How To Grow Tomatoes In Your Indoor Home Garden

Tomatoes serve as a flavorful element to a lot of the culinary world and provide many of the key nutrients that we need in order to maintain a healthy diet. Eating fresh tomatoes with other fresh and organic ingredients is important in keeping your diet preservative and additive free.

Tomatoes on average, have about 22 calories each. This is very dependent on variety of tomato, size of tomato, and the type of fertilizer used during growth. Tomatoes are usually jam packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D. On average, a tomato will provide you with about 17% of your daily vitamin C. This is why it’s important to grow tomatoes organically, an each them as fresh as possible.

If you’ve ever eaten a store bought tomato during the winter season, you may have noticed it tasting rather bland. That is because during the winter months tomatoes are typically picked and shipped while they are still green, being left to finish ripening through the duration of the 1,500 miles that they travel to reach your supermarket. This often leads to your tomatoes lacking some of the key nutrients that they would otherwise have if they were left to ripen while still on the vine.

Here we will review how to grow your own tomatoes inside your home so that you can continue to enjoy the benefits of eating fresh tomatoes during the winter months. (Or if you don’t have room to grow them outside.)

What you will need

How to choose which variety of tomato to grow

1- Consider how much time you will have to maintain your plants

Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate.

  • Determinate: means that the plant will grow to a certain point and then stop. Click on the link to see some of the common determinate tomato varieties.
  • Indeterminate: means that the plant will grow like a vine, growing indefinitely. Click on the link to see some of the common indeterminate tomato varieties

It may appear that determinate varieties may be best for indoor growing. However, these plants usually only produce one large batch of fruit and then stop producing. In order to have a continuous harvest throughout the winter months, (or for the duration that you with to grow them indoors) you will have to stagger your tomato plants; meaning you plant multiple tomato plants, 1-2 weeks apart.

Indeterminate varieties will require much more attention, but if they are pruned and maintained well then they will continue to produce fruit and you will not need to grow as many plants to have a steady harvest. You will need to consider how large your indeterminate tomato variety can get, so that you can plan for the proper amount of space.

2- Consider how much room and how many grow lights or sun exposure you will have to grow your crop.
tomato cage

Whether you choose to grow a determinate or indeterminate variety of tomato, you will need to have room for a tomato cage. This cage provides support for the tomato plant as the fruit begins to weigh it down.

Without the cage, your plant will be stressed and will eventually fall and/or break once it begins to produce fruit.

Cherry tomatoes do not need a cage. These can be planted in a hanging basket, and will require little maintenance.

hanging cherry tomatoes

If you choose an indeterminate tomato variety then you will need to consider how tall and bushy you want the plant to be.

3- What do you want to use your tomatoes for?
  • If you want to make sauces from your tomatoes, then there are a number of tomatoes that are best grown for that reason. Roma tomatoes are the most common “sauce” tomato.
  • If you are looking for a sweet tomato to add to your daily salad then the cherry tomato may be what you’re looking for.
  • Here is a comprised list of tomato varieties that are bred specifically for small gardens and/or pots.

How to start your indoor tomato plant(s)

If you are growing your tomatoes inside, there is no need to start them in a seed tray. You can plant your organic heirloom tomatoes directly in the vessel that you plan to grow them in.

When tomatoes are grown outdoors, the best time of year to start them is about 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the cold season. Because of light cycle, tomatoes will grow best during this time of year. However, if you are able to find a suitable light source that can mimic spring and summer sunlight, then you can feel safe planting your tomatoes at any time during the year.

1- As this is an indoor garden you don’t need to worry about when you start your seeds.

2- Drill 5-6 small holes in the base of your 5 gallon pale for drainage. If you are using a large planter, check to make sure it has a form of drainage. Too much stagnant water will cause the roots to rot.

drilled holes

3- Using a nutrient rich soil (1 part vermiculite, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part compost), fill the pale leaving about 4 inches from the top of the pale.

4- Follow the directions on the seed packet of whatever tomato variety you have chosen, for planting depth. Depending on the variety you choose, you may be able to plant about 3 or 4 tomato plants in one pale. You can pull out weaker plants once they get established.

  • Note: Bushier indeterminate plants should only have 1 plant per container.
tomatoes in pale

Credit to My Balcony Jungle

5- If your tomatoes are not able to get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, then you will need to set up grow lights once the seedlings break through the dirt. Creating the same UV light that occurs naturally in sunlight can be difficult, but over the years, gardeners have been able to pin point which type of light plants need in order to thrive.

6- Be sure your plants are growing in an area that is always above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, they should be kept in temperatures between 65 and 90 for more than 90 days.

Setting up grow lights for indoor tomato plants

  • Note

You can use Smart Herb Garden instead of Grow Light which will provide light and monitor your herbs from you telephone. This is one of the best technology nowadays that can help you with the straggle of grow your own garden.

smart herb garden

It’s important to understand the function of red light (warm colored) and blue light (cool colored) when growing tomatoes.

  • Blue Light will promote vegetative growth, meaning the leafy part of your plants will flourish. However, it does not encourage plants to flower or produce fruit.​
  • Red Light will help your plants produce flowers, but won't do much to encourage the vegetative growth.

