- Determine if you have enough sun
- Gather your materials
- Make sure your pots and plants can withstand wind gusts
- Feed and water your plants
- Support plants as they grow
Let's get into more detail for each of these steps so we can get you gardening. Your balcony is going to look amazing covered in tomato plants!
Raising Tomatoes On Your Balcony
The very first thing to consider when deciding if you can do a balcony vegetable garden is the amount of sunlight you get. Tomatoes prefer full, bright sun, and standard wisdom is that it takes about eight hours per day, although one gardener found that six and a half hours per day would do.
So look around, are you blocked by another building? Have a large shade tree outside your balcony? No? Then good, you're ready to begin.
Do Tomatoes Grow Better In Pots Or In The Ground?
First, you're probably wondering if tomatoes grow better in the ground than in pots.
Not necessarily. One of the great things about growing in pots or raised beds is you have less concern about pests and diseases. If you choose the right variety of plants, then you'll yield as many tomatoes as you might if you grew them in the ground.
What Do You Need For Growing Tomatoes On The Balcony
- Tomato Seedlings
- Stakes or Cages
If you're starting your own seedlings, you might consider using peat moss pots.
These handy little circular pellets expand to form small "pots" when watered and are a great way to start your seedlings in a tray on the windowsill.
Have larger pots on hand for transferring once the tomato plants are sturdy enough and between 6-10 inches tall. Something about 10" in diameter is a good choice, as it will give you plenty of room for growth. If they have a water tray beneath them, that will help for maximum absorption of the liquid your plants will need (more on that later).
The Best Kinds Of Balcony Tomatoes
When choosing your plants you want to consider the overall size. Some tomatoes get very large and carry heavy fruit (like the classic Burpee Big Boy comes to mind), but with the consideration of wind and the need to stake the tomatoes, this may not be your best choice. There are some species specifically bred for balcony and container growing. Also, cherry tomato varieties can work very well, even in window boxes.
- Big Boy Bush Tomato - this hybrid is smaller than the original Big Boy and grows in bush form.
- Burpees Pixie - a 16" plant that will give you fruit from summer through fall
- Tumbling Tom Cherry Tomatoes - these work great in a window box or hanging pot, perfect for small balconies
- Small Fry VFN - grows about 3 ft high and needs very little support
- Yellow Canary - compact and easily grown in a 12" pot, the fruit is very sweet
- Yellow Pear - Another cherry tomato, sweet, yellow, and named for its shape
Choosing The Right Soil
When choosing soil for your potted tomatoes you might think just digging up some earth would be the right thing to do. Well, it's not. One of the benefits of potted tomatoes is having fewer pest and disease problems and by using purchased soil, you'll be off to a great start. There are many mixes on the market specifically made for growing vegetables.
Using something like this Black Gold organic soil gives you fertilizer and soil all in one. The mix of earthworm castings and peat moss helps with feeding and aeration.
You may want to add in a little perlite to help keep things loose and draining well.
Feeding Your Tomatoes
Use a few tablespoons of a 5-10-5 vegetable fertilizer when you transfer your seedlings to their larger pots. As the summer goes along you can further help your plants by pulling off any dried or yellowed foliage and giving it another small hit of fertilizer. This can allow for the extension of your harvest season.
How Often Should Tomatoes Be Watered?
You're going to want to check on your tomato plants daily. Their soil needs to be continually moist to maximize the growth and yield of the plants. Because they're on a balcony, and presuming that means more wind, the pots may have a tendency to dry out more quickly than if they were in an in-ground garden.
But be careful not to get the leaves of the plant too wet when watering. Wet leaves and foliage are what can lead to blight and other fungal diseases.
Secure Your Tomato Plants As They Grow
With some hanging basket varieties and more shrub type plants, you won't have to worry about tomato stakes or cages. But other varieties may require a little assistance in the standing up and staying strong department.
You can use pieces of bamboo along with twine, as shown in this photo to help your plants out. You can even tie it to the grid of the balcony itself if your balcony has rails.
Here several stakes are inserted into the soil of large potted shrub type tomatoes to give a bit of extra security for the plant and to keep the branches upright as they grow heavy with fruit. Stakes are typically made of bamboo and come in various pre-cut lengths for every size garden and plant.
Harvest Your Tomatoes
In general, though it will depend upon the variety, you can expect to harvest your tomatoes anywhere from 2 to 3 months after transplanting your seedlings. But it's so worth the wait. There's nothing as amazing as a homegrown, hot from the sun, fresh off the vine tomato.
What Other Vegetables Can Be Grown On A Balcony?
Now that you've started thinking about it, you might be saying to yourself, why stop at tomatoes? Why not have a full-blown vegetable garden on my balcony. Exactly, why not? But what other vegetables can you grow on the balcony?
We've put together a little list of other plants you can grow on your balcony. (We spy lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and kale in this photo)
- Lima Beans
- Snap Peas
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Summer Squash
There are many varieties that work great for container gardening. Hybrids have been developed that take less space while still producing a decent amount of produce. It will all depend on the size of your balcony and how much effort you want to put into the garden.
We have a few other posts on balcony growing that we hope you'll check out: