Indoor Container Gardening
Ultimate Taste of Summer
Apartment Vegetable Garden
I would like to know if it is possible to grow tomatoes at home. I am living in a rental apartment. If I can, where should I start? I have no idea as to where and how to start. Please help?
Lakshmi of Ashburn, Virginia
My Uncle lives on the eighth floor of a low-income high rise apartment building where he has a balcony. He plants his tomatoes in a five-gallon bucket (purchased at Wal-Mart) and sits it in a flower pot drip tray big enough for the bucket. Or you could just buy a flowerpot about the size of a five-gallon bucket. It is better to have only one plant per bucket. Drill holes in the bottom of the bucket and put a small layer of rocks in the bottom. Add your dirt and plant. When the plant gets big enough, you'll have room in the bucket to add a tomato stake to hold up the plant. This method makes it easy to move when you need too. Enjoy your tomatoes.
Tomatoes are easy to grow indoors even in a small apartment. You might want to grow cherry tomatoes instead of Beef Stake, but you can grow either. The price of tomatoes today is terrible! In our small, remote town we pay well over $3 a pound for tomatoes unless they are on sale. At that price, who wants to buy them?
First, you will need to determine a place where the tomatoes will get good lighting. You can use a grow light, which is the best bet for indoor growing as it produces a synthetic sunshine. A big window will be helpful too. You can hang pots suspended from a hook in the ceiling, or you can provide a plant shelf. Make sure you protect the floors underneath the plants so water does not spill down onto it. Carpets will become soaked, stained and moldy, while wood floors will soak up water and turn dark where they have been damp or wet. A bathroom carpet with rubber backing is a good way of protecting the floors.
Purchase potting soil and supplement the watering with Miracle Grow. Potting soil will have the balance needed for starting your plants, and the bacteria will have been killed, so you do not have the worry of unwanted pests. You can get Miracle Grow formulated especially for tomatoes. It will provide the food your tomatoes need to produce good, strong fruits. (Yes, tomatoes are fruits.) Follow the directions on the Miracle Grow bottle carefully so you do not over feed the plants.
When the plants have blossomed, you will want to gently, but firmly, tap the plant to give it a bit of a "shiver" so the pollen will fall upon the other blossoms. You will want to do this several times as new blossoms appear. Another method is to place the tomatoes in pots and put them outside in the sunshine for several hours a day, if this is possible for you. Many of us do not live in apartments that have private balconies and therefore cannot place them outdoors.
You can grow other plants indoors as easily as you can tomatoes. Happy tomato growing! Homegrown tomatoes are so much tastier than the store purchased ones and cost a whole lot less!
Vicki (an apartment dweller)
I live in a condo that has a small balcony. I discovered that larger seed companies, such as Burpee, have "bush-style" tomato plants listed in their catalogs that thrive in a container without having to be supported by stakes and ties. The first year I purchased a packet from Burpee that was a bush-style cherry tomato. (Yikes! It was $1.95 plus another $1.50 for shipping for one small packet that contained ten seeds!) I was unable to find these in local stores, so I did order from their catalog.
I planted all ten seeds, kept the best two plants for myself, and then gave away the remaining eight plants to neighbors and family. At the end of the season, I dried out a "fresh batch" of seeds for use in the next growing season. I have done this for four years now, and I am spoiled by the privilege of going out onto my balcony and picking a handful of cherry tomatoes each night to enjoy with my dinner.
Teri W. from MA
There are several sites on the web about container gardening. If she has a screen porch or lanai (for sunlight), I think it would work. She should find out what direction that her porch or lanai faces. Try ahahome.com/html/articles/030201.cfm
I have always been a gardener. I grew up on a suburban acre where we had huge gardens, chickens, fruit trees and goats. We were practically food self-sufficient. When I got married, all we could afford was an efficiency apartment. Tilling the soil was in my blood, so I had to have a garden. Here's what I did.
We had a balcony, so I got a dozen 5 gallon pickle buckets from local restaurants, filled them with soil and horse manure and planted tomatoes in them. They did very well. I tied the tomato vines to the iron railing of the balcony and had great tomatoes.
Naturally, I wanted more than just tomatoes. I asked the rental agent if I could have an odd corner of the property for a garden. He said they allow those with patios to garden just outside the patio against the building, but he wasn't open to offering anything else. As we were on the third floor, it looked like I was out of luck.
