Tomatoes are one of the several plants in the nightshade family that are essential for an edible garden. Tomatoes grow best outdoors in warm climates with long growing seasons, since it can take up to three months for seeds sown outdoors to mature into fruit-producing plants. One reason to grow fruit indoors is that it extends the fruit-producing season to year-round instead of just the end of summer. Once you’ve eaten a fresh, flavorful tomato from your garden, it’s difficult to go back to the tasteless tomatoes you get from the supermarket. Colorful tomatoes can be hard to grow during winter months when sunlight is scarce. Successfully growing tomatoes indoors requires some specific conditions.
Tomatoes are not typically grown as indoor plants, but they can be if you take care to provide conditions that are similar to an outdoor summer garden. Tomato plants are generally planted in the spring when there is no longer a risk of frost. You can plant them indoors anytime and stagger their planting time to get regular harvests. Choose a spot for your tomato plant that is warm and gets a lot of sunlight. Winter light is typically somewhat dim and short-lived, even in the brightest windows, so you will probably need to use grow lights. Indoor tomatoes must be protected from both strong drafts and poor air circulation in order to prevent fungal problems.
The same skills are needed to grow tomatoes indoors as to grow outdoor tomato plants, but there is the additional benefit of being able to control the elements. There are few pests and environmental conditions that are ruinous to your crop when grown indoors. There are both dwarf indeterminate and determinate tomato plants that don’t get out of control.
If you don’t have the space to grow tomatoes outdoors, then you should try growing them indoors. Even people who have difficulty moving around or who have other impairments can enjoy watching their plants grow and produce fruit throughout the year, including during winter. This article will teach you how to grow tomatoes in your home. It’s not hard to accomplish.
Cherry tomatoes produce well indoors, even in winter. Dwarf varieties, like Tiny Tim, are excellent for gardens because they grow no more than two feet tall. Dwarf tomatoes grow from summer to winter indoors. If you save the seeds from the fruit, you can grow a new plant next year. There are many types of tomato plants that produce different sized fruit, with different appearances and flavours. Plants that bear small fruits in high quantities are easier for indoor cultivation. Some tried-and-true favorites include:
- ‘Sun Gold’: This is an indeterminate, thin-skinned, bite-sized, yellow variety with very sweet, round fruit.
- ‘Jelly Bean’: This indeterminate variety features heavy clusters of up to 30 fruits that weigh 1/4 to 1/2 ounce each; it comes in both red and yellow fruits.
- ‘Tommy Toe’: This indeterminate heirloom cherry type is round or oval in shape, and the fruits weigh about 1/2 to 1 ounce each.
- ‘Pear’: This is an indeterminate cherry type with red or yellow pear-shaped fruits; it has prolific yields of fruit each weighing between 3/4 and 1 ounce.
- ‘Juliet’: This is an indeterminate tomato with glossy red fruits that are just a bit bigger than many cherry varieties at 1 ounce each.
Methods For Growing Tomatoes Indoors
There are multiple ways to grow tomatoes indoors. Cherry tomatoes need a lot of sunlight, so if you have a window that gets a lot of sunlight, that would be a good place to grow them. Tomatoes thrive in sunny conditions, making this an ideal way to grow them. An indoor window is beneficial to plants as it protects them from cold weather and provides them with the required amount of direct light per day.
If you don’t want bees to pollinate your plant, don’t put it in a window. The amount of space your tomato care setup takes up will depend on the method you use. You will need a grow light in addition to the sun’s light. As long as there is enough direct light, the harvest will be good.
Grow tents are another excellent option for growing inside. If you prefer to maintain a regular-sized determinate tomato plant, they accommodate a large plant. They also have exact controls for light and humidity, so you can achieve the perfect conditions. They can use a lot of energy and space. So consider this before you purchase a grow tent.
Hydroponic systems are ideal for tomatoes you grow indooors. The fruits produced by hydroponic gardens will be both juicy and delicious because they are grown in a water-based nutrient solution. The technology for growing plants at home has become very advanced and there are now many different ways to do it using hydroponics. You can buy systems that are different sizes and shapes to fit your needs. A setup for a home brewery doesn’t have to be big. It can be small enough to fit on a countertop or a baker’s rack. You could also grow tomatoes in a hydroponic tower.
The main disadvantage of growing regular or cherry tomatoes hydroponically is higher energy costs. This method requires a lot of management skills that some may be too busy to tackle. but if you keep trying, you’ll eventually have tomatoes that are good for stewing all day long.
Caring For Indoor Tomatoes
No matter what approach you take, there are a few things you’ll need to do to grow fruit that is healthy, juicy, and delicious. Maintain those and you’ll have tomatoes year-round.
Tomatoes are a plant that need six to eight hours of direct sunlight on most days. Indoors, the ideal spot is a bright, south-facing window. Rotate the pots every day to ensure that the seedlings begin to flower and set fruit. This will help the plant to grow strong and produce fruit. Because winter days are shorter in northern regions, you may need to use artificial light to help grow tomatoes.
If the amount of sunlight your tomato plants are getting is insufficient, set up some grow lights above the containers they’re in. It is helpful to have a system for raising and lowering the lights. Stretching up toward the light will make the plants leggy. This can be prevented by giving them enough space. The lighting should be positioned 1 to 2 inches above the seedlings until they start to flower and produce fruit.
