Tomatoes are well known to gardeners as the holy grails of the garden. But most people are limited to growing these juicy, sweet orbs due to lack of garden at their homes.
They are wondering by lack of knowing the right spot to get tips about “How to grow tomatoes on a balcony”.
In this guide, I will show some precious tips to get the unmistakable heady scent of tomato vine on your home balcony.
I am going to show you the less time-consuming tips to grow the juicy and bigger sized tomatoes that will fill the taste of dishes and it explains well the most asking question that “how to grow tomatoes in pots outside”
In short, by following the below-mentioned tips you would a bucket full of juicy tomatoes.
Let’s get started.
Before moving to the tips let’s know some knowledge about growing other vegetables on the balcony.
What vegetables can you grow on a balcony?
Living in an apartment doesn’t mean that you can’t grow any vegetables. However, there are many vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, green onions, celery, bokchoy, and kales that can be grown in containers on the balcony.
Tomatoes are top of the list among the above-mentioned vegetables as they are easy to grow, have less space requires, and are very productive.
Container tomatoes are the advancement of the modern techniques to solve the problem of “How to grow patio tomatoes” and by it, you can grow vegetables in less space in the top floor apartments with sunlight access.
Types of Container Tomatoes
There are several types of tomatoes that can grow in containers. But all the types have unique growing methods.
Before choosing the tomatoes for containers, get some information about determinate(bushy) or indeterminate(vining) tomatoes types.
Mostly, the determinate is preferred to grow in containers because they don’t require staking.
Common container tomatoes are:
- Pixie Tomato
- Patio Tomato
- Toy Boy Tomato
- Floragold Tomato
- Micro-Tom Tomato
- Big Boy Tomato
- Tiny Tim Tomato
- Stakeless Tomato
- Early Girl Tomato
How to grow tomatoes on a balcony with Pots
1- Pick a Good Spot
The very first step in growing tomatoes on the balcony is choosing the right spot for placing the containers. Choose wisely the right spot where the plants could receive full sunlight for six to eight hours.
As the tomatoes need a steady moisture supply so make sure to choose the spot for containers where the water could excess easily by hose. Otherwise, you will need a watering can.
Try to get the spot with enough space to put the pots closer but not so much that their leaves rub each other – that could be a source of disease spreading from the diseased one.
If you are unaware of the sunlight that reaches the selected spot then you can measure by using a sunlight meter.
Make sure to check the plants regularly so that there is no obstacle that is leading to blockage of direct sunlight.
2- Choose the right type of tomato
A second most important step is choosing the right type of tomato that is well suited to the growing season, container size, seedling trays, and environmental conditions.
Usually, two major types of tomatoes are used for containers:
- Determinate types
Determinate types of tomato plants are also known as bush, compact or patio plants, and are usually considered the best tomato plants for growing in containers.
These plants grow predetermined sizes upto 3-4 feet tall and they set the fruits and flowers at once. This feature makes them reliable and predictable in containers.
Determinate tomatoes are best to grow if you have a short growing season ahead or you got a late start in the season.
Recommended determinate tomato varieties are:
- Italian Roma
- Cherry Falls
- Red Siberian
- Supremo Roma
- Indeterminate types
If you have enough space to put the large-sized containers and a decent growing season then go for indeterminate types of tomato plants. These are tall in size and vines that will give the abundant harvest all along with the summer and are totally doable in the containers.
Indeterminate tomato varieties are:
- Green Zebra
- Cuore Di Bue
- Cherokee Purple
- Black Krim
- Chocolate Cherry
3- Choose the right pots
After choosing the plant type you want to grow now comes the next step to choose the right type and sized pots/containers.
The bigger the pot, the better for tomatoes.
When it comes to growing the determinate varieties then choose the containers of a minimum 10-gallon size. But for indeterminate varieties choose the 20-gallon containers to get thriving plants.
Fabric pots are beneficial for growing plants in containers where the tomatoes are excessive root system plants so the fabric container gives natural air prune to roots.
As compared to the round and round growth of roots in plastic pots, the fabric pots allow the air-breathing of roots that cause the “burns off” tips of roots to stop them from excessive growth.
Place the plastic wrap underneath the pots to insulate the surface so plants do not get damaged by floor heat.
