by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you particular about your tomatoes? I became the same way after I began growing my own. In fact, I rarely can stomach the tomatoes from the grocery store because they don’t taste the same as homegrown.
Granted, this is only my opinion. However, if you’re particular about your tomatoes, too, you should consider raising them indoors. If you do, you can prolong your tomato growing season or even make it to where you can have homegrown tomatoes year-round.
If this sounds wonderful to you, here’s what you should know to grow tomatoes inside your home.
What You Might Need to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
There are specific growing conditions you’ll need to meet to best grow tomatoes indoors. However, there are certain items you can include in your indoor gardening set-up that will make it easier to provide these conditions.
To begin, it’s efficient to grow your tomatoes on some type of table or shelving. This makes it easier on your back when caring for them.
It also makes it easier if you choose to use grow lights to raise your tomatoes indoors. Tomatoes need approximately eight hours of sunlight per day.
This can be difficult to accomplish during the winter, especially if you don’t have an extremely sunny location in your house.
In this case, I’d recommend using grow lights. You don’t have to invest in the expensive options. Use any type of bright lighting to care for your tomato plants.
I’ve been known to use shop lights, in place of traditional grow lights, when growing indoors. You might be able to find LED strip lighting which could work as well.
Get creative, if you’re working on a budget, to provide the lighting your plants need.
At this point, it probably goes without saying, but you’ll need containers to grow in. Large planters or five-gallon buckets will do the trick for raising tomatoes indoors.
The key is to make sure that whatever you plant in will drain properly. By providing a proper set-up for growing tomatoes indoors, you can make it much easier on yourself.
Growing Conditions for Indoor Tomatoes
Indoor tomatoes have a few specific needs which must be met for them to grow properly. To begin, tomatoes need sunlight.
If you have a sunny window which can provide your plants with eight or more hours of sunlight, this would be a great place to grow them.
However, if you don’t have a sunny location or if your window can’t provide the full eight hours of sunlight, it’s a good idea to invest in grow lights.
You can grow the tomatoes beneath the grow lights full-time or use them as a lighting supplement. Once you find the right location for growing tomatoes, it’s time to consider how you should grow them.
Tomatoes make excellent container plants. The pot should have large drainage holes. Clay pots are also recommended because they allow your plants to dry fully between watering sessions.
It’s also wise to grow smaller tomato varieties when growing indoors. They seem to do better under these different circumstances.
By providing an adequate growing location, your tomato plants will hopefully thrive under your care.
How to Plant Tomatoes Indoors
You have three options when raising tomatoes indoors. Tomatoes can be brought indoors from your summer garden to extend their season, transplant a seedling, or start tomato plants from seeds.
If you have a plant in your garden you’d like to bring indoors, dig it up in the evening hours.It’s cooler during these times and will put less stress on the plant.
Transplant the mature tomato plant into your chosen container and place it in a shaded area.
Leave the plant there for a couple of days before moving it to a further shaded location such as the edge of a carport or a covered front porch.
After a few days have passed, move the tomato plant indoors to its window or grow light. This will help it acclimate to the darker conditions of being grown indoors.
If you choose to transplant a seedling, place the seedling in your chosen container that’s filled with soil. Dig a hole in the soil, but make sure it’s large enough to support the root system of the plant.
Fill the hole with the surrounding soil and press firmly at the base of the plant to ensure no air reaches the roots of the plant.
Your final option for growing tomato plants indoors is to start them from seed. Place two seeds in each growing container.
Cover them lightly with soil and keep the soil damp while the seeds germinate. It should take approximately one week.
Be sure the pots are placed in a warm location while you’re waiting for the seeds to germinate. After the seeds have germinated, pick your strongest plant to continue growing.
The weaker plant should be cut at the base of the soil, using scissors, to avoid damaging the remaining plant’s roots.
Once your plants are indoors, in their growing location, you’re ready to learn how to care for them.
How to Care for Tomatoes Indoors
There are quite a few things you’ll need to do to keep your tomato plants healthy indoors. To begin, you must pollinate the plants.
When they’re outdoors, bugs do this job for you. Indoors, you’ll be responsible for ensuring the pollination process occurs.
The easiest way I pollinate my plants is by grabbing the plant at the top and shaking it gently. This allows the pollen to be redistributed throughout the plant.
The next thing you’ll need to do, to properly care for your tomato plants, is water adequately. Place your tomato plants in your kitchen sink.
If you have a spray nozzle on your faucet, aim it at the soil of your plant. Spray the soil with water until it’s running from the bottom of the container.
Leave the plant in the sink until it finishes draining. Don’t water the plant again until you stick your finger into the soil, and it’s dry to your first knuckle.
The final care items on the list are to stake your tomatoes, when needed, and rotate the plants. You’ll rotate your tomato plants, so the light around them is distributed equally.
If they’re left facing one direction for too long, the plants will begin to lean because they’re stretching to reach the light.
When the tomato plants are producing, they become heavy with fruit and might be forced to bend. This could actually break your plants.
Use stakes, or a tomato cage, to support your tomatoes within the containers to avoid this. By taking the steps to care for your tomatoes properly, they should remain healthy.
Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact Tomatoes Indoors
The only thing which could get in the way of healthy, thriving plants are pests and diseases. One way to avoid all disease, when growing tomatoes indoors, is to use a soilless mix for planting. This avoids any hidden diseases from hiding in the soil.
If you use regular potting soil, you can also heat it in the oven prior to planting. If there’s any fungal diseases hiding within it, the heat will kill it.
Avoid overwatering your plants as well. If they have time to dry completely between watering sessions, it should help keep the foliage dry, and reduce fungal diseases from forming.
There are a few pests you should be on the lookout for when raising tomatoes indoors. White flies and aphids can still attack inside.
Both of these pests can be treated by spraying your plants with an insecticidal soap. Keep a close eye on your plants, and you should be able to avoid severe damage from pests and diseases.
How to Harvest Tomatoes
Tomatoes should be harvested before they begin to crack. If you have cracked tomatoes hanging from your plants, you’re inviting bugs to your indoor garden.
Once the plants have reached their appropriate size and have almost reached their full color potential, you can pluck them from the plant.
You shouldn’t wait until they’re fully ripe as this can also draw bugs. When you’ve harvested your tomatoes, store them in the refrigerator or place them in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter.
The refrigerator will help them stay fresh. However, you’ll need to set them out on the counter and allow them to warm up prior to use for their full flavor.
A brown paper bag will help the tomatoes continue to ripen. Tomatoes can also be frozen whole or sliced. They’re great for canning, too.
How you choose to preserve your tomatoes will come down to your personal preference. Either way, you should be able to produce tomatoes year-round, inside your home, by following these tips.
Hopefully, this has encouraged you to try your hand at raising vegetables indoors. Having a fresh supply of food, at any time, is worth the added effort to produce your crops in the house.