It’s most effective if you can find a system that has both red and blue lights.

grow lights

If you cannot find a system with both, then you will need to buy a system of just red or blue lights, and replace some of the bulbs with the other light. For example, if you buy a lighting system that has 4 red bulbs, remove every other bulb and replace the two that you took out, with blue bulbs.

lights over tomato system

1- Set up your lights so that they hang directly over your tomato plant. You may be able to buy a special lighting system that can surround your plant with vertical lights. But for simplicity, we will talk about a basic light system.

2- As your tomato plants grow, you will need to continue to change the height of your lighting system.

3- Some people like to surround their plants with reflective material so that the entire plant can get the light. This is not always necessary. For personal use, you should be able to obtain enough tomato harvest from simply hanging a light over the plant(s).

Caging your tomato plants

In order to make sure your tomato plant does not become weighed down and continues to grow up, you will need to secure it to a “cage” of some fashion.

You can buy a cage that is designed specifically for tomatoes, at any garden center. You can also create your own version of a cage by using wood, string, a lattice, or many other regular household items.

tomato cages

1- Once your tomato plant is about a foot tall, you can begin to secure the main stem by draping the branches over the horizontal parts of the cage.

2- As your plant continues to grow vertically, you can continue to drape the branches over the rings of the cage.

3- Once your plant begins to grow tomatoes, use string or twist ties to begin securing the main stem of your plant to the wall of the tomato cage.

  • Note

Ensure plenty of slack when you tie the stem to the cage. If you secure them too tight, you will break the stem as it grows.

For branches that produce a lot of heavy fruit, you can also tie those to the wall of the cage for extra support.

tying tomato plant

Pruning your tomato plant

To ensure all nutrients go to the branches that are producing fruit, and to promote vertical growth, you will want to properly prune your tomato plant.

1- Dead head your flowers. For flowers that do not get pollinated and begin to die, gently pull off the flowers so that the limb will redirect the nutrients that it is trying to provide the unproductive flower.

2- Cut off the suckers.

  • Note

Your tomato plant will continuously produce new growth. Growth on the top of your plant is okay. But new growth at the base of your plant will “suck” some of the nutrients from the branches and fruit.

Using a sharp pair of scissors or garden shears, cut off the suckers that begin to grow from the lower part of your plant.

suckers

3- Prune the top once it has reach the size you want. Once your tomato plant has reached your desired height, you can begin to prune off extra shoots from the top.

  • Note

This will redirect nutrients to existing branches, leaves, and flowers, encouraging more growth in those areas of the plant.

Pollinating your indoor tomato plants

This is the most important element to ensuring your indoor tomatoes will be productive. In an outdoor garden, bees would naturally pollinate your tomato plants.

During pollination, the bees open up the pores of the anther (where the pollen is stored) by agitating the flower. Some say you can mimic this by simply flicking the base of the flower prior to hand pollinating with a paint brush. However, more indoor gardeners agree that the best way to simulate bee pollination (to ensure the best fruiting result) is to use an electric toothbrush.

1-Turn on your electric tooth brush.

2- Touch the bristles of the electric tooth brush to the base of one of the flowers in a bunch.

3- Be sure to do this daily, as new flowers open up.

electric toothrush pollination
pollenating tomatoes

The flowers on a tomato plant will grow in bunches.

Touching the toothbrush to the outside base of one or two of these flowers will cause pollen to fall from the anther and will expose the stigma.

As pollen from one plant falls or floats through the air, it will land on the exposed stigmas of each flower. Viola! Your flowers will now turn to fruit.

tomato plant diagram

Watering and fertilizing your tomato plant

As you water your tomato plants daily and as your plants begin to grow, the nutrients in the soil will be used up. Replacing the nutrients is simple.

1- Water your plants regularly.

  • Smaller plants and seedlings can be watered once or twice a week.
  • Mature plants will need to be watered daily.

2- If you haven’t already, start a compost pile.

3- A handful of compost sprinkled at the base of each plant, once or twice a month, is the most effective way to organically fertilize your tomato plant.

4- If compost isn’t readily available to you, you can purchase bat guano or plant tone at your local garden center and sprinkle a small amount of that on your plant’s soil once or twice a month.

When and how to harvest

The best time to harvest tomatoes is when they have reached the correct color of ripe. Most plants reach harvest within Most tomatoes will turn fully red. There are a few varieties of tomatoes that will be purple or yellow when fully ripe. Your plant should begin producing fruit within 6-8 weeks.

Once your tomato is fully ripe, firmly grab the tomato with your full hand and pull. It should easily release from the point where it is connected to the plant.

harvesting tomatoes
  • Note

If it is difficult to pull the tomato from the plant, to ensure you don’t damage the tomato or the plant, use a pair of garden shears to snip it from where it is being held to the plant.

Troubleshooting your indoor tomato garden

Here are some common issues that you may run into with your tomato garden, and some ways to overcome them.

  • Remember, the bigger the roots - the bigger the fruits. If your tomato plant is not growing big enough, or is producing smaller fruits than they should be, try reporting your plant to a larger container.
  • Tomatoes are susceptible to a number of airborne diseases. If you type the description of any “symptoms” into a google search, you can easily find the issue that you are having.
  • Many diseases that you will see in an indoor setting will most likely come from the soil. You may need to change the Ph of your soil, or sterilize your soil before planting your seeds.
  • You can buy disease resistant seeds, but they are often times coated in chemicals or have been genetically modified. If you are looking to grow your tomato plants organically, it is not recommended that you buy seeds that have a chemical coating.
  • If you have one plant that looks as though it may be suffering from a disease, separate it from the rest of your plants.

And at the end, enjoy your healthy food!!

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