The ABCs of Growing Tomatoes Indoors

If there was a fruit/vegetable more loved than the tomato, I am not aware of it.  It is so well loved that beginner to advanced hobby gardeners have tried every which way to grow tomatoes indoors as well as out.  They are not alone…

President Thomas Jefferson kept a green house for such purposes, too, so he could enjoy rare fruits and vegetables in his otherwise inhospitable location.  Plants like tomatoes (he grew them as ornaments, at first, thinking they were poisonous!!), pineapples and bananas.  He, like me, loved the challenge of raising plants “artificially”.

And like Jefferson, I have learned how to work around the special needs plants to accommodate their normally outdoor personalities.  There are some key things to remember when planting indoors, especially tomatoes and sun loving crops.

Raising plants indoors makes the home more, well, homey.  They soften a plain, sterile environment with their living greenery while they refresh the air we breathe.

But there are some tricks to keeping plants happy when they are grown inside, the first point being giving access to plenty of full spectrum light.   Tomatoes that are grown indoors will get all straggly as they try to reach for the full spectrum light if you don’t make sure to give them full access to natural sunlight.  So ideally you will place them in a south facing window – a bay window or mini solarium would be perfect – where the plants will get as much direct sunlight as possible.

Where you cannot guarantee full sun all day, consider buying a full spectrum fluorescent “daylight” bulb (referred to as grow lights, by commercial growers).  These special lights emit the kind of light that the sun gives.

Another consideration is watering.  Container gardening has its own set of challenges with maintaining soil moisture and that goes for indoor containers.  Using special potting mixes designed for indoor gardening will go a long way to helping this.  But always check the soil by poking your finger into the soil to about an inch and if it is wet at all let it be.  If it is dryish, add water.

Fertilizing and staking would be just like outdoor tomato gardening – see other articles on this here and here.

There are new varieties that are well suited to indoor gardening.  Look for compact or bush on the tags when you go shopping for your plants.  The smaller cherry and other bite-sized types are perfect for indoor growing.