Tomatoes can be grown indoors all year round but you will need to provide artificial light especially in the winter months. Tomatoes are one of the easier plants that can be grown indoors. You can expect to have a regular supply of fresh tomatoes from your own indoor garden.
If you’ve had enough of the grocery store tomatoes that never seem to have any flavour, then, tomatoes grown indoors in your own indoor garden could be the way for you to go.
You can grow tomatoes indoors all year round producing fresh tomatoes. Choose a variety that has plenty of flavour. Tomatoes that are home grown tend to be ripe, full of flavour and less acidic.
Store-bought tomatoes tend to be varieties that never seem to ripen, they don’t have much flavour (unless cooked) and can be quite acidic. When corporate growers grow tomatoes, they don’t seem to realise that we want tomatoes that have flavour and that they actually finish ripening.
Here we have all the reasons we need to make the case for home grown tomatoes. In most parts of the world we can grow tomatoes in a greenhouse or polytunnel and the lucky people can grow them outdoors. This will work well during the growing seasons but Winter is good at bringing a stop to all of it.
This is when we can start looking at how to grow tomatoes indoors. If you don’t have a garden where you can grow anything, then, growing tomatoes indoors will be your only option. This is not a bad place to be. It gives you the opportunity to look at the latest thinking and technology that comes with modern indoor gardens. See more about indoor-farms.
If you aren’t minded to commit to using the latest methods of growing indoors, then, there are other methods.
Can tomatoes be grown indoors?
There’s nothing wrong with tomatoes being grown indoors using the container method. You will need large containers for this to work. A large plant that’s producing a load of tomatoes can be quite heavy. This needs a secure base container.
The container needs to be filled with a potting mix and suitable fertilizer.
The best part about growing tomatoes indoors for yourself is that you get to choose which variety to grow.
The first thing to think about is the plant structure of which there are two choices. There are tomatoes that grow on bush tomato plants. This is known as determinate. Then there’s the other type where tomatoes are grown on vines. This is known as indeterminate.
Do you want tomatoes on a bush or on a vine?
Either will work for growing tomatoes indoors. The indeterminate vine style is considered to be the best for indoor grown tomatoes. These are climbers that will need a frame or trellis to hold onto. Vine tomatoes will keep on growing through a season and will produce more tomatoes as the plant extends.
A plum or cherry type variety will produce the best tomatoes by this method. The only problem with the vine tomato plants is that they take up more space than determinate bush plants.
Where space is a problem, and it often is, the vine style of growing tomatoes won’t be your first option. You will have to think about dwarf tomatoes. Dwarf determinate bush tomatoes work really well in the modern style indoor gardens See more about indoor-farms.
There are dwarf determinate cherry tomatoes. Among the varieties worth considering are Washington Cherry and Gold Nugget. Other determinate cherry tomatoes include hybrids, Jubilee and Terenzo Hybrid.
There are plenty of indeterminate vine varieties to choose from that have lots of fancy but memorable names. They start with Pink Ping Pong, Siberia, Silver Fir Tree, Tommy Toe and Yellow pear. Then there are the hybrid vine tomatoes of which there is an impressive selection. These include: Micro Tom,Orange Pixie Tomato,Patio,Red Robin,Small Fry,Tint Tim and Totem.
Looking at Tomatoes grown indoors
Growing tomatoes from seeds
Most people find success from filling seed-trays with a starting-mix potting medium. Make this moist so that it’s ready to receive the seeds.Make a hole about ¼ inch deep in each seed-cell. Place 2 or 3 seeds in each hole and cover with more potting mix.
If you don’t have any seed-trays available you can use other small containers. Anything will do for this but make sure that the containers are clean. Tomatoes are susceptible to diseases. Cleaning containers with a bleach solution is recommended. The best guidance is a 1:10 bleach:water solution.
Tomatoes need warmth and water to germinate
Keep the seed pots moist and provide warmth.The target here is to hold a soil temperature of 70°F to 80°F. A warm room indoors should suffice. All germinating seeds need a temperature rise at this stage and tomatoes are no exception. If you can’t achieve a high enough room temperature, it may be worth getting a heating mat.
You must pull off the cover and look closely at the seeds everyday to check that there’s adequate moisture.
Where the conditions are good enough you can expect to see signs of germination in about a week.
You can help the germination along by placing a sheet of clear plastic over the seeded containers straight after you’ve planted them. This will stop the soil from losing moisture and create a safer micro-climate for the emerging tomato seedlings.
When the tomato seedlings appear
When the green shoots of your tomato seedlings appear, this is when they are going to need light. You may be lucky enough to have a window that gets lots of sunshine for 8 hours of the day. For most of us this isn’t going to happen. We’re going to get the odd moments when plants in the window area get a short dose of good sunlight and that will be it.
Your tomato seedling shoots will need 8 hours of good quality light every day. If you can make this happen, then, you will get the best crop of tomatoes that can be grown indoors.
Tomato plants that don’t get enough light tend to be spindly and poor-looking. At the first sight of green shoots you need to remove any covers and work on getting light to them. To be sure of getting enough light, most people resort to ‘grow-lights’.
This is artificial light but works well for growing tomatoes and a lot of other things indoors. The light source needs to be placed about 2 or 3 inches above the top of the seedlings. As the seedlings grow, you need to move the light source up so that the plants don’t touch the light panel.
Don’t place the light source too high above the growing plants as this will dilute the amount of light that reaches the plants. Diluted light will result in weak plants that are unlikely to produce any tomatoes.
If you’re relying on sunlight coming through a window you need to turn the plants around regularly to prevent the plants from leaning in one direction; plants always grow towards light.
