How to Grow Tomatoes in an Apartment

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There’s nothing more delicious than a home grown tomato picked from your very own garden, whether you have a big back yard or a small space indoors in which to grow them. They’re relatively easy to grow, even for apartment dwellers. With a little sunlight, some simple gardening tools, the right soil and fertilizer and a lots of care and patience, juicy ripe homegrown tomatoes can be yours year round.

Things You'll Need

  • Balcony or porch
  • Windowsill
  • Tomato seeds
  • Watering can
  • Light potting soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Tomato food
  • 3-lb. or 5-lb. container
  • Soil scoop
  • Stakes
  • Fluorescent lighting

Look around your apartment for the best place to grow your tomato plants. A balcony, a small porch, or a sunny windowsill that faces west or south would be optimal. For best results, tomatoes need about four to six hours of direct sunlight a day.

Decide what type of tomatoes you want to grow in your apartment, such as a determinate—or dwarf—variety, or an indeterminate variety —the kind that grow taller or on a vine. Dwarf varieties may be best for apartment gardening since they don’t get very big. Browse the seed displays at your local gardening store or order them online. Examples of dwarf tomatoes include Red Robin, Tiny Tim, Cherry Gold, or Micro Tom.

Stock up on gardening supplies. Buy a watering can, a bag of light potting soil, a slow-release fertilizer or tomato food, a 3-lb. or 5-lb. container or bucket, a soil scoop, and stakes in case your plants get too big and need something to hold them up. Scrounge around for an old ice cube tray or two or very small cups to start the initial planting.

Start your seedlings in very small cups, such as an ice cube tray. Be sure to punch little holes in the bottom of the little cups so that water can drain out. Fill the cups with a good quality light soil and pack it down with your fingers. Bury your seeds in the soil according to packet directions and keep them moist but not drenched.

Transplant your seedlings into larger containers after your seeds have germinated, usually when two little leaves have sprouted. Yogurt cups or pots of similar size will be your best bet for this second stage of growth.

Transfer your tomato plants to 3-gallon to 5-gallon containers when they’ve reached about 4 to 8 inches tall. Plant at least 1 to 2 inches of the tomato plant underneath the soil and pack it down to encourage a strong root system. Feed your tomato plants with a slow release, low nitrogen fertilizer according to package directions to encourage lots of fruit growth. The time it'll take for fruit to appear will depend on what variety you've planted.

Tips & Warnings

  • Buy inexpensive 24-inch to 48-inch fluorescent light bulbs to provide supplemental lighting to an area that doesn't get enough sunlight.
  • Very young seedlings need to be warm, so place them near heating vents in your apartment until they start sprouting. They don't need direct sunlight until they start photosynthesizing.
  • Test the soil by sticking your finger a few inches below the surface to make sure it's moist enough.
  • Be sure not to put your young tomato seedlings in harsh sunlight all day or they'll become leggy and won't produce fruit.
  • Avoid wetting the leaves of your tomato seedlings.

References

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