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How to sow and grow bush tomatoes

This bush tomato plant gets to be 50 - 80 cm tall, so you don't need a trellis. It grows great in an MM-Mini grow bag or in the back row of a garden box.

The tomatoes are about 5 - 7 cm in diameter and have an old-fashioned tomato taste: not too sweet but very tasty.
Rode balkontomaat van de Makkelijke Moestuin
Red bush tomato from the Planty Garden

What is a bush tomato?

Most tomato plants grow big and tall and need to be tied to a trellis or rack so they don't fall over.

A bush tomato stays small and compact because the stem is shorter. They grow great without a trellis. They may need a little support from a stick of bamboo when the plant is full of tomatoes, but that's it.

There's no need to remove the side shoots on bush tomatoes. You want them nice and bushy after all.

Tomatoes are very healthy

Tomatoes contain vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B6, and B11 (folic acid), as well as potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

They're also packed with lycopene. It gives them their beautiful color and also helps reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Studies show that your body absorbs lycopene better if the tomatoes are cooked first. But when you cook them, they lose a lot of their vitamin C.

So, enjoy your bush tomatoes both raw and cooked to get all the benefits.

More about our bush tomato

Our bush tomato produces medium-sized tomatoes with an old-fashioned tomato flavor.

Tomatoes are true summer vegetables that need lots of warm weather. So pick a sunny spot for your plant, either or in an MM-Mini of in the last row of your garden box or the one in front of that if the box has a trellis.

  • Species name: balcony tomato 'Maya’
  • Family: nightshade
  • Plants per square patch: 1
  • Height: 50 - 80 cm
  • Pre-sowing: mid-March till end of April. Plant outside in mid-May
  • Position: back row or the last row in front of that with a trellis. Or ideal for the MM-Mini
  • Time to harvest: After 16 weeks
  • Germination: 20°C in 6 - 10 days
  • Sunlight: Needs a sunny spot protected from the wind

Want to buy bush tomato seeds? We sell seed bags separately or as part of a seed pack:

What do you need to grow your own bush tomatoes?

All you need is:
  • a 30x30 cm square patch with airy, nutritious soil mix
  • bush tomato seeds
  • a place with at least 8 hours of sunlight a day

In other words: an MM-Mini, or a square patch in one of our garden boxes, filled with MM-Mix.

Growing your own bush tomatoes is super easy with the MM-Mix. If you grow in low-quality (potting) soil, disappointment is pretty much guaranteed. So, don't skimp on soil mix: go for the best.
Balkontomaat in een Makkelijke Moestuin-mini
Bush tomato plants grow great in an MM-Mini

How do you sow and grow bush tomatoes?

Our bush tomato is included in the free Planty Gardening app. Use it, and you'll get step-by-step guidance from seed to harvest.

Each plant goes through a number of stages - we call them levels. The app tells you exactly what to do at each level and checks in when your plants are ready for the next.

So you don't need to know how to grow bush tomatoes before you start: the app takes you through every step.

But if you'd like to read more about those steps, here's what the process looks like:

Level 1: Pre-sowing a bush tomato

Tomatoes are real summer vegetables and take a long time to grow from a seed into a plant with ripe tomatoes. Too long for our climate here in the Netherlands. The seeds only germinate around 21°C.

So, you pre-sow them indoors at the end of March. Once you have a strong, young plant around the end of May, you can move it outside to your garden box.

Pre-sow 2 tomato plants so you'll have a backup, just in case.

This is how you pre-sow:
  • fill 2 air pots with the MM pre-sowing mix*
  • put 1 seed in each pot in the mix: 1 cm deep
  • put the pots in a warm place in the living room
  • keep the mix moist for the next few days

*This mixture is ideal because seedlings don't need as many nutrients when they're young. Too many nutrients can make them grow too fast: the plants become limp instead of sturdy. Also, it helps retain moisture.

