Growing Tomatoes All Year on Your Porch for Beginner Gardeners

Pink light will solve the problem in cold climates, and as food shortages become more common, it’s a sensible step.

Image for post
Tomatoes are great with basil Pixabay Anelka

Growing tomatoes can be as quick and easy as cutting open a tomato and chucking the seeds into a sunny patch of soil. I have a friend who grows a vegetable garden in exactly that way. Whenever she prepares food, anything that has a seed is scattered into the small garden patch outside the side door of her home. While she waters every day or two, that is all she does. Over the years, some seeds have taken, including two or three tomato bushes.

This is a quick and easy tutorial on how to become a tomato grower.

A Brief Step by Step Tutorial to Growing Tomatoes on Your Porch

  1. Find a sunny place on your porch. Tomatoes need to grow in warm weather in a sunny spot. It should be frost free in winter, plus still have the sun — even if it’s winter sun.
  2. Buy or select a large pot. Tomatoes have a fairly extensive root system — growing to about 6 or 7 inches below the top soil.
  3. Select the type of tomato that will grow best in your climate zone, preferably one that will provide tomatoes all year round. Some tomatoes are more pot friendly than others.
  4. Purchase seeds. Make sure to ask the storekeeper if the seeds are younger than four years old. You don’t want dud seeds.
  5. Purchase pot, soil,fertilizer, container to germinate seeds, and watering can. Fertilizer generally comprises phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. Tomato plants need more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen, so check the ratio when you buy the fertilizer.
  6. If you’re not using artificial light and heat, then it’s best to plant in spring. In the northern hemisphere, that in April, and in the southern hemisphere, that’s in October.
  7. Put moist soil, mixed with fertilizer, into a germinating tray. Make furrows. Put seeds in about a quarter inch deep and half an inch apart. Cover with soil and water.
  8. Make sure the place is warm and that there is either a strong electric light or sunlight.
  9. It takes about a week for them to germinate, i.e. for the stem and the plant to sprout above the ground.
  10. It takes about a month for them to begin to look like a plant. That means that the leaves have begun to show.
  11. Now’s the time to transfer each seed to its pot. Insert moist soil into suitably large plant pots. Be sure to add some fertilizer at about about the six inch level. Sometimes you can buy a pot plant mix but you will still need to buy a fertilizer as most potting mixes are devoid of nutrients. A slow-release fertilizer works best.
  12. Use a small spade to remove each seedling from the germinating container, then transplant each seedling to the bigger pot. Water about fifteen minutes after you have transplanted them into their new container.
  13. You should have your first crop of tomatoes within about two months. Thereafter, if you’ve bought the bush variety that produces fruit all year around, you should have tomatoes available for your daily use.

The following tomato types produce fruit all year round and can be grown in containers. Sweet 100 are the most popular home-grown tomato. This plant produces hundreds of sweet cherry tomatoes and matures within 65 days. The Bush Steak tomato variety produces large, juicy tomatoes. It only reaches 2 feet high, but produces huge fruit within 65 days. The Pik Red variety of tomato produces a bumper crop of fruit within 71 days. It’s perfect for canning. The Sun Sugar type produces a very sweet tomato within 65 days. Source.

Protecting Tomatoes From Frost

Tomato plants will die if they come into contact with frost, so they are best grown in warm soil and in a climate where there is no frost. If you’re living in a very cold climate, it’s best to grow them in a greenhouse if your porch isn’t protected. Tomatoes need sunny days so chose your spot carefully. They can also grow indoors with some special lighting. The warmer the soil, the better your tomatoes will grow, and the tastier they will be. If you own a greenhouse, they produce wonderful tomatoes. If not, you will need to select an area where there’s plenty of light as tomatoes love light and warmth.

Image for post
Tomatoes add color and nutrients to all dishes. Pixabay Rita E

Growing Tomatoes Indoors Using LED Light.

