How To Grow Tomatoes On A Balcony In Containers

How To Grow Tomatoes On A Balcony In Containers

There’s nothing quite like growing your own fresh tomatoes. Luckily, even if you only have a small balcony, you can still grow juicy tomatoes in large pots or suitable containers. Here’s how to grow tomatoes on a balcony and enjoy that sweet taste that only comes with homegrown tomatoes.

Step 1 – Select The Right Container

bush tomato growing in a nice large pot

To grow a tomato plant successfully, you need to choose a container that’s large enough to accommodate the root system of a tomato plant.

At a minimum, you want the pot to be around 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. If you decide to grow more than one variety, you’re going to need a separate pot for each one.

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Ensure that the pot you select has good drainage holes so that the water can drain freely from the soil. Because you’re growing on a balcony, you can choose to sit a saucer under the pot to catch any excess water.

Tomatoes are quite thirsty plants and will soon take up any water that might collect in the saucer.

You might even want to consider using a self-watering pot if you can find one that is large enough.

Step 2 – Position The Pot In The Sunniest Part Of Your Balcony

lots of pot-grown tomatoes in a small courtyard

Tomatoes need a lot of direct sunlight to produce plenty of fruits. Therefore, you want to position your plant in the sunniest part of your balcony. Preferably, a spot that receives sun for the most part of the day.

But, what about if your balcony is situated in a way that half gets sun in the morning and the other half gets sun in the afternoon? There are two solutions to this problem.

One clever idea would be to place your pot on a movable stand so that you can easily wheel it around on your balcony. This will allow you to change the position of your plant throughout the day.

However, if you’re out at work all day, this option will not work for you. Therefore, place your pot in the part of the balcony that receives as much of the morning sun as possible.

Step 3 – Fill Your Pot With Premium Potting Mix

filling small pots with premium potting mixing using a small trowel

Choosing a premium potting mix or potting soil is vitally important for the healthy growth of your tomato plants. Never be tempted to use garden soil in your pots.

Garden soil is too heavy and will easily become compacted when placed in a pot. On the other hand, premium potting soil will contain materials to keep the structure nice and open.

If you’re not sure what potting mix you should use, I wrote an article on exactly this topic where I give you some suggestions on the types of mixes that I would use. You can read all about it here.

You might also like to add some slow-release fertilizer to the mix before filling your pot. Tomatoes are quite heavy feeders and will appreciate the extra and essential nutrients this will provide.

Step 4 – Choose Your Tomato Variety Wisely

three pots with small tomato plants and a blank label

There are so many different types of tomato varieties that you could grow, that it can be difficult to choose which one you want to try.

My advice would be to stick with one of the determinate varieties as these are generally more compact and better for growing in a large container. They are likely to give you the best results.

Let me briefly explain the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

Determinate Tomato Varieties

Determinate tomatoes can often be referred to as bush tomatoes or patio tomatoes. These varieties are quite compact in growth and are perfect for small spaces. They’ll reach a certain height and then the main stem will stop growing.

Instead, you’ll get lateral branches that will grow and these will end up producing flowers and fruit. One benefit of determinate tomatoes is that they don’t need extensive staking and you can just use a tomato cage to contain them.

The only slight drawback with determinate tomatoes is that most of the fruit will grow and ripen all at once. But, if you’re lucky, you might get a second flush of fruit after the first one.

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes have a slightly different growth habit. The main stem of these plants will just continue to grow and grow and won’t stop unless you pluck out the tip. 

Additionally, you’ll get lots of lateral branches that you’ll have to prune out. If you don’t do this, these will also continue to grow and before you know it, your entire balcony will be overrun with tomato vines.

These varieties of tomatoes will also require extensive staking in order to keep the vines off the ground. 

While these will continue to produce fruit right throughout the season, they are not the perfect choice 

for growing on a balcony because they just take up too much space. 

Some of the best tomato varieties suitable for balcony growing include Patio Princess, Window Box Roma, and Husky Cherry Red.

Alternatively, if you have hanging space, you could also consider growing cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets. Some good varieties include Tiny Tim and Tumbling Tom. This is one way to extend your growing space when you’re focusing on container gardening.

Step 5 – Plant Your Tomatoes And Care For Them

woman watering pot-grown tomato plants with a green plastic watering can

Once you’ve gathered your pot, potting soil and small tomato plants, you can plant your seedlings into their pots and start caring for them.

One of the most important things to remember is to water your plants on a regular basis. Remember that the soil in pots tends to dry out fairly quickly.

This means that in summer and throughout the main growing season, you might have to water your tomatoes once or twice a day to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out too much. 

Always water your plants at the soil level and avoid getting the leaves wet. Wet leaves can encourage fungal diseases such as powdery mildew so these should be avoided.

You also need to feed your plants if you want lots of delicious fruits. Use an organic liquid feed such as nutrient-fortified liquid seaweed or fish emulsion and apply this once a week during the flowering and fruiting period.

Make sure that the fertilizer that you select is fairly balanced and has plenty of potassium in it for good fruiting. Look for commercial fetilizers that are designed specifically for tomato plants.

Growing Tomatoes On A Balcony Garden Summarized

tomato plants in pots with tiny tomatoes on them

To grow tomatoes successfully on your balcony, you just need to follow the steps outlined above:

  • Choose a large container that is at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter with good drainage holes.
  • Select a sunny spot on your balcony for your tomatoes to grow successfully.
  • Fill your pot with a premium potting mix.
  • Select a compact or bush-type variety of tomato that won’t get too large and take over your balcony.
  • Keep your plants well-watered, especially on hot summer days.
  • Feed your plants weekly with a good organic fertilizer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do tomatoes take to grow?

This will depend on the variety and how advanced your purchased tomato seedlings are. But, in general, it can take anywhere from 65 to 70 days before you can start harvesting your tomatoes. To speed up the time, you can often purchase more advanced plants from your local garden center. All you’ll have to do with these is repot them into a larger container and care for them.

How often should you water tomatoes grown in containers?

For container-grown tomatoes, it’s important to water them frequently during the warmer days of summer. The soil should not be allowed to dry out for too long. For this reason, you might need to water your plants daily or sometimes even twice a day.

How much sunlight do tomatoes need?

Ideally, you want to provide your tomatoes with at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily if you can. 

Are there any fungal diseases to watch out for?

Tomatoes grown on balconies should be fairly free from fungal diseases as they’re not growing in a garden in soil that can harbor fungal spores. However, if you notice yellowing of leaves or spots on them, just remove the affected parts of the plant and make sure there’s plenty of airflow around it. You also want to keep an eye out for blossom end rot which can affect the fruit. 

Final Thoughts

If you follow the steps outlined above, you should be able to grow delicious, juicy ripe tomatoes on your balcony that you can enjoy all through summer. Just remember that tomatoes need plenty of warmth, so the best time to grow them is through summer.

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