If the climate is cooler, black plastic pots will serve as a better way to keep the plant roots warm in late spring to early summer.
Whatever type of pots you choose for tomatoes, make sure to place the heavy-duty saucer underneath. That will benefit the plants and you will notice it later during the warm hot day. It will help to absorb the excess water over the course of a hot day.
4- Quality Potting Soil
A most important step to give your tomatoes a good start is putting the quality potting mix in containers. Quality potting mix will help to establish a good root system and a speedy growth start for seedlings by ensuring the availability of nutrients at the root zone.
Fill containers with the finest quality potting mix like aged compost-enriched do best for tomatoes. You can use any available indoor plants mulch for tomatoes.
Soil should be light and fluffy to give maximum moisture retention and air movement.
At the start, the soil should be more acidic to give a quick start to the seedlings but then the pH of the soil is increased to harvest the sweeter tomatoes.
To increase the pH of soil lately at the fruiting period, wood ash is the top-performing agent for raising pH levels of soils. It does also supply potassium to plants that are the main factor to enhance the production of sugars in plants and their transport to fruits.
5- Plant Tomatoes Properly
Planting of tomatoes begins just after the preparation and filing of potting mix in containers.
- Make sure to dig holes deep enough in which two-thirds of the tomato stem could be covered in soil, which will encourage more root growth.
- Avoid overcrowding the plants per pot while putting one plant per pot.
- Tomatoes seed germinates faster in warm soils.
- In case you are growing seeds in a single apartment, leave at least half-inch distance among them.
- Cotyledons start appearing one to two weeks after seed sowing but the appearance of true leaves can take up to a month or more.
- After the seedlings start sprouting, make sure to provide maximum sunlight to them, otherwise, with low sunlight plants will grow thin and weak and are more susceptible to diseases.
- Now gently pick the seedling with true leaves and plant them right up to the base of cotyledon leaves in the individual containers as one plant per pot.
- This practice of burying the plants up to the cotyledon’s base helps to develop a better root system and grow more robust seedlings.
- In case the weather is chilly, make sure to cover the pots frost blanket and swaddle them with straw, burlap, or blanket for extra protection.
6- Cover the Soil
As the tomatoes are moisture-loving plants so after planting the next step goes to cover the soil with mulch material to conserve moisture for more time
- During filling of containers make sure to fill the pot one inch below the rim so that you can add a mulch layer.
- Any straw, shredded bark, or fallen leaves can be used as mulch material to cover the soil.
- If using paper as mulch material then it will need to refresh the layer as paper decomposes quickly.
7- Water Regularly
The watering of tomatoes is the most important step after proper feeding. But make sure to moisten the soil but not keep standing water in pots.
Watering is the key point to the success of the growth of tomatoes.
To check whether your plants need to be water, check by pushing the finger into the soil. If the soil is dry then it’s time to water.
Make sure to place a saucer beneath each pot so that plants could use the water on hotter days.
Weather conditions like heat, humidity, wind, and size of pot or kind of potting mix are the key factors to calculate the watering of tomatoes.
A large full-sized tomato needs to be watered at least once or twice a day.
8- Feed Your Tomatoes
- Tomatoes are well known as heavy feeders and their feeding starts just after their plantation.
- After planting the tomato seedling in the pots, they require feeding every two weeks.
- All the primary nutrients NPK are essential for tomatoes.
- Make sure to use the potting mix that is enriched with essential nutrients.
- If the potting mix is well prepared then it will be enriched with well enough nutrients to support the initial growth.
- In case the potting soil does not have any nutrients then feed the tomatoes with all-purpose slow-release fertilizer or any tomato specific fertilizers.
But one thing to be taken care of is that too much nitrogen will not initiate the flowering and fruiting.
If you notice vigorous growth of tomatoes that are not producing flowers, pinch the tips and feed the plants with phosphorus-rich fertilizer.
9- Add calcium if need be
The main problem seems in growing tomatoes is the blossom end rot disease which is the direct reason for calcium deficiency.
In this disease, the fruit starts rotting from the flower end of tomatoes and it ends in the form of brown, soft, and mushy that eventually turns black.