With the discovery that plants grow more quickly in pink light, not only have several tomato producers taken to growing tomatoes in large buildings set up with pink light, but various retailers are now selling pink light kits. Ikea sells a white light kit, but fruit and vegetables grown under pink light grows more quickly than fruit and vegetables grown under white light. Another advantage of growing food with the aid of pink light is that the process requires 90% less water than growing food outdoors.

Setting up an area on your porch that caters to a pink light environment is a little more complex. The area would need to be enclosed, and it would need to be specially built. Once that has been done, however, the procedure for growing tomator plants (or any other plant) would be identical.

How Much Work is it to Grow Tomatoes?

There is a little bit of work involved in growing tomatoes. Firstly, you have to plant the seeds. Secondly, you have to check that the soil is moist all the time and water them when it is not. Thirdly, you have to ensure that they are getting sunlight, and if you can only ensure that it’s morning sun or afternoon sun, you will need to move the container around during the days. The more sunshine there is, the more tomato plants thrive! Also, if you’re growing from seed, you first need to germinate your tomato seeds, and once they have sprouted, you will replant them in a large container.

That said, tomatoes are the easiest food to grow. If you eat a lot of them, and if you live in a sunny climate, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a pot just outside your door (or even one on our porch) so that you can just step outside and pick them when you need them. Home grown tomatoes will also have fewer pesticides — preferably none. They also taste sweeter. Heritage tomatoes, while oddly shaped and multi-colored, have a much sweeter taste.

An heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato in the UK) is an open-pollinated, non-hybrid heirloom cultivar of tomato. They are classified as: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, or created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids. They are grown for a variety of reasons: for food, historical interest, access to wider varieties, and by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste. Source.

Image for post
My sister has these small tomatoes growing like a vine on her patio. You can grow these indoors, on a patio, in a hanging contrainer, or in a small garden. They are available at Amazon for around $7. Remember to get a beautiful pot. If you’re not a natural gardener, you do want to be motivated by having beautiful things. Own artwork. Fair use.

Home Grown is Cheaper and Healthier

Home-grown tomatoes have a sweeter, fuller taste than shop-grown tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are currently the most popular. That’s because they have not been genetically modified. You can grow some all year round, so it’s a matter of stepping outside your door and picking them off the tomato bush.

The deputy director of science of Kew Gardens in London, Professor Monique Simmonds, said that tomatoes bought in stores are often mass produced specifically for their appearance, thereby losing out on other properties like taste and nutrients. She also mentioned that herbicides were used and that they were harvested early and often artifically ripened so that their shelf life was longer. This, however, affected their taste as well as their nutritious value.

One study, conducted at Kew Gardens in London, discovered that homegrown tomatoes are sweeter and richer in nutrients than those in the supermarkets. According to the deputy director of science at Kew Professor Monique Simmonds, this is because many fruits and vegetables are grown to be aesthetically pleasing. With tomatoes, in particular, they are harvested before they are ready and then artificially ripened, which improves their shelf life, but not their health value. According to Simmonds, whilst eating homegrown produce regularly isn’t a miracle cure or guarantee you will live a long and healthy life, it can certainly help you on your way. Source.

There are Many Different Types of Tomato Plants

There are many different types of tomatoes — plum tomatoes, heritage tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beafsteak tomatoes, and grape tomatoes — in all 7500 types of tomatoes. Commercially grown tomatoes tend to be hybrids of two or three different types and do not taste as delicious as heritage/heirloom tomatoes which are not genetically modified.

In addition, the tomatoes on a bush blossom simultaneously while tomatoes on a vine blossom blossom at different times. As a home grower, one would probably want a crop that gives a fresh batch of tomatoes every few days, so the latter is probably the better choice. In addition, some tomato plants produce their fruit once a year (an annual), and then the bush dies.

Currently, the most popular choice of tomatoes is the Heritage tomato. This is because the taste is out of this world and because they are indeterminate — they produce new fruit every few days. They also don’t die once they produce, i.e. they are perennial rather than annual.

