Growing tomatillos in containers can be ideal for home gardening because you will have better control over the elements that can affect your plants. Tomatillos are not just “green tomatoes,” as many people think. They are a different plant and require their own specific type of care. Tomatillos like warm soil, which can make them ideal for container growing. Each container-grown tomatillo plant can produce about 10 pounds of fruit.
Best Containers For Growing Tomatillos
Tomatillos need at least a 5-gallon pot per plant. They do best with ample space and lots of water, so the bigger container, the better. You will need at least 2 tomatillo plants in order to bear fruit (3 or 4 is ideal) and both containers need to sit near each other. Be sure your containers drain really well or root rot will devastate your plants.
Where To Place Tomatillo Containers
Tomatillos prefer hot, humid regions (grow zones 8 – 11 or ideal). Choose an area of your garden that receives full sun exposure. Tomatillos need as much sun as they can get. Keep each tomatillo close to the others to ensure proper pollination, or fruit will not be produced. The plants will also grow up to 5 or 6 feet, so be prepared with stakes, a trellis or other means of support. Tomatillos tend to attract bees, so you may want to keep them at some distance from outdoor seating or dining areas or where children play.
When To Plant
Tomatillos can be planted as soon as the danger of frost has passed. If you live in a region with shorter period between frosts, get a head start by sowing your tomatillo seeds indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost of winter. Do not transfer seedlings to outdoor containers until after the last possible frost for your area. It is best to wait until overnight temperatures reach at least 60° F.
Tomatillos need potting soil that drains really well. Choose a soil that has been enriched with lots of organic matter like mature compost or aged manure. Test your soil to ensure the pH is 6.0 to 7.0.
For cooler growing zones, you’ll want to start your tomatillo plants indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost of winter. Use 3 to 4 inch containers for each plant so that you only need to transfer them once into their 5-gallon containers. Plan to have at least two plants (3 or 4 is better) to ensure they will properly pollinate and yield fruit later on. Follow instructions on the seed packet for sowing depth. Water and keep the soil moist and warm.
Transplant seedlings into outdoor containers (or move outside) only once the danger of frost has passed and once they have developed two sets of healthy leaves. Always water them just before transplanting so the roots do not dry out. You’ll also want to harden them off before leaving them outside. Put them outdoors during the day only for about a week before leaving them outside over night.
Keep your tomatillo plants close together, no more than about two feet apart.
Tomatillo plants need to be watered regularly and evenly. Never let the soil dry out but be sure not to let it get soggy either. Water at the base of the plant; overhead watering can encourage disease. Keep in mind that containers dry out fast. Keep an eye on them, particularly during dry spells. Ceramic pots tend to dry out quicker than plastic containers.
Tomatillo plants grow tall quickly and usually need support even before they start to bear fruit. Place a stake in your containers before transplanting to avoid damaging the roots later on. Gently tie the vines to the stake as they appear to need the support. Use a thick string or cloth to avoid damaging the vines. Be sure the vines do not touch the ground, which tends to attract pests and encourage disease.
Tomatillos do not need much fertilizer to thrive if they are planted in nutrient-rich soil. However, they will do best if fed occasionally with a compost tea. If you choose to purchase an organic fertilizer, try one that is low in nitrogen but high in potassium and phosphorus.
Tomatillos are usually ready for harvest after 90 to 100 days. The tomatillo husk will dry out and begin to split away from the fruit once they have matured. In cooler weather, the husks may not crack, but they will likely drop to the ground, another sign they are ready. You can also gently squeeze the fruit to see if they are firm. The husks are not edible, but they help preserve the fruit so keep them on until you are ready to dine.
Do you have your own tips on growing tomatillos in containers? Let us know in the comments section below!