I am researching how to grow tomato plants on a screened porch and this post contains all the information I could find.
You can grow tomatoes on a screened porch as long as the plants get good sunlight. You need to provide the right water to the plants. And if there’s no wind, you may need to manually pollinate the flowers. The best tomato varieties to grow on a screened porch are determinate tomatoes like patio princess, bushsteak, and tumbling tom.
If you’re looking to grow tomatoes on a screened porch, I’ve written a lot more information below that will help you.
What are the benefits of growing on a screened porch?
The biggest benefit of growing tomatoes on a screened porch is the protection that it offers. Your tomato plants are protected from the harsh sunlight and wind.
You can select a position where the plants get enough sunlight but not too much that it burns the plants.
Bad weather like a storm can damage the plants outdoors. Growing them on a porch helps to protect against such elements of nature.
Your tomato plants will become a target for pests and diseases. Animals like rabbits, mice, and deer will be happy to chew on the fruits and plants. And so will some of the smaller pests like aphids.
Growing the tomato plants on a porch will help you monitor them every day. The pests will be fewer and you can act immediately when you see them on the plants.
How do you grow tomatoes on a screened porch?
Pick the right position
Tomato plants need at least 6 hours of full sunlight to grow well. So you need to pick a position of the porch that gets enough sunlight. You don’t want too much heat as that will burn the plant.
You also want to place the plants away from direct wind. You do need the wind to help pollinate the plants but its good to get it indirectly on the plants.
Choose the right container
Picking the right container for your tomato plants is crucial for them to grow well. You want to use a container that is suitable for the size of the plant. Small plants can be grown in small containers. But large ones will need a large container.
You want the container to be at least 18 to 24 inches deep. This helps the tomato plants develop roots that can go deep into the soil. It helps them get the right nutrients and moisture from the soil.
You can start with a small container when the plant is small. You can pick a container that is 1 to 2 sizes larger than the plant. This gives it the right amount of nutrients and moisture. There’s no risk of the soil retaining a lot of moisture and causing root rot.
As the plant grows bigger, you can transplant it into a larger pot that is more suitable for its size. You want a container that is strong enough to support the plant and does not topple over.
You can start the seeds in the container itself or you can grow them indoors and transplant them later. Make sure to harden the plants as you move them outdoors so they don’t suffer from transplant shock.
Make sure to move the tomato plants outdoors only when the last frost date of your area has passed. Maybe wait a few days more just to be on the safe side.
You also want to choose a container that has good drainage at the bottom. This helps the excess water to drain out and prevent overwatering the tomato plants.
Use the right potting soil
Your tomato plants will grow the best with the right potting soil. You should not use garden soil because it may not contain the right nutrients. It may not drain well and cause your plants to rot. Or it may contain pathogens that will kill your tomato plants.
You want to choose a good potting soil that has a mix of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. It’s good if the soil has a slow-release fertilizer. So when you water the seeds and seedlings, this fertilizer will be released into the soil and benefit your plants in the early growing stages.
You want the soil to be well-draining but at the same time retain enough moisture for the plants. And you want the texture so that the roots are getting the required aeration and moisture.
If you are making your own compost or can get some good quality compost, that’s a great addition to the potting soil.
Make good use of fertilizer
When starting your tomato seeds or seedlings in the container, you can add a slow-release fertilizer to the potting soil. Every time you water the soil, this fertilizer gets introduced to the soil and provides the roots with the nutrients.
You can choose a balanced fertilizer when starting the tomato plants. This means the fertilizer has equal proportions of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium).
When the plants have matured and it’s the growing season, you can add liquid fertilizer to the soil and foliage. This can be a fertilizer that is high in potassium. It will help the plants focus on growing bigger and tastier fruit.
You don’t want to use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen because that will encourage foliage growth. And the tomato plant will spend less energy on producing fruit.
You can add this liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season. It can be tempting to add more fertilizer but don’t do that because it may cause your plant’s roots to burn.
Water the plants well
Tomato plants need a lot of water especially when they are growing fruits.
The drawback of growing tomato plants in a container is the roots are limited in their reach to the soil in it. This means the roots can’t move out in search of nutrients and moisture.
It will be your responsibility to ensure that the soil has the right amount of moisture for the tomato plants. The soil should not become too dry otherwise this will stress your tomato plants and they won’t grow well.
You can use a moisture meter to know the exact moisture levels in the container soil. But there’s a simple test with your finger that will also give you a good estimate.
Put your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil and take it out. If the soil is a little moist and sticks to your finger, there is good enough moisture in the soil. But if not, it means the soil is dry and you need to water the tomato plants.
Make sure to do this test every day as the soil can dry out pretty fast. In the summer, this can be a problem and you will need to water the plants at least 1 to 2 times per day.
