Almost every deletable meal includes this lusty lady. She is number one on our “Top Ten Easiest Balcony/Patio Plants” list. She can be a vibrant red, a sunny yellow, a warm orange, a sparkling green, or a sultry purple. She is the tomato and she sweetens up any dish with her flavor and color. Tomatoes are great all year around but they are the sweetest in the summer time. Whether in an anti-pesto pasta or simply sliced with cottage cheese on top, they are a must have for summer. The good news is that they are extremely easy to grow at home! Even if you live in an apartment, so do not fret urban dwellers, tomatoes do amazingly in pots! First things first, you need to decide on a variety. The three varieties are:
- The Bush- the bush variety needs no support, so you don’t have to worry about any support stakes or training your plant to climb it. This variety will only grow about 1 ft. in height so you could plant one or two in a window box. This makes it good for those of you who do not have a very large outdoor space. You could simply open up your window and grab some heavenly sweetness. Better yet, you can leave your window open and let the sweet, summer sent waft into your home. The only down side to the bush is that, all your tomatoes will ripen at once instead of gradually throughout the summer. Some bush varieties to consider are; the Red Alert, the Maskotka, the Garden Pearl, or the Principe Borghese.
- The Tumbler- These guys really live up to their name. They grow a trail over the edge of containers. The tumbler would also be a good pick for those of you who have a small outdoor space, because it would do well in a hanging basket. You could simply reach up and pluck the sweet fruits. Some tumbler varieties are, Matt’s Wild Cherry and Tumbling Tom.
- The Vine- The more well known and more popular is the vine variety. This variety grows tall and it will need support, but it also provides product all summer and into autumn. When growing a vine you will have a little more work to do than with say a bush. You have to train your vine to grow around it’s support. This means you must gently tie the growing stems to the support until it wraps around it itself. If your balcony/patio has railings or trellis you can use those for support. Growing, a personal favorite, cherry tomatoes allows you to sit and pop them in your mouth with a leaf of fresh basil wrapped around them. Some good vine varieties are the sweet, orange, cherry Sungold, classic red cherry Gardener’s Delight and Ferline, and luscious purple Black Krim. You also need to make sure that you plant the vine variety in a deep pot. If you plant in a pot with a 1 ft. diameter, you could fit about four plants in it giving you the opportunity to plant many different varieties. One other thing to keep in mind is that, although it is a big plus that the vine will give fruit well into the last dregs of summer, if you don’t pinch it out it will continue to attempt fruit till winter. In late summer, pinch out the top of your plant just above a leaf. That way it won’t start producing more tomatoes. Unfortunately, by late summer what it would produce would not ripen before winter.
With their bright colors and wide green leaves, tomatoes would not only be good in your tummy but also a great addition to your outside oasis. They add shade and color. Although the above provides a few selected varieties, there are a lot more. If you are unsure which to plant, go to your local gardening store and ask. Or you can just look around for yourself. Chances are if it can grow at your local store, it can grow at home. All you need to do to take care of a tomato plant is feed it once a week and water it every day. When it get really hot, you may need to water twice a day. Just make sure you water either in the morning or in the evening. Just like watering a lawn, if you water mid day when the sun is high and the temperature is the warmest, you are going to be wasting water. Depending on your family size, growing on your balcony may not keep items permanently off your grocery list but it would help. Plus, if you haven’t noticed, organic food tends to last longer in your fridge. This is in large part due to the fact that it’s lack of preservatives means it is put in the stores faster. You never know how long ago the non organic foods have been off the vine! The price of organic food is at least three times the price of non organic, so it is not a viable choice for many of us. Wouldn’t you feel better biting into that tomato if you knew exactly what was in it and where it had been? Just imagine how much satisfaction you can get when you prepare a meal from your own garden. Not to mention the curb appeal it will give your balcony/patio. Consider this your first step into creating your very own after work oasis and making your very own edible balcony!