There could be two reasons for this problem:
- Calcium is not present in the soil in enough amount
- Calcium is present but it is not available to plants as the transporting problems of calcium to roots.
To check the exact reason for calcium unavailability, do a soil test and make sure to correct the problem by adding calcium or adding water.
Add calcium as top dressing during planting time.
How to cure calcium deficiency in tomatoes?
The easiest and cheapest way to get rid of calcium deficiency problems is by adding crushed eggshells to the soil.
Before adding, let the eggshells dry and add them after grinding in any old grinder.
10- Support the plants
To keep the plants safe from damaging their own roots by a heavy load of fruits or the plant’s size, it is better to add support to tomato plants before they grow too large.
If you are growing determinate type tomatoes then the metal conical cages will be a better option
The best option for gardening experts is a tomato ladder and square tomato cages.
Both supports are famous for their premium features of durability, extendability, attractiveness, and strength.
Cages are better than ladders as you can easily tuck the tomato branches if they are too unruly.
While in tomato ladders you will need to stay on top of clipping and tying the vines of the plant to keep them clean and neat.
Make sure to add support in early growth to give your plants a definite shape because it will be difficult to wrangle a mature tomato plant into a cage.
11. Care from Disease attacks
Tomatoes are susceptible to diseases like blight and pests such as nematodes that can hang out in the soil.
The benefits of fresh tomatoes always outweigh the problems. Thick dark green stems are marks of truly healthy tomato plants. Growing tomatoes in containers is always an adventure. It can be incredibly rewarding or flat-out catastrophic. Sometimes epic failure can happen for reasons beyond your control like tomato blight or extremely wet or cold summer. But there are some common mistakes that if you avoid them, will vastly increase your chances of growing tomatoes in containers successfully.
12- Clean up when seasons end
After getting all the fruit from the tomato plants now it’s time to take out the spent tomato plants from the pots.
If you desire to use the pots again then remove all the soil, wash and scrub the soil from the inside out of the pots.
After washing, disinfect the pots by spraying a solution of bleach.
Common Diseases and Pests of Tomatoes
Some insect pests and diseases attack tomatoes in favorable conditions. First of all, diagnose diseases or insects then apply control. Here are some common insect pests of Tomatoes.
They are tiny cluster insects. Aphids appear on stems or new growth. Small numbers are easy to control. You can rub them with a cloth or hand. However large numbers can be dangerous for your plant vigor. Use any cloth or punch them and throw them in the garbage. You can use high water pressure too. Increase the number of lacewings or ladybugs in your balcony.
Insecticidal oil, neem oil or any other soap spray is also beneficial against Aphids.
They are grub-like insects. Cutworms feed on stems of tomatoes in the nighttime. They feed on seedlings by consuming them at ground level. Place collar around the seedling. You can use cardboard, Aluminium, or Paper in a cylinder shape.
Sink collars in one inch around the individual plant to prevent cutworm attack.
Fusarium fungus is a soil-borne pathogen. It attacks Solanaceous plants. In the initial stage, the fusarium will not show any symptoms. When a plant becomes mature and produces green fruit, fusarium appears to show symptoms. Leaves become yellowish and later brown to shed.
Crop rotation, avoiding humid conditions, and resistant varieties can prevent pathogens.
Mosaic virus symptoms caused by Tobamovirus. It is similar to the Tobacco virus. Tobamovirus causes mosaic-like symptoms on leaves. It can be destructive in severe conditions. Physical spread is common in case of the Mosaic virus.
Proper clean gardening tools and nutritional requirements fulfillment can control Mosaic Virus.
Early Blight of Tomatoes
It is the most common disease in tomatoes. Alternaria solani survive in soil over winter. In the initial stages, it will produce brown spots on leaves. Later these brown spots become large lesions. Early blight can destroy fruit in severe conditions.
Crop rotation and fungicide for tomatoes can control Early blight in tomatoes.
I hope that this guide provides the best answer to “how to grow tomatoes on a balcony?”.
Growing tomatoes has never been so easy if you are not following the right steps that would otherwise lead to failure of growth and wastage of time.
Timely fertilization and watering are the two main factors that reflect the growth of plants and fruiting.
By following these tips step to step you will get in love with tomato plants by their shiny and speedy growth.