Utilizing a T5 grow light can help ensure your plants are getting enough sunlight even if there are obstructions in your window throughout the day Choose one of these to give your window plant extra light to simulate more sun exposure. If you are growing tomatoes indoors, you should use one of these lights.
Temperature and Humidity
Tomatoes grown indoors prefer temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A tomato plant’s ideal climate is between 70 and 85 degrees. You should keep your tomato plants away from vents to ensure that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much. A stream of cold air from your AC could prevent your plants from growing. Dry conditions from a heat vent damages plants too.
If you can’t escape your HVAC system, the nearest vent should be closed in order to keep the temperature and humidity stable.
Tomato plants like a lot of water. However, they don’t appreciate wet feet, so be sure there is proper drainage. When watering your tomatoes, try to keep the soil moist but not overly saturated. Having a consistent level of moisture will help to prevent your tomatoes from splitting and developing blossom end rot.
It’s a good idea to empty the water from the tray when it gets full, to keep the potting mix from getting too wet.
You should keep your plants away from strong drafts and temperature extremes from heating and cooling vents. If you live in an area with high humidity, your indoor tomatoes may be at risk for developing fungal problems. If your grow room has high humidity, you can try running a dehumidifier or a small fan to help lower the moisture in the air.
Growing Medium & Container
Choose a soil mix for indoor tomatoes that is wealthy, loose, and allows water to drain easily. A soilless potting mix works well for tomato growing. A coir starter pellet, or a mix of vermiculite, sand, and coir, will work well. Although soilless media does not contain most nutrients, it is necessary to fertilize it. Clay balls are a great growing medium for hydroponic systems. Although they aren’t the best for the other methods here, they are still worth considering.
You need a deep container to grow tomatoes indoors since they need a lot of depth to grow. Even dwarf varieties need deep planting. Therefore, the minimum pot size for dwarf tomatoes should be 5 gallons, and the minimum pot size for regular varieties should be 10 gallons. Pots need drainage holes. Pots that water themselves are not good for tomatoes that do not like to be overwatered or that do not get a regular amount of water. Grow bags are good, but they are porous. The grow bags will work if you have a way to catch the water that will flow out of them. Stick to a large clay or plastic planter if you don’t want the roots to rot.
Pruning and Maintenance
Pruning your tomato plants is not required, but it can help them to be more productive. Remove the flowers from the plant while it is still young to promote growth, leaving the blooming for when the plant is stronger and can support the fruit. As your tomato plants grow to about six inches tall, remove the bottom leaves to prevent splashback from the media onto the plants.
Determinate varieties should not be pruned. Indeterminate varieties have main stems with small stems growing off of them. You can prune off some of the small stems. These small “suckers” won’t bear much fruit. If you want your plant to produce more fruit, you should encourage it by taking off the foliage. In contrast, indeterminate dwarf tomatoes are more like wild plants than determinate plants. Prune the branches of your plant just above the node as needed to shape it. Tomatoes that are determinate and indeterminate can both benefit from having the suckers removed. You can propagate tomato seedlings by rooting suckers in prepared soil or potting mix.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Potted tomatoes require more frequent feeding than tomatoes planted in the ground. Apply a slow-release fertilizer that is specific to tomatoes to your potting mix or soil-less growing medium when you plant. To fertilize your plant, add more to the soil every couple of weeks in a ring around the plant. Water the soil to help the fertilizer absorb into the roots.
Potting Soil and Drainage
Tomatoes grow well in a soil that is full of organic matter and that drains well. The pH of the soil should be slightly acidic to neutral. For the best results with container plantings, use a high-quality all-purpose organic potting mix. The container must also have enough drainage holes to prevent root rot from soil that stays wet for an extended period of time. An unsealed clay container is best because it allows moisture to escape through its walls. For indoor growth, you’ll need a tray under the container to catch water from the drainage holes. This will help to prevent water from damaging your furniture or floor. Ensure that you empty the tray once it has filled up to stop the roots from being submerged in water. To help support the plant, use a tomato cage, stakes, or other support structure.
Moving Tomatoes Outdoors for the Summer
Tomatoes are warm-season plants that should not be moved outdoors until the weather is warm. When the nighttime temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the daytime temperature is reliably in the upper 70s, it is safe to move them outdoors for the summer. Potted tomatoes should be slowly introduced to the outdoors over the span of a week to prevent them from experiencing shock from the sudden change.
When to Bring Tomatoes Back Inside
Tomatoes in pots that have been moved outdoors should be brought back inside before the temperature at night falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomatoes need warmth to grow well, and they don’t do well in cold weather.
You will have fewer pests and diseases to deal with when you grow tomatoes indoors rather than outdoors. There are two pests that can travel from outside and get into your plants, especially in the summer. These are fungus gnats and broad mites. There are a variety of organic pesticides that can help reduce the amount of damage caused by gnats and mites in each pot in your indoor garden.
Even though tomatoes love hot weather, it is possible to grow them indoors. Indoor tomato plants are not difficult to take care of. Find a location in your house that gets a lot of sunlight, and make sure to water your plant regularly. Then enjoy the fruit of your labor every day.