My Dad suggested I bring a dozen donuts to the grounds and maintenance guys one morning and talk to them. I asked them if there was a way I could make a garden on the grounds somewhere. I told them my sob story of the mean old rental agent. Turns out, grounds workers in apartments don't seem to think too highly of rental agents. They offered me a large space behind their tractor shed. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
I set to work with a mattock trying to till the rock-hard ground. The next day, the grounds guys showed up with a tiller and tilled the soil for me! I found in the local paper a place close by that offered free horse manure and worked that into the soil. When I told the grounds crew I could use lawn clippings for mulch, they began dropping off all I could use, plus leaves in the fall and tree prunings for trellises and stakes. We had a very fertile and productive garden. Once it started producing, I would leave old grocery bags of produce at the shed door with each guy's name on them filled with greens, beans, tomatoes or whatever I had. The cycle of good will was continual.
The next year three other apartment dwellers and two of the grounds guys started gardens next to mine. After a few bags of produce were left on his desk, even the mean old rental agent came around. In the third year, we pooled our money and built a fence to keep the deer and rabbits out. The garden was a gathering place and a real asset to the community. I moved away 15 years ago, but the garden is still there and thriving. Like with so many things in life, good flows from taking a chance and persisting.
I highly recommend container gardening for food. I personally grow almost all of our vegetables now for my family of four. With canning, freezing and drying, it is remarkable what you can do with a little piece of ground. Saves a lot of cash!
My Sunday paper featured a book that is all about container gardens. You might want to see if your local library has a copy. The title is Bountiful Container and the authors are Maggie Stuckey and Rose Marie Nichols McGee. I hope this helps with your search for successful container growing!
I know a little bit about growing tomatoes in small places. I would recommend that you start with tomato plants from a local nursery. Some of the best tomatoes are "Celebrity" and "Early Girl." "Celebrity" will give you a large quantity of medium-sized tomatoes with a really good flavor. "Early Girl" tomatoes, like the name suggest, come earlier and are a little bigger size.
If you would like a smaller salad tomato, "Sweet 100's" do well in pots. "Christmas Grape" tomatoes are very flavorful as well. Make sure to pick as large a pot as you are comfortable with. Also be sure to plant the tomato plant at the thickest part of the stem to give it good support. When the plant has grown a bit, stake it with a tomato cage. This will keep the plant from falling over especially when it is heavy with fruit. I would water more often when it is first starting out, and then water less when it starts to bear fruit. If you water tomatoes too much, the fruit will not have a nice texture.
If you end up with an abundance of tomatoes, you can throw them into the freezer and use them in tomato soups later on. Their skin is easier to peel and they taste great. Just take them out of the freezer and thaw them half way in the microwave so the skin can come off and then throw them in the pot with a few veggies. Yum! Good luck on your new adventure!
Julie from Bountiful Utah
Growing tomatoes is quite easy, assuming you live in a sunny location.
What you need:
This is a good time to start growing plants (in February and March). Place the peat pellets in the small plastic greenhouse and add some water to it. The peat pellets will absorb the water and expand to the size of film canisters.
Once the peat pellets have expanded, use your baby finger to depress a small indentation in the top of each peat pellet. Add one seed to each pellet and lightly cover. Place the cover on the green house and position the green house in a warm sunny location. Keep an eye on the moisture content. You want to make sure the peat pellets are constantly moist but not soggy. Check on them daily to ensure the cover is on the greenhouse.
You may start to see small sprouts appear within a week or so. Keep the pellets in the greenhouse until the sprouts appear too large to remain inside. When the sprouts are large enough (about 3 inches), place the pellet in a larger peat pot and fill with soil. Ensure that the pellet isn't right at the bottom. Place all the peat pots in a small plastic tray and keep moist.
By Spring, the plants should be healthy enough to transplant into a window pot. If the plants seem to be falling over, you might need to insert a wooden stick into the soil and use some string to hold them up. Carefully cut the bottoms off the peat pots and place into a planter, filling it up with soil. Place the planter in a sunny location outside and ensure the soil stays moist. By the middle to the end of summer, you should see some tomatoes coming. I sometimes find feeding the tomatoes with a fertilizer helps to strengthen them. Hope this helps.
I live in an apartment and love growing my own vegetables. Currently, I have five tomato plants, cucumbers, and an herb garden. I have the most fun with the tomatoes because I grow different varieties. You will want "bush" varieties because they don't grow as high. They grow like a bush, so they don't need to be staked. A good variety is a better boy bush. If you like making sauces, try roma. A sweet 100 is a cherry tomato that literally produces hundreds of great tasting cherry tomatoes for salads. Try large containers as the soil heats up quicker, and the tomatoes love it. You don't need much room if you use containers and stagger them using bricks or benches. Tomatoes need as much sun exposure as possible.
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