’t need to till soil, add compost, dig big holes, pull weeds, or really anything before planting. I just dumped some soil in the pots, and stuck the seedlings in.

Less pests

I was really surprised to see that we had zero pest issues this summer with our tomatoes, that is, right up until the very end when two tomato horn worms decided to go to town on them, but at that point the tomatoes were done growing and producing anyway.

Loads of garden pests come from the soil in the garden, and since we used fresh potting soil for these tomatoes, we just didn’t have to deal with most pests. I didn’t even see aphids on our plants, which have plagued my tomatoes for years in our home garden.

Aesthetic Appeal

Tomatoes in pots add a beautiful touch to your deck, balcony, or patio, especially if you put them in pretty pots! There is such a huge variety of beautiful planters for sale and filing them with gorgeous flowering and fruiting plants only makes them better! We found that adding nice pots full of tomatoes added a much needed spark of joy to our deck.

Downsides to growing deck tomatoes

Limited Root Space

It’s a fact, potted plants have less room for root growth compared to those grown in the ground. Tomatoes love to dig their roots down deep into the soil, and they’re very limited by pots.

We made sure to choose smaller varieties for our tomato plants so they wouldn’t be too upset about being potted, and it wasn’t a problem for us.

Watering Can be a Pain

Growing plants in containers can be a pain when it comes to water needs. Tomato plants, in particular, like to dig their roots down really deep into garden soil so they can access water when they need it, but when they’re growing in a pot, they’re at the mercy of the gardener. You have to be dilligent about providing water for the tomatoes, especially if you live in a hot climate, you may even need to water twice a day!

We used self watering pots which helped out a ton, I watered our tomatoes a few times a week and they always had all the water they needed.


Potted tomatoes may need more frequent fertilization than tomatoes in the garden, but this depends entirely on what kind of potting soil you choose.

We paid for super high quality organic potting soil with compost in it and didn’t once have to fertilize the plants, they thrived off the soil alone.

If your potting soil is less than stellar, you may want to side dress the tomatoes with compost, use liquid foliar spray, or use pelleted fertilizer to give them a nutrient boost.

Tomatoes are very hungry plants so they certainly need something to feed off of while growing in pots.

How to grow tomatoes on your deck

Choose the largest pot you can

We use 5 gallon pots for our tomatoes. I bought them on sale at Target for a few dollars a piece and they worked really well.

Grow bags are also a great option for tomatoes. They’re very inexpensive and large, and when the season is over you can just collapse them for storage.

Go with self watering containers

Tomatoes are very thirsty and need to be watered frequently when grown in containers. If you live in a dry or especially hot climate you may even need to water potted plants a few times a day in the summer. You can cut down on this labor drastically by using self watering containers.

If you don’t want to use self watering pots, you can help keep your thirsty plants watered by using automatic irrigation drippers. Not only do they cut down on the work for you, they look pretty while doing it!

Get the best soil you can afford

If you can get organic soil with compost added, go for it, your tomatoes will thank you!

Tomatoes are nutrient hungry.

When they’re growing in the ground their roots can reach deep and wide in search of nutrients, but when they’re growing in pots, you, dear gardener, need to supply them with everything.

Planting and Trellising:

Plant one tomato plant per pot, even if you’re growing small varieties, they still need space. Make sure to put in a tomato cage or other type of trellis right after planting. You’d be surprised how quickly they can get unwieldy.

Prune the plants regularly to remove suckers and promote better air circulation. You may need to ‘top’ your plants by cutting off the growing top so it will stop going up and start producing flowers and fruit. This is one of the downsides to growing tomatoes on your deck, you have to be cognizant of the size, but I still think it’s worthwhile.

One of the great things about growing tomatoes on our deck was that we could secure the tomato cages right to the rails of the deck. I’ve always had issues with them tipping over when they’re in the garden, this solved that issue easily!

Trellis tips:

  • Install a sturdy trellis or stake in the pot at the time of planting.
  • As the tomato plant grows, gently tie the main stem to the trellis using soft plant ties or cloth.
  • Remove any suckers that may divert energy away from the main stem.
  • Train the tomato plant to grow vertically along the trellis, ensuring good air circulation.

Fertilize frequently

Speaking of nutrients, don’t forget to fertilize your deck tomatoes.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and when grown in containers, they rely solely on the nutrients present in the potting mix. It’s essential to provide them with the right nutrients to thrive.

There are many options for tomato fertilizers:

  • Use a balanced fertilizer with equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Foliar spray works amazingly well on tomatoes
  • Look for fertilizers specifically formulated for tomatoes or vegetables.
  • Side dress them with compost. A ring of compost around the tomato base will leach into the soil over time and it’s a great natural way to feed your plants.
  • Apply the fertilizer following the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.

Select Smaller Tomato Varieties

We made sure to choose determinate varieties of tomatoes for our deck garden because I’ve seen first hand the way that indeterminate tomatoes can grow to massive proportions. I wanted to make sure that these plants would thrive and not outgrow their space so we picked plants that would stay reasonably small.

Cherry or grape tomatoes are a perfect choice for a deck garden. You can also look into compact or dwarf varieties suitable for container gardening, such as “Tiny Tim,” “Bush Early Girl,” or “Patio Princess.”

Sunlight and Location:

Tomatoes just worship the sun, you pretty much can’t give them enough. Make sure to place the pots in a sunny location with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. If you can’t get that in one spot on your deck, good news, you can put the pots on a rolling stand and move them where ever you want!

Growing tomatoes on your deck through container gardening can be a rewarding experience. You get to enjoy the taste of freshly harvested tomatoes while admiring the beauty they add to your outdoor space. With the right containers, soil, sunlight, and care, you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful tomato harvest right outside your door!


Q: Can I grow regular-sized tomatoes in pots?

A: While you can grow regular-sized tomatoes in pots, it’s way easier to choose compact or dwarf varieties that are better suited for container gardening. Look for varieties labeled as “patio” or “bush” tomatoes.

Q: How often should I water my potted tomatoes?

A: Watering frequency depends on various factors, including the size of the pot, the weather conditions, and the type of soil. As a general guideline, check the top inch of soil daily, and water when it feels dry to the touch.

Q: Can I use garden soil for my potted tomatoes?

A: It’s best to avoid using garden soil for potted tomatoes, as it can lead to poor drainage and nutrient imbalances. Opt for a high-quality potting mix that is specifically formulated for container gardening.

Q: How can I protect my potted tomatoes from pests and diseases?

A: To reduce the risk of pests and diseases, regularly inspect your plants for any signs of infestations or abnormalities. You can also use organic pest repellents and provide adequate air circulation to help keep your plants healthy. Also remember, plants that are attacked by pests or disease were likely weak to begin with. Make a point of growing strong, healthy plants and these issues shouldn’t be a problem.

Q: Can I bring my potted tomatoes indoors during winter?

A: Yes, you can bring your potted tomatoes indoors during colder months. Make sure to place them near a sunny window or provide supplemental lighting to ensure they continue to receive enough light for healthy growth. Beware of bugs though! Tomatoes can bring pests in with them, be sure to clean off your plants well before you bring them inside, and if you do see bugs, treat right away with neem oil!

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