The Q&A Archives: Apartment Tomatoes

Question: I moved from a house in South Carolina to an apartment in Illinois and would like to grow the same great tomatoes I got there, so how big a pot, what seeds would you recommend, how do I get them started off, etc.

Answer: I am assuming you have a deck or balcony to put these on and it receives adequate lighting for tomatoes. A good rule of thumb for growing tomatoes in containers is full sized plants need 5 gallons of soil in a container with a diameter of about 18". I think half whiskey barrels are great for growing tomatoes in containers. I get the same harvest when I put 1 tomato plant per 1/2 whiskey barrel than I do when I plant them in the ground (actually, the container harvest is a little better to be honest). When planting your tomatoes (this is especially important for container growing) be sure to add lots of organic material such as compost, leaf mould or composted cow manure into the mix. You will probably want to grow a full sized tomato, a cherry tomato and perhaps a yellow tomato (if you are a tomato lover like me). For maximum tomato harvest plant an early tomato like Burpee's 'Fourth of July', a great producer like 'Burpee's Big Girl', a cherry tomato you can plant in a hanging basket such as 'Tumbler' and if you want to "go for the gold" try 'Sweet Tangerine'. Sow seed indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the last frost date for your area. All of the varieties above are available from Burpee, all except 'Tumbler' are available from Burpee in sure start plants if you want to go that route. Contact Burpee at 1-800-888-1447 or visit the website. When starting from seed be sure to use a sterile, soilless mix, provide adequate lighting, good air circulation, and be careful with watering (not too much, not too little). If you need further seed starting guidance feel free to post another question via the website.

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