You don’t need a large garden to grow a crop of mouthwatering tomatoes and peppers. These sun-loving vegetables thrive in containers – and still yield explosive flavours. Best of all, when grown in pots, these summer favourites ripen sooner than their in-ground cousins.

Choose a Container

You’ll have best success with a pot at least 40 cm wide and deep. Bigger is better with potted peppers and tomatoes. Containers made of wood, pulp or terra-cotta don’t heat soil like plastic pots can. If using terracotta, choose glazed pottery, which prevents water from evaporating through the sides.

With plastic pots, avoid dark colours; they absorb sunlight, which heats soil and cooks roots. Half-whiskey-barrel planters work well for potted peppers and tomatoes, as do 20 litre buckets.

No matter what you use, your container needs drainage holes. Elevate pots on bricks or some other support to sharpen drainage.

Use Good Soil

In a container, plant roots only receive what you give them. Provide plants a rich foundation with a bagged container soil mix blended with equal parts compost or worm castings. Consider adding slow release fertilizer. Don’t fill containers to the brim with soil; leave a margin of 2 to 5 cm for mulch. Use bark nuggets, shredded bark, compost or burlap to mulch soil. Mulch reduces moisture loss from soil and helps lower soil temperature. If you’re growing tomatoes and peppers in full sun on a hot driveway or patio, cluster pots of vegetables and/or flowers together to insulate tomato or pepper roots.

Plant Deeply

Tuck your seedling deep in the pot, covering the majority of the exposed stem with soil. On tomatoes, remove lower leaves, burying that part of the stem - roots will emerge where leaves were attached. Don’t pinch blooms from plants; they may yield an early crop.

Large pots will dwarf tiny seedlings, but in four weeks plants will fill out the container. Insert stakes at planting time. A simple wooden stake or stake tepee will supportthe plants. A traditional tomato cage works well with bush (determinate) tomatoes and peppers.

Water and Feed Well

Keep soil consistently moist. In early summer, you’ll water less frequently because roots won’t have filled the pot. As the plant grows and summer heats up, expect to water pots daily. Make sure water is soaking into soil and not just running in the tiny space that can form between dry soil and the pot.

Container tomatoes and peppers need more fertilizer than in-ground plants. Each time you water, you’re washing a little fertilizer from the soil, so you must replace that throughout the growing season. For those of you with a small number of plants, use Baby Bio for Tomatoes. If you have a larger number of plants, use Phostrogen Tomato Food.