Level 2 and 3: Bush tomato seedlings

As soon as you see the seedlings come up, you know it's going well. They won't both come up at the same time, but after a week you should see 1 seedling in each pot.

Then put the pots in an area that gets a lot of light but somewhere that won't get too warm.

Keep the mix moist and give the pots a quarter turn every day. This will prevent the seedlings from growing crooked.

After another 10 days or so it's time for the next level.
Zaailing van Makkelijke Moestuin balkontomaat op de vensterbank
Bush tomato seedling coming up

Level 4 and 5: Taking care of your plants on the windowsill

Keeping plants in good shape on the windowsill can be tricky.

Make sure they get plenty of light but don't get too warm: full sun, but not warmer than 20°C.

And keep giving them a quarter turn every day so they don't grow crooked. Keep the soil mix moist.

After another 10 days or so transfer the plants to a larger pot with MM-Mix only. This will help the plants create extra roots and they'll grow even better.
Klein balkontomaat plantje op de vensterbank
Small bush tomato plant growing strong

Level 6-10: Getting used to the outdoors

This level starts around the second half of May. Then it's time to let your plants get used to being outside. A little longer every day.

At level 10, your plants will stay outside all day. You only bring them inside at night.
Afharden balkontomaat eind mei: wennen aan de buitenlucht
Getting used to the outdoors

Level 11: Plant the most beautiful tomato plant

Once they've gotten used to the outdoors, choose the best-looking tomato plant and move it into your garden box or MM-Mini.

Make a hole and sprinkle some extra nutrients in it. Then put your tomato plant in the hole. That's it.

Of course, water your bush tomato regularly. Always water the base of the plant, never the leaves.

Level 12 - 14: Caring for your tomato plant

These levels include tending to your tomato plant and discovering the first flowers.

Every 4-5 weeks, add some extra nutrients to the soil mix. In July, the first tomatoes will start to ripen. As soon as fruits appear, give your plant some support to prevent it from falling over. Propping it up on bamboo sticks is an easy way.

Unlike other tomatoes, you don’t need to remove the side shoots (suckers): you want your plants to get nice bushy. When the tomato fruits ripen, just remove any leaves that are blocking their sun.

Water regularly, remove weeds and ugly leaves, and watch your tomatoes start to grow.
Geef een balkon tomaat wat steun
Give the bush tomato some support

Level 15: Harvest the first tomatoes

After about 16 weeks, the first tomatoes are ready. They stay green for a long time and then slowly turn red. That's when they're ripe for the picking.

In warm sunny weather, it happens fast. It goes slower if the temperature is lower.

Tomatoes are best when they're bright red but still firm. If you leave them hanging too long they become soft and mealy.

Ripe tomatoes can be picked by hand: the stems break easily. Or use scissors and cut them off.
Rijpende tomaten aan de Makkelijke Moestuin balkontomaat
The tomato turns from green to red as it matures

What do you use bush tomatoes for?

The red bush tomatoes are great raw or cooked.

They're delicious on their own or added to salads, sauces, soups, and stir fries.

The last levels

Around the end of August, the days get shorter and the tomatoes take longer to ripen.

To encourage them, cut away any leaves hanging in front of the fruits so the sun can reach them.

Cut off new flower clusters too: if they turn into tomatoes, they'll just stay green and won't ripen. Remove them so all the plant's energy can focus on the tomatoes that are already there.

You can keep harvesting until fall. Tomato plants can't handle cold weather so then it's time to remove them from your garden box or MM-Mini.
Balkontomaat eind augustus: knip het blad voor de rijpende tomaten weg.
Cut away any leaves blocking your tomatoes to help them ripen

So: how about growing your own bush tomatoes?

They're super tasty tomatoes and easy to grow. The plants look beautiful in your Planty Garden too.

Plus: with our app and materials, it's practically impossible to fail 😉

Buy your bush tomato seeds here or get started with a complete starter set:

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