How To Grow Salsa in Pots – Tomatoes
Arguably, no crop in the garden is more anticipated than the first fresh, vine ripened tomato of the season. Many hybrids have been bred to mature early, but tomato lovers often find these have little more flavor than do supermarket tomatoes.
As a rule, bush or determinate tomatoes will do better in a container because the plants will tend to stay smaller. Most determinate tomatoes produce all of their fruit over a short period of time, such as within two weeks, and then stop producing. Determinate tomatoes are easier to grow since they do not need as much pruning as indeterminate tomatoes.
How to Choose Tomatoes to Grow in Containers
If your goal is to make fresh salsa all season long, you can either choose several varieties with different maturation days, or plant additional plants according to a schedule such as once a month. Keep your first fall frost in mind when timing your last planting so that your efforts will not be made futile by the onset of frost.
Tomatoes generally fall into four classification for their maturation date: ultra early, early, mid season, and late season. Ultra early tomatoes mature in about 50 to 60 days, early in 61 to 70 days, mid season or main season in 71 to 80 days, and late season in 81 or more days. This classification varies by grower, and for tomatoes is always stated in days from transplant, not including the 6 to 8 weeks to grow the seeds into baby plants ready to transplant. Warmer weather, especially nights, will help to ripen tomatoes faster, while cooler weather will slow down tomato ripening.
Choose very large containers to give tomato plants’ large root systems plenty of room, at least 10 gallons. When growing tomatoes in containers in hot areas, a mulch of light colored rocks will help keep the soil cooler. Tomatoes tend to slow down or stop producing when the soil is over 80°F.
You can further extend your growing season by planning ahead for tomato varieties that are known for ripening well after they are picked or that make good sun-dried tomatoes, and by protecting tomatoes from the first few frosts with makeshift tents. About 30 days before your first frost, top off the vine by cutting the main stem just above the last set of fruits. This may seem harsh, but it will force the plant to put its energies into ripening developed fruit.
Tomatoes that make good paste tomatoes also make good salsa tomatoes since they have a meatier, less juicy texture. You can use any tomato variety for salsa, but if you choose a juicier variety and prefer a thicker salsa, you may want to drain them after you have chopped them and before you add them to other ingredients.
Where to Buy Seeds for Tomatoes to Grow in Containers
Reputable seed companies have experts who examine seeds and will not put their reputation on the line for inferior seeds that do not germinate well or seeds that are not of the correct cultivar. Reputable seed companies give realistic expectations and growing tips, and do not make fantastic claims about their varieties.
The Watchdog feature at DavesGarden.com is a good resource to know the reputation of a seed company. Keep in mind, every company is going to have a few negative reviews, but reviewers who got incorrect seeds or published complaints that are not responded to are a red flag that a company is not concerned with its reputation. Also, small specialty growers may not be listed.
San Marzano Tomatoes
One of the most popular and famous paste tomatoes in the world is the San Marzano heirloom tomato. It has very few seeds and remains productive in adverse conditions. Chefs and gourmet tomato growers have long insisted on this particular variety for its flavor, acid to sweetness level, and quality of thickening up when making sauce and paste. Most of the cultivars as San Marzano tomatoes are indeterminate, but they can be grown in a container with at least 20 gallons of soil. An alternative is the San Marzano bush tomato, which can be grown in a 10 gallon container. Both are resistant to Fusarium Wilt 1 (F or F1), nematodes (N), tomato mosaic virus (ToMV), verticillium wilt (V), and bacterial speck.
Technically, this tomato cannot be grown anywhere except in a very specific region of Italy, and sellers of San Marzano tomato products must pay a fee to have the right to display a seal to verify its authenticity of genetics and growing region. The Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta or DOP is issued by the Italian government for authentic San Marzano tomatoes.
Due to its popularity, there are authentic San Marzano seeds available which are either imported or have been propagated in the United States, and these will be as close to the “real thing” as can be affordably obtained in order to grow your own. The region where this famous tomato is grown has rich volcanic soil and a long, stable, warm growing season. But any homegrown tomato tastes better than any canned tomato, so superior genetics and cultural imitation will suffice. When purchasing San Marzano seeds, be sure to know the reputation of the supplier. Many named varieties have taken the name San Marzano and possibly even some of its genetics, but have proven to not live up to the name.
Determinate Tomatoes to Grow in Containers
Heirloom tomatoes have been grown and their seeds preserved for their flavor. Some heirloom tomato seeds have even reportedly been smuggled out of their originating country for their superior qualities. In recent years, the popularity of heirlooms, especially heirloom tomatoes, has surged.
San Marzano Bush Tomato stays much smaller than the standard San Marzano and can be grown in a 10 gallon container. It has the same qualities and flavor a the standard cultivar, but stays under 4 feet tall, and matures in 75 days. The San Marzano Bush tomato produces all of its fruit over a 1 to 2 week period, and then stops producing.
The Bonito Ojo Tomato is from Chile and is very flavorful with a good yield. This thin skinned, scarlet red tomato has a tangy flavor perfect for salsa. It bears its fruit in tresses of 7 to 9 tomatoes. The plant grows to 3 feet and starts producing in 75 to 80 days.
Royal Chico heirloom tomatoes grow on a determinate plant which grows to 2 to 3 feet tall. Royal Chico is a paste tomato which becoming hard to find. It produces abundantly and the fruits are larger than Roma beginning in 71 days.
Stupice Heirloom Tomato is a determinate variety, but it keeps producing until frost. The plants grow to 3 ½ to 4 feet tall and start producing early, in 60 days.
Bellstar Paste Tomato is determinate tomato plant which reaches only 2 feet tall. Its fruit are fleshy and multipurpose, and start ripening in about 74 days.
Sources for San Marzano Bush tomato seeds:
Sources for San Marzano tomato seeds:
Sources for San Marzano tomato plants (in season, April):
Source for Bonito Ojo Tomato tomato seeds:
Source for Stupice Heirloom Tomato seeds:
Source for Bellstar Paste Tomato seeds: