May 2022 Horticulture News

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Tomatoes in Containers

If you’re an avid vegetable gardener then you know that a garden isn’t complete without tomatoes. According to, tomatoes are the number one vegetable grown in home gardens. For many gardeners the conventional row crop production of vegetables such as tomatoes can be inconvenient or take up too much space. Container gardening can be an excellent alternative for tomato production.

hands holding a potted tomato plant photo by cottonbro4503265 on Pexels

Consider the growth habit before selecting a cultivar. Indeterminate cultivars, such as Better Boy, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple, will continue growing taller until frost, making them difficult to grow in containers. Other cultivars have a compact habit that are perfect for container gardening. Look for cultivars including terms like “patio” or “balcony”. Many of these cultivars have determinate or semi-determinate growth habits. Determinate plants set fruit over a shorter time frame and stop growing. Not all determinate cultivars will have a compact habit, so refer to the plant height on the label for guidance.

Consider the size of the container before planting. A 14-inch to 20-inch container is suitable for most compact cultivars. A five-gallon bucket with holes drilled into the bottom would also work. Whatever container you choose needs to be large enough and have drainage holes. At planting, incorporate a tomato cage for cultivars that grow taller than two feet. Containers should be easy to access for watering and harvesting. Tomatoes need a minimum of six hours of full sun exposure. Use a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season for optimum fruit set.


If you like hydrangeas then you’ll be a fan of the Chinese snowball. These are in full bloom now and aren’t hydrangeas at all but rather a Viburnum. These shrubs have huge-full hydrangea like blooms and put on a show for several weeks during Spring each year. These will bloom well into May with almost softball sized blooms that start out as green and then mature into a dazzling white. The flowers are not fragrant and are sterile and will not produce any fruit or seed. ­

Snowball bush is a deciduous shrub, however will remain semi-evergreen in hardiness zone 9. These shrubs are an excellent choice for foundation plantings, in groups, or an informal hedge. An awesome attribute of this Viburnum is that it often reblooms in late summer into early fall. They are extremely heat tolerant and highly adaptable to most areas. However, they don’t tolerant drought, so keep a water source nearby during prolonged dry spells.

Blooming viburnum photo

Snowball bush will flower the most abundantly in full sun, however the plant will be happiest with some dappled shade during the summer. This shrub is resistant to many diseases and pests and can grow to 15 feet tall and wide. It handles pruning well so you can keep it in check if desired. Flowering occurs on old wood, so only prune immediately after spring flowering has finished. Only prune during the summer months to shape up the plant or remove any dead or crossing branches.

For more information contact Colby Griffin, Extension Agent – Commercial and Consumer Horticulture, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center, or 919-496-3344.