When watering the tomato plants, you want to use a watering can and water the soil. You don’t want to splash water on the foliage. This can cause fungal infection on the plant. And it can cause the leaves to burn when they are exposed to the hot sun.
THe best time to water your tomato plants is in the morning. This gives the plants to absorb the required moisture and nutrients from the soil before the sun comes out and dries it.
You can also water in the evening but if the moisture remains in the soil overnight, it can lead to some fungal diseases.
Prune to grow more tomatoes
When your tomato plants grow big and have lots of foliage, it’s a good idea to prune some of it. This helps the plant focus its energy on growing fruits. And that’s what we want.
You can use a good pair of bypass pruners to prune the unwanted foliage. You can start with the dead leaves and branches first. And then prune the ones that are unwanted. You can remove the suckers that grow between the vine and the stem of the tomato plant.
Make sure you don’t prune more than 1/3rd of the plant at one time because it will stress the plant and damage its growth.
Another benefit of pruning your tomato plants, especially indeterminate ones is you can control the size. You don’t want the plant to outgrow the container as that will stress the plant. It will not get the required nutrients and moisture from the soil. And it may even topple over.
Prune to the right size before this can happen and you can harvest lots of fruits from your tomato plants.
Harvest at the right time
You have done the hard work and it’s time to harvest the tomatoes from the plants. You want to wait till the tomatoes have ripened on the plant itself. This gives the tomatoes the best flavor and the most nutrients.
You’ll know when to harvest the tomatoes by looking at their color. Tomatoes can have different colors like red, green, yellow, purple. When the color is full and the tomatoes give in to a little pressure, you know they’re ready for harvest.
If you’re growing determinate tomato varieties, you’ll get a lot of fruits in a short harvest period. If you’re growing indeterminate tomato varieties, you’ll get a few fruits throughout the growing season.
If you protect the indeterminate tomato plants, you can get fruits even beyond the harvest season well into autumn and winter.
Do the tomatoes grown on a porch need a cage?
This depends on the variety of tomatoes you are growing. If the tomatoes are of the bush variety, they don’t need support and can grow on their own.
Tomato plants that grow as vines will need support. The indeterminate tomatoes you can grow using a trellis. The determinate tomatoes may need a stake in the ground or another pot.
It’s also good if you can use a tomato cage for each of the tomato plants. This will help them get support especially if the plant grows large with heavy fruits.
The benefit of using support for your tomato plants on the porch is you can direct them into the right position towards the sunlight.
You can do this by looping a string around the vine and hooking it to the side of the porch for support.
What is the best tomato to grow on a screened porch?
You have plenty of choices to grow tomatoes that can be determinate or indeterminate. The determinate tomato plants grow up to a certain height which makes them suitable for growing on a porch.
The indeterminate tomato plants can keep growing to several feet. But you can prune them to restrict the growth and still manage to grow them on a porch.
The determinate tomato plants produce lots of fruit at once during the growing season. Some can grow 50 fruits per plant. The indeterminate tomato plants produce a little fruit at a time throughout the growing season.
The indeterminate tomatoes have a lot more flavor than determinate ones. And they are suitable for use in your food recipes. The determinate tomatoes are more suitable for canning and preservation.
Here is a list of some tomato plants you can grow on your screened porch.
|Bushsteak||1.5 to 2 feet|
|Tumbling Tom||3 to 5 feet|
|Stupice||4 to 6 feet|
|Marglobe||4 to 6 feet|
|Baxter’s Bush Cherry||4 feet|
|Gardener’s Delight||6 feet|
|Patio Princess||2 feet|
|Sweet Baby Girl||7 feet|
|Sweetheart Of The Patio||2 to 3 feet|
Do tomatoes grow better in pots or in the ground?
Tomato plants will grow better in the ground if the soil quality is good. It has to contain rich, organic nutrients required by the tomato plant. They will produce a better yield in such soil.
The plants can extend their soil into the ground in search of nutrients and moisture. When growing in pots, you need to take care and provide the right nutrients and water the plants as required.
If the soil is poor it’s best to grow the tomatoes in a container or a raised bed where the soil can be improved. You can use the right potting soil, compost, and fertilizer to ensure the plant gets the required nutrients.
Some other situations where it’s better to grow tomatoes in pots is poor sunlight, lack of growing space, or a very short growing season.
Tomato plants need at least 6 hours of full sunlight to grow the best they can. If your outdoor garden is shaded and cannot provide this much sunlight, it’s best to grow them in a container.
The same should be the case if the garden has too little area that is not going to be sufficient for the tomato plants.
If you live in an area where the growing season is very short, you will have a hard time growing tomato plants in the ground. You can start your seeds indoors before the growing season starts which will help.
But it’s better to grow the tomato plants in containers that you can move around. So when the cold weather arrives you can move the plants either indoors or to a greenhouse where they continue to grow.