Best Pots for Tomatoes

Chose a large pot as the root system is intricate and spreads quickly. You can also select a hanging container which is specifically designed for tomatoes. When the plant grows too large for the pot (the roots will start becoming visible, then it’s time to depot and re-pot. You simply remove the entire plant from one pot and pot into a larger pot. It’s probably better, though, to select a large pot right at the beginning. There is always a danger of a plant dying when it is tranferred.

Your plant pot should have a good drainage system (pop stones at the bottom of the pot) because tomato plants need water as soon as the soil becomes dry.
For hanging containers, pick a bush that has a smaller fruit.

If you’ve chosen a seed that will grow into a large bush, select a large pot that will contain the weight as they can be quite heavy.

Growing tomatoes in a hanging basket requires a little more care and one has to select a smaller variety of tomato. When growing indeterminate tomatoes (they produce tomatoes one after the other instead of blossoming all at one time), it’s best to have a longish shaped container that stands up against a wall, or has sticks placed as these tomato plants are vines — not bushes.

A More Detailed Step by Step Tutorial on How to Grow Tomatoes on Your Porch

  1. Firstly, if you’re growing from seed, you can put a lot of seeds into a container, about an 1/8 inch deep and a few inches apart. You also need to use a soil that is specially prepared for seeding; this can be bought at a nursery. You will need to ensure that the soil is always moist and that the soil temperature is always warm. It will take about two months for the seeds to germinate, and it is at this point that they can be removed from their container and put into the large container.
  2. Select a sunny spot that will get sun during the day time, be it winter or summer. If you are living in a northern climate where it is too cold to grow tomatoes outdoors on the porch, then take them inside and get fluorescent grow light bulbs and keep them on so that the plants get lots of light. Tomatoes need lots of light. The best temperature to grow tomatoes is seventy degrees.
  3. Ensure that your container is wide and deep and that you can keep the soil in a constant state of moisture. So there should be good drainage. Tomatoes always need a good deal of water so if you choose to grow two or more tomatoes in one container, you will need to water two or three times more than you would if you only had one tomato plant in a container.
  4. Put well fertilized soil into the container. Most potting soil does not contain fertilizers, so if it doesn’t, then you need to feed the soil in which your tomatoes are growing with a weekly dose of fertilizer. It is better if the fertilizer is a slow release fertilizer and, of course, there are fertilizers that are used specifically for tomatoes, so it’s best to invest in these.
  5. The trick to having successful tomato plants is to permit them to have lots of moisture, heat, sunlight, and a deep root system. So when you plant the seedlings that have sprouted, put the first two or three levels of leaves underneath the soil, leaving the rest above ground. Plant about eighteen inches apart if you don’t give each tomato plant their own pot.
  6. Water them with warm water about ten or fifteen minutes after you have planted them. This helps them to settle.
  7. Keep the soil moist at all times and ensure that they have strong light. Harvest them when they are ready as the more you harvest, they more they produce more fruit.
Image for post
Hanging Tomatoes also add ambience to any garden. Pixabay Lukas Bieri

Summing Up Your First Steps as a Home-Food Grower

When the Great Depression struck, most people were living in rural areas and so could grow quite a bit of their own food. These days, most people stay in cities and the only way to lower food costs is to grow food in your garden, or if you’re living in an apartment, grow food on your porch. One of the easiest food items to grow is tomatoes, and most people buy, at least, a few tomatoes each week, as they are convenient and healthy.

Growing tomatoes on your porch can be the beginning of something good. As you learn about growing plants, it becomes addictive. Ask any gardener. However, more than that, the difference in taste, nutrious value, and the ability to have food on call makes the effort well worth it. As you become expert at growing tomatoes, you will soon find yourself growing cucumbers, lettuce and spinach, all of which can be grown quite successfully on your porch.

If you purchase the tomatoes at Amazon via the link, I earn a few pennies.

Written by

Global citizen. Author. Thinker. Polymath. Climate change. Progressive. Loves photography, beauty, dancing, and believes benevolence is a survival mechanism.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store