If you’re familiar with Amsterdam, you’ll know we’re a bit crunched on space. Towards the center, the roads are narrow. It’s hard to come by a spare parking space. And all of the houses are tightly packed side-by-side, sprawling up vertically. I am lucky enough to live in such an apartment. It’s filled with charm and old Dutch character, but my stairs are steep, my living space is narrow, and by American standards, we are undoubtedly cramped for space.
While I would kill for a little vegetable garden out back, I’ve come to accept my urban balcony instead. It’s perfect for brunch or lounging outside at night, but the downside is, it’s south-eastern facing and doesn’t get much sunlight. The solution? I’ve taken to gardening in the living room.
This is my third Dutch summer, and it is the third time I have dabbled in some indoor gardening. Tomatos are always my best crop! After a few years of practice, I have picked up some tips and tricks of the trade that I would love to share with you!1* Choose the right window. Tomatoes love sunlight. Place them next to a big window that faces south or north (north if you’re in the southern hemisphere, south for the northern hemisphere). That way your little tommies will get sunlight all day long. Also, make sure your window location is not too cold. If you have to wear a sweater or a long sleeve shirt in the room, chances are your tomato plants will be a bit chilled as well.
2* Pick a pear or cherry tomato plant. Some plants are better suited for growing indoors. Although big heirloom tomatoes are super delicious, they’re not very well suited to grow in an indoor environment. Go for little pear or cherry tomatos to yield the best fruit.3* Let the breeze in. When grown outside, tomato plants have the help of bees and the wind to pollinate. If your tomato plants are growing indoors, they may need a little help with pollination. Open the window and let some fresh air blow through, or if you prefer, set up a fan near your plants. This will get the air circulating and will help your plants pollinate. 4* Plant, wait. Plant, wait. Repeat. This is one trick I wish I had known sooner. You get home from the buying your tomato seeds and you’re excited. You dig out your pots, lay down your soil, and very gently drop a tomato seed into each tiny pot. You followed all of the directions and did everything right. But you’ve made one mistake, and you don’t even know it. If you want a constant flow of fresh tomatoes all summer, you have to stagger the growth of your plants. Don’t get over excited and plant all of your tomatoes at once. Plant your first seed and wait a week or two. Then, plant your second seed. This way you will have fresh tomatoes ripening all summer long – as opposed to one big rush that yields too many tomatoes at once.
5* Rotate your tomato friends. To ensure all of your tomatoes thrive evenly, rotate their placement. If one spot is getting a particularly large amount of sunlight, pop a different tomato plant there the next day. Rotate your pots so all of your tomatoes get the same amount of sunlight.
B and I water the tomatoes fairly regularly, whenever the soil looks dry. They’re in smaller pots at the moment, but soon we will have to find some bigger pots!
They also make a great spring gift for friends and neighbors. I’ve already promised one to Shawn, who has a fabulous rooftop balcony – her tommy will love it up there!Happy urban gardening ;)