I successfully grew cherry tomatoes in a south facing apartment window (the same plant) for five years running. I have no idea how long it may have lasted, as I let it die when it was time to move. It was planted in a long narrow planter box, so it had plenty of room for roots. Once I learned how to control the growth and watering I had almost constant tomatoes.
The key was to keep the soil evenly damp. I achieved this with a string that fed water into the pot from a quart jar. If the soil began to look dry, I added water. Forced air heat is not easy on plants in the winter time. Another key was spraying the plants daily with a misting spray bottle. Without this step, the blooms won’t pollinate and produce fruit.
Then there is the height and fullness of the plant. The goal isn’t to produce luxurious leaves, but luxurious tomatoes. For this, beauty might need to be sacrificed. I found that my plants produced the most tomatoes when they were kept quite short – 1 to 1-1/2 feet high. Initially, I had leaves to the ceiling, and no tomatoes at all. I kept trimming them back, worried all the while that I was going to kill them, but they put out new leaves closer to the base. You may want to stake the plant if the tomatoes are so abundant that the weight may break the branches.
Use standard potting soil, as you don’t want a heavy soil for anything in a pot. I’m not a fan of fertilizers, however. I only use fertilizer if a plant shows signs of stress and the symptoms indicate that might be the problem. I do believe that I had to resort to fertilizer in the last couple of years of the 5-year-tomato’s life, if memory serves me.
This year, I have a young volunteer tomato plant in my garden, and the same plastic planter box a few feet away. Now that our cat has gone to kitty heaven and the window sill is empty, I think I’ll go out and start my next indoor tomato experiment. I’m not sure about transplanting an existing plant. The tomato plant I wrote about here was purchased in the spring as a starter plant.
Tomatoes are hardy things – the good news is that you’re bound to succeed. The biggest danger is over-watering, causing the fruit to split open. A little experimenting, and you’ll be a pro.
Need to keep track of your gardening efforts? That’s why I designed the garden journals. Sales of the garden journals and student planners help fund our Giving Garden food pantry garden and give me the freedom to volunteer my own efforts and to help our nonprofit volunteers meet the needs of hundreds of families each month. I hope you’ll check them out for yourself or for a gardener or student you know.