I absolutely love fresh grown tomatoes. The great flavor right off the vine cannot be compared to store bought that has sat for days. Although growing tomatoes outdoors may work well for experienced gardeners, I am fighting white flies and extreme weather making my outdoor tomato crop almost non-existent. If you grow tomatoes indoors, you can avoid the pests and diseases that plague traditional garden tomatoes. My indoor garden has given me a wonderful crop of cherry tomatoes that add a burst of flavor to my salads.
Indoor SaladI learned about indoor gardening, including how to grow tomatoes indoors, from the book, Indoor salad: How to grow vegetables indoors. This book has helped me set up the correct light configurations for indoor gardening and I have found it very helpful.
How to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
Step 1: Get the Right Tomato Plants
In order to get the most out of an indoor tomato garden, you need a variety that will do well in containers. I have had great luck with Tiny Tim tomato plants and highly recommend them. I usually start my own plants from seeds and buy them from Victory seeds. If you can find some Tiny Tim tomato plants at your garden center, that will also work.
Tips on starting your own tomato plants:
Use a seed tray and grow lights. To start tomato plants, you can use a set up similar to the one I described in my post on growing lettuce indoors. CLICK HERE to read about which lights I used. When the seedlings emerge, keep the lights 1-2 inches away. Keep raising the lights as the plant grow so that they remain 1-2 inches away from the top.
Step 2: Let Your Plants Grow
Care for your plants by providing enough light and watering when needed. Also repot the tomato plants as they grow to allow room for root development.
Step 3: Add in Lights when Your plants Start Budding
When your plants are ready to produce flowers and tomatoes, their lighting needs change. Add additional lighting with pendant lights and T2 4100K fluorescent bulbs. Keep your lights on for 14 hours per day while flowering and growing fruits.
Step 4: Tips for Pollination
Tomato plants are self-pollinating, meaning that the parts needed to make a seed/fruit are contained within a single flower. In outdoor plants, wind will help shake the flowers to promote pollination. Indoors, you may need to gentle shake your plants to encourage pollination.
Step 5: Harvesting
Once your tomatoes start growing, continue to provide light and water your plans regularly. You may also need to add fertilizer. Once your tomatoes turn red, they are ready to harvest. Gently pull the ripe tomatoes off, rinse, and enjoy.
Your plants may continue to produce buds and flowers. As they do, be sure to encourage pollination by gently shaking the flowers.
Summary of Supplies Needed to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
- Tiny Tim seeds or seedlings.
Additional Tips to Successfully Grow Tomatoes Indoors
- Fertilize with tomato fertilizer as needed
- The Indoor Salad author recommends starting tomatoes with a single 23W 6500K CFL for a baby plant and working up to 8 of the same light. She also recommends half 6500K lights and half 4100K lights once the first bulbs form. She also says that tomatoes need 8 hours of dark to set fruit.
- Stake the growing plant to provide support.
- Cover growing area with a mylar blanket to reflect more light back onto the plants.
Conclusion on How to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
My indoor tomato garden has produced well and I am happy with the results. I look forward to a great crop of Tiny Tim Cherry tomatoes any time of year.
Science Extension Activities for Homeschool or the Classroom
- Measure the plant growth over time. Graph results.
- Document time from first buds to a rip tomato. Compare between plants and look for variations.
- Learn and label parts of the plants (e.g., roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit).
- Compare and graph the tomato production of 2 different plants.