Tomatoes are delicious fruits adored universally. Whether it is a pasta sauce, a fresh salad, a salsa, or a sandwich, tomatoes are quite the staple vegetable we need year-round. However, the current inflation of food prices has shot tomato prices through the roof – especially in the winter. So, naturally, more people are growing tomatoes in their homes and gardens now. Alas, winter is not the greatest growing season for tomatoes outdoors. So, growing tomatoes indoors is the solution.
We have put together five tips on how to grow tomatoes indoors.
What You Will Need
Before we jump into tips for growing tomatoes indoors, let’s go through some of the essentials you will need to grow tomatoes. Tomatoes love heat, sunshine, and warm conditions. There is a reason why the sunny southern European terrains of Italy and Greece are perfect for growing tomatoes. So, whether you are growing tomatoes in pots or in your backyard, you will need to recreate the perfect growing conditions to grow tomatoes successfully. This means you will need heat, sunshine (or artificial light), rich nutrient-dense soil, and pick the right method of growing the plants for them to bear fruit. In addition to that, for growing tomatoes indoors, you will need some extra things.
When growing tomatoes indoors, you will need:
- Starter trays to start the plant seedlings
- Potting mix
- LED grow light
- A good fertilizer
- A heat mat (to provide temperature control)
- Pots and Containers to grow the plants
- Plant stakes
You need motivation! Growing your own food at home seems noble and awesome. It requires dedication, patience, and a mindset to keep trying even if you face a few failures. Aside from the food, the health benefits of gardening are a reward. So, stock up on that motivation to do something good for yourself. Okay, now that the prep talk is done, let’s get on to the essential tips on growing tomatoes indoors.
Tip #1: Get the Right Kind of Tomato
Tomatoes come in different varieties. Some tomato plants can grow up to 6 feet tall before they can bear fruit. Others, like the Cherokee Purple variety, must grow up to 15 feet tall. These breeds are not compatible with your indoors. So, you must pick the type and breed that will bear fruit at a relatively short stature – such as dwarf tomatoes. This is because you need tomato plants that efficiently use nutrients, light energy, and time. Dwarf tomato plants will not spend too much of the resources you provide towards growing vines and stalks and leaves and instead focus that energy on the fruits.
Dwarf tomato plants can grow up to a foot long before they are mature enough to bear fruit. These tomatoes may not be the big beefy varieties that are good for slicing, but they will still be perfectly delicious and fresh, providing the same nutritional profile as larger tomatoes.
Some other tomato varieties that are suitable to grow indoors are:
- Toy Boy
- Matt’s Wild Cherry
- Tiny Tim
- Jelly Bean
- Yellow Pear
Picking the right variety is an essential tip regarding the success rate of growing tomatoes indoors.
Tip #2: Only Use Soil-less Potting Mix
Tomatoes are not just tasty but also extremely beneficial to our health. Besides being a significant source of vitamins C, K, folate, and potassium, tomatoes contain some essential phytochemicals and polyphenols. Polyphenols like lycopene (which is present in significant amounts in tomatoes) have been found to provide some key health benefits – like cancer prevention, inflammation reduction, and heart disease risk. The best way to ensure tomatoes are packed with these phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins is by feeding the plant with an organic nutrient-dense potting mix.
Typically, the soil of the earth provides all the nutrients required for tomatoes to be enriched with these vitamins and minerals; indoor plants need some extra love and care. Our second tip to grow tomatoes indoors is to use soil-less potting mix. The reason is to avoid any bacterial or fungal infection of the plant as potting mix will be sterile. This sterile potting mix will also ensure you don’t invite aphids and other pests indoors. In addition, you will need to ensure you overwater the soil when you plant the tomato plants. Tomatoes require a sufficient water supply, or else the plants will not grow to maturity to provide any fruits.
Tip #3: Provide Plenty of Light and Warmth
Tomatoes love sunlight and warm temperatures. Tomato plants require photosynthesis to produce flowers and then turn those flowers into fruits (the tomatoes). This is why tomatoes are abundant in warm sunny regions of the world. If tomato plants don’t get enough sunlight (or light) and don’t experience warm temperatures, the plants will try to grow taller to access more light. You will see leggy stems and not much fruit as the nutrients are wasted in growing the stems and vines. So, picking a warm sunny spot indoors for your tomato plants is essential. If your indoor space doesn’t get warm enough or sunny enough, you will need to invest in artificial lighting, like grow lights, to help the plants grow and get the optimal light condition. You can adjust the temperature of the room you are growing to around 60 Farhenheit.
Tip #4: Don’t Overcrowd The Plants
Research suggests a neurological connection between the gut and the brain. The millions of gut microbes in our large intestine are responsible for sending satiety signals to the brain to let it know that there is no more need for food. These gut bacteria are therefore linked heavily to successful weight management or weight loss for humans. These microbes need sufficient dietary fiber to thrive and to send those satiety signals. This is why any weight loss plan involves replacing calorie-dense carbohydrates and animal fats with dietary fiber – in the form of fruits and vegetables. You should fill at least ⅓ to ½ of your dinner plate with vegetables in every meal. This is another reason tomatoes need to make it to your dinner table.
When growing tomatoes at home, it is essential not to overcrowd the seedlings. While tomato plants look tiny when they are just seedlings, as we have already discussed, they can grow a lot before they reach maturity to bear fruits (the tomatoes). So, it is essential to provide at least 18-24 inches of distance between two tomato plants to let the plants enough space to grow and get sunlight/light.
Tip #5: Rotate The Pots Often and Water them Often
While you grow tomatoes indoors, start planning to grow them outdoors next spring and summer as well. Once you learn how to grow tomatoes indoors, the outdoors will feel easy for you. Harvesting a ton of tomatoes and preserving them for later use is another great way to stretch the bounty of your tomato harvest throughout the winter. One excellent way of preserving tomatoes is to char them on the barbeque until the exterior skin is blackened. Then remove the tomatoes and let them cool in a covered dish. The moisture buildup will make the tomato skins easy to peel off – if that’s what you want.
You can then puree the peeled tomatoes and save the crushed tomatoes in jars. These crushed tomatoes will last in your fridge for several months. You can use them in sauces, stews, curries, and pasta sauces. Now, on to our final tip for growing tomatoes indoors. As you place the tomatoes near sunlight or grow light, you will need to rotate the plants and water them often. You will need to rotate them because the plants will tend to grow towards the sun. So, by rotating the plants often, you will ensure proper linear growth of the plants which is better for them to grow tomatoes.
Tomatoes are exceptional vegetables that have been a staple in the human diet for centuries. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and polyphenols make tomatoes a powerhouse regarding their health benefits. Regular consumption of tomatoes will keep cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes away. The bonus is that they are also very versatile and can be used in many forms and dishes for all seasons. Therefore, being able to enjoy them year-round would be an absolute treat. Follow our tips, and you should be well on your way to growing your own tomatoes indoors. Enjoy!