Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown by experienced gardeners and newbies alike. Unfortunately, they also tend to take up a lot of space – space that many gardeners just don’t have.
Whether you’re a renter, live in an apartment, or only have a tiny backyard that can fit one or two plants, finding the space for a fully-fledged tomato gardener can seem impossible.
Luckily, I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible at all. Far from it, in fact.
Any gardener, with some tweaks, can produce an abundant tomato harvest with minimal gardening space (or, no outdoor gardening space at all).
These five tips and the five varieties that follow will guide you to growing your own tomato plants from scratch, no matter where you live.
5 Tips For Growing Tomatoes in Small Spaces
1. Start Small
I’m usually a fan of the catchy cliché ‘go big or go home’. But, when growing tomatoes with limited space, the opposite is true.
It’s important to start small, both in variety and in the number of plants grown, to limit the space used and allow you to grow absolutely anywhere.
Starting small in variety means choosing a variety that fits the dimensions of your small space. There are a number of small tomato varieties mentioned below – often patio of dwarf varieties – that start small and stay that way for the entire growing period. These are normally determinate varieties, also known as ‘bush’ varieties, that grow to a set height.
Growing indeterminate tomato varieties in small spaces is a risky move, as they continue to grow taller over the season and can easily reach several feet tall. A continually growing plant is not ideal when you’re looking to cut down on space – stick to the determinate varieties that reach around 3 or 4 feet in maximum height.
Starting with a small variety is all good and well, but it won’t be much help if you grow a bunch of them. Gardeners, in our understandable desire to produce a mound of tomatoes at the end of the season, tend to overdo it when it comes to planting. One tomato plant will likely produce more tomatoes than you are expecting, and plenty for one person when gardening in small spaces.
Rather start small and scale up if you need to, than planting several plants that you find you can’t manage. Or worse, don’t let the smaller yield of one plant in a small space stop you from planting altogether. At the end of the day, one tomato plant is better than none.
2. Grow in Containers
My fellow apartment dwellers will understand the pain of not having a backyard to garden in. Renters have the same difficulty – there may be a garden present, but you often aren’t allowed to do anything with it. However, the space-strapped gardeners have the ultimate secret weapon – containers.
Containers allow you to grow bushy, healthy tomato plants in a – dare I say – contained space.
As you plant, you’ll know exactly how much space the plant needs. And, with some adjustments to your care routine, it can stay in the same container for the entire season, making it the most reliable growing option when space is a concern.
Best of all, you don’t need any backyard space to grow tomatoes in containers. Any sunny spot will provide an ideal environment for your plants, be it a balcony or a courtyard. If you don’t have any of those, you could even move your container indoors.
3. Grow Indoors
Gardeners with no outdoor space at all – and unfortunately, there are many of us – don’t have to miss out on the tomato growing fun. While the plants may produce fewer fruits overall, you can still grow a healthy, happy tomato plant without all the traditional conditions outdoors.
Growing tomatoes indoors will require some adjustments. You’ll need an incredibly sunny window to give the plants enough light to produce fruit, or you may need to invest in some powerful grow lights to simulate sunlight. You’ll also need to monitor the temperature frequently – tomatoes do their best work in warm weather.
With these caveats, indoor growers get one amazing benefit – tomatoes all year round.
Cold weather and frost typically signal the end of the tomato growing season. But, by preventing these conditions indoors, you can have a plant that produces tomatoes for the entire year.
4. Go Upwards
Gardeners tend to overlook one tomato growing option. And I mean overlook literally, as they grow above your head – hanging baskets.
There are several small tomato varieties ideal for hanging baskets that don’t have to take up any gardening space at all. It is probably the most efficient use of space to grow tomatoes, as you’ll be taking up a spot not normally occupied by anything else.
Hanging basket tomatoes also come with a wide range of benefits. They’re easy to access for care and harvesting, they turn your tomatoes into a cascading feature, and they can be brought indoors easily to protect your plants from the cold or extreme heat.
5. Provide Supports
If you are planting your tomatoes in your backyard outdoors, but don’t have much space in your beds, supports will become your new best friend. Most tomato varieties, whether determinate or indeterminate, benefit from support of some kind – whether that be staking, caging, or any of the other options. However, it is especially beneficial when you’re short on space.
The branches of unsupported tomatoes tend to grow along the ground under the weight of the branches and the fruits. Not only does this cause potential damage to the leaves and fruits by exposure to the soil, but it also takes up far more space than your plant needs to.
Cages tend to take up more space than stakes, which are the ideal option in this case. Stakes will support your plant while keeping the branches neat, tidy, and out of the way.
5 Best Tomato Varieties To Grow In Small Spaces
This incredibly popular variety is small in stature but big on flavor. It grows to approximately 30” in height and width, making it ideal for patio containers. Despite its small size, this variety produces an abundance of large, juicy fruits.
For a beloved cherry tomato variety, look no further than Sungold. This tomato gets its name from the golden orange color of the ripened fruits. They are renowned for their delicious flavor and compact growth – ideal for space-saving in the garden.
3. Tiny Tim
In case it wasn’t evident in the name, Tiny Tim tomato plants are quite small. This is one of the few tomato varieties that require no staking – even when fruiting – as the plant only reaches around 12” in height. It is great for both patio containers and hanging baskets.
4. Tumbling Tom
Another variety ideal for hanging baskets is Tumbling Tom. The tomatoes grow on cascading vines in red and yellow that make for a stunning hanging patio display. Tumbling Tom is known for its compact size and high yield, producing hundreds of tomatoes per plant.
5. Better Bush
If you’re new to tomato gardening, look no further than Better Bush for the ideal compact tomato variety. This plant can produce over 100 classic red tomatoes in a season out of one small container. It is slightly larger than the other compact varieties, averaging four feet in height, but produces enough large, juicy tomatoes to make the extra space worth your while.
Choose one of these compact varieties, pop them in a container – outdoors or indoors – or in a basket, and you can join the tomato growing club, no matter your budget on space.