Can I Grow Tomatoes On A North Facing Balcony?

Growing vegetables on your apartment’s balcony can be a fun and rewarding endeavor.  Not only are plants fun to grow and give you something to take care of, they are extremely therapeutic. 

And there is nothing like being able to pick some fresh tomatoes off the plants that you have been growing for the entire season!  

Some of the challenges with growing vegetables on a balcony is the issue of sufficient sunlight. Vegetables, but tomatoes, in particular, need quite a bit of sunlight to survive and thrive. 

The best type of vegetables to grow on a North-facing balcony are actually any green, leafy vegetables as these vegetables can thrive in partial sunlight much easier than some. 

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But if you have your heart set on having some tomatoes to snack on or to throw on a salad, let’s take a look at what you keep in mind when planning tomatoes on a balcony or porch that is facing North. 

Sunlight is Very Important

If you live in North America, or in the Northern Hemisphere in general, you are going to be subject to changing amounts of sunlight on your balcony porch as the year progresses. 

If you have a north-facing apartment balcony, the amount of light it gets is going to drastically change between Spring and Summer, and Summer and Fall.   

In the spring, when you are going to want to start planting your tomatoes in a portable planter, pot, or hanging planter, the sun is going to start on the Southside of the apartment building and slowly make an arc that will have the sun ending up being a bit South of overhead during midday. 

As June and July hit, the Northern Hemisphere is going to be tipped toward the sun much more so than fall and winter.  Depending on where you live, this means that more than likely, the sun is going to go far enough North in the sky to completely illuminate your north-facing porch for at least half of the daylight hours.  

The other half of those hours the sun is going to be at more of an angle, to the Northeast in the morning, and the Northwest in the evening.  These morning and evening hours are going to give your balcony more opportunity for direct sunlight.  

Remember, tomatoes need between 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day during their growing period so they can mature enough to produce fruit.  If they don’t get enough sunlight, they will not grow enough, and your tomato crop will fail.  

This is important to remember because if you have a balcony with a cover or roof over it, or you have someone living above you and don’t have access to direct sunlight overhead no matter what time of year it is, that is going to have major consequences for your tomatoes.   

You are going to need to depend on those hours of morning and evening during those hot summer months to give the tomatoes all the light they need because they are not going to be getting it from directly overhead.  

What Kind Of Tomatoes Should I Plant?

Make sure you grow smaller, cherry tomatoes instead of the full-sized plants.  Cherry tomatoes are easier to grow and tolerate pots and planters better than full-sized plants which need much more soil, space, and sun to thrive and grow. 

Even with a moderate amount of sun, your cherry tomatoes are going to have a much better chance of survival than something like a full-sized Beef-Steak Tomato. 

The other great thing about cherry tomatoes is that many of them are “indeterminate”, which basically means “ever-producing”.   Indeterminate means that not all of the fruit ripens on the tomato plant at the same time, meaning that if you take good care of the plant and pick the ripe tomatoes off the vine when they are ripe, you will be able to enjoy tomatoes all summer long!

Vines Or Bush?

If you are on a balcony, more often than not, you are going to want to go with the Bush-Variety of cherry tomatoes.  This is going to allow your tomatoes to stay in a relatively confined area and not spread out across your balcony porch. 

This allows you to have your little garden and not be intrusive on your neighbors or the apartment complex as a whole. 

For seeds, we recommend Harley Seeds found here on Amazon.

The nice thing about these seeds is that the seller guarantees them to sprout!  However, these Dwarf Red Robin seeds are the perfect size for your apartment balcony or porch. 

They produce their fruit in only 55-60 days, which is a nice, short growing season that will benefit from unsure light conditions if you are on a covered balcony.  

These Dwarf Red Robin Tomatoes grow to be around 9-12 inches tall and have sweet, abundant 1.25 inch tomatoes. They are perfect to snack on or have in a salad.  

If you are starting your tomatoes indoors, plant your seeds about 2-3 weeks before you will want to start taking them outside.  But if you are starting them indoors, make sure that you take them outside for limited amounts of time if they have spent their formative days indoors. 

Too much direct sunlight for plants that have been sprouted indoors can shock and scorch them. Try to take 5-7 days moving them indoors and outside gradually to get them used to the direct sunlight.  

Any good pot a foot in depth or so will work for these tomatoes, but for apartment dwellers who don’t have access to a full garden, we recommend this simple, yet effective solution the Hanging Planter for Tomatoes (Amazon Link)

These hanging planters allow your plants to get as much light as possible from your balcony or porch position.  They also have the added benefit of not only pulling the water and nutrients directly to the heart of the plant, but the design of the planters keeps the soil aerated and well-drained. 

Simply put normal dirt or potting soil in and hang your tomato plant and you are good to go! While they may look a little strange and be unconventional, we have used them ourselves and literally have never had such success growing tomatoes.  It’s like they love growing upside down! 

While tomatoes are not the most optimal vegetable (or fruit) that you can grow on your north-facing balcony or porch, that doesn’t mean that you can’t grow them!  You absolutely can! 

Look at the design of your apartment’s balcony.  Does it have a roof or covering that will prevent your tomatoes from getting light?  If so, use the hanging plant system shown above and simply hang your planter just like you would flowers.   

By maximizing the amount of sunlight, you can let your tomato plants have, and planting the right type of tomatoes, you can have a great mini-garden thriving on your porch in no time!

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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