Potting on your tomato plants
When your tomato plants are showing leaves, this is the time to transplant them from the seed-tray plugs or small growing-pots and plant them in the container where they will grow on to produce tomatoes.
The container needs to be big enough to support the roots system of a productive tomato plant that will, hopefully, become loaded with tomatoes. A container that would hold 5 to 10 gallons should be big enough with sufficient depth.
Transplanting a seedling from a small starter pot to the large container is easy. A small pot containing the seedling can be turned upside down holding the palm of your hand against the soil with the seedling protruding through between your fingers to support it. Squeeze the pot or give it a bit of a shake and the seedling together with the roots and all the soil, will pop out.
You can then drop the seedling the right way up into a hole that you’ve prepared in the soil in the large container. After you’ve completed the transplant, you need to give them a good watering. It’s crucial at this point that the tomato plants don’t dry out.
Tomatoes need water, probably more than most other plants. This will become evident when the tomatoes start appearing on the plant. If you allow them to dry at the fruiting stage you will notice signs of cracking or splitting in the red tomatoes.
One way of avoiding the problem of ensuring that your tomatoes are getting enough water is by setting up a modern indoor garden. These systems have a reservoir of water directly beneath the growing tomatoes.
The roots of the tomato plant are immersed in the water. If the water level drops to a point where it’s likely to be a problem, there’s an indicator to alert you to add more water. Find out about the modern way of growing tomatoes indoors together with all sorts of other plants. See more about indoor-farms.
If you prefer to grow tomatoes in a soil-filled container, this will work but you need to check the soil constantly for adequate moisture. You can generally see what the moisture level is by just sticking your finger in it.
Do tomatoes need to know when it’s day or night?
Tomatoes need plenty of light but they don’t need it all the time. They need the darkness of night time to have a rest period. This is easy to arrange when using artificial light. Lighting can be switched on in the morning then about twelve hours later it can be switched off. This can be easily automated by using a wired-in timer. Remember to raise your ‘grow light’ panel up as your tomatoes grow.
Tomatoes need fertilizer
The indeterminate vine tomatoes especially, need fertilizer. The plant keeps growing and producing tomatoes through the season. You need to apply fertilizer to tomato plants after 1 to 2 weeks after having transplanted them.
From then on you need to apply fertilizer every couple of weeks until the plant has reached its full size.
You need a fertilizer that’s high in Phosphorus, that’s the ‘P’ of the N:P:K. For application rates you need to follow the guidance provided by the supplier.
Vine tomatoes need to be trained
The indeterminate tomatoes need to be shown which way to grow and that’s in the upward direction and, where space permits, the outward direction. For this to happen they need to be supported. Vine tomatoes need to have something to grab hold of as they grow.
Stakes, a trellis or a frame of some type will be most useful for growing vine tomatoes. It may be necessary to tie the growing parts of a vine tomato plant to the support-frame. This will help keep the plant secure when the tomatoes are forming. The extra weight of new tomatoes on the plant will put a strain on the plant structure.
Tomatoes need to be pollinated
Tomatoes grown indoors will need help when it comes to pollination. When tomatoes are grown outdoors they have the benefit of bees and other airborne insects investigating the contents of the tomato flowers.This will see that there is a general distribution of pollen throughout all the flowers on a tomato plant.
There is also an input from the wind-factor which will also distribute pollen when tomatoes are grown outdoors. Unless you have your windows open a lot to allow the draft to come in, along with plenty of bees, these outdoor facilities will not be available when tomatoes are grown indoors.
There are things you can do to replace what nature does. When it’s clear that the flowers on the tomato plants are at the point when they can start producing pollen this is the time when you need to take action.
Some people have success with using a fan to replace the effects of wind. You could also gently shake the plant which will disturb the pollen in the flowers but the best way of all all is to use a small paint brush and just gently touch the inside of the flowers. This will put the pollen exactly where you want it.
Tomatoes do not need another plant next to them to help with pollinating. They are self pollinators which makes things very convenient when tomatoes are grown indoors .
Harvesting tomatoes is the best part
It will depend on which type of tomato you are growing but when they change colour to red yellow or pink, you can start thinking about harvesting your tomatoes. You can easily tell if tomatoes are ripe just by giving them a bit of a squeeze. If you pull on tomatoes when they’re hanging on the plant, they should come away in your hand very easily when ripe.
The container way of growing tomatoes will work well for most people provided that you install grow lights. See the latest technology for growing tomatoes indoors. Take a look at what’s available, see indoor or grow farms.
Things to look out for when growing tomatoes indoors or outdoors.
Tomato leaves sometimes go yellow. This can sometimes happen when the tomato plant isn’t getting enough water. It can also mean that there is a pest problem or there is a problem with the soil, perhaps a mineral indoorsdeficiency.
If it’s only affecting a few leaves and not the whole plant, then, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. This is not a problem that you are likely to have if you grow tomatoes using the modern ‘Grow Farm’ system. With this there is an indicator that displays when the water level is getting low. See more about the Grow Farm system.
Can tomatoes be grown indoors?
To sum up
The microclimate that the great-indoors will provide is ideal for growing tomatoes indoors. Tomato plants can often spread out as they grow in such an accommodating atmosphere, as a warm house can provide. They often need to be pruned to contain the plant size to suit the space that you have. Except that artificial light will be needed if you want to grow tomatoes indoors.
Regular watering will be important to avoid any splitting of ripening fruits. Fruit-splitting is something that can be avoided if you use a modern indoor growing system where the roots are in water all the time. Find out more at: indoor or grow farms.