If you live in an apartment and love fresh tomatoes, you may have wondered how to grow tomato plants in a small space. You can grow them by using small space gardening methods.
Step 1: Find a Location
Look around your apartment and find the best location for your tomato plant. A balcony or porch would be perfect. Otherwise, use a sunny windowsill facing south or west.
Step 2: Preparation
Clear the area you’ve chosen for your tomato plant to provide room for tending the plant, and to allow maximum sunlight to reach your plant. Determine whether you’ll need a plant stand or space for supplemental lights. To use commonly available, inexpensive shop lights (fluorescent tubes) for supplemental lighting, you’ll need either 24 or 48 inches of space to accommodate the light fixtures. When space is very limited, plan to use 24-inch fluorescent lights or smaller grow lights designed for indoor gardening.
Step 3: Choose a Tomato Variety
Start with one plant to gain experience if you’ve never grown tomatoes before. For small spaces, determinate varieties (also known as bush varieties) are better because they won’t grow too tall. Indeterminate tomato plants, which grow as a vine, can grow up to seven feet tall, making them unsuitable for small spaces.
For the best results in small areas, grow dwarf tomato plants such as:
- Red Robin
- Tiny Tim
- Cherry Gold
- Micro Tom
You can order seeds to grow dwarf varieties through online vegetable seed catalogs.
Step 4: Small Space Gardening Supplies
Small space gardening requires growing tomatoes in pots or small planting beds. Tomato root systems are large, so a deep container is necessary. Ideally, a five-gallon bucket (available at your local home center) should be used. If your space is too limited for a five-gallon bucket, a three-gallon pot may work for dwarf varieties. Make sure that there are holes in the bottom of your container for drainage.
Buy a light potting soil that drains well and tomato food (or a balanced fertilizer that’s not too high in nitrogen). Slow release fertilizer, which releases nutrients evenly over time, can make feeding your plant easier.
A watering can, soil scoop and plant stakes are also useful. Indeterminate plants can grow without support, but if the plant grows larger than expected, you may need a stake to hold it up.
Step 5: Tomato Plant Care
Tomato plants growing on a sunny balcony or porch usually have sufficient light. Plants grown near a window may not get enough light, making them leggy and poor fruit producers (tomatoes are a fruit). When natural light provides less than six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, use supplemental light (grow lights).
Your plant’s soil should be kept consistently moist, not soaking wet. Water from the bottom, taking care not to wet your tomato plant’s leaves. Fertilize according to the instructions on the fertilizer container. With adequate light, water and food, your tomato plant will thrive in the smallest of spaces.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.