Growing tomatoes in pots indoors can be a great idea, especially with the current COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. These easy tips will help you grow your tomatoes indoors, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned gardener.
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9 Tips You Need to Know for Growing Tomatoes in Pots
1. Know What Variety
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You may not have thought of this, but tomatoes have different varieties. Choose the ones that have been known to grow better indoors. Go for determinate variety.
What is Determinate? This variety is more commonly known as “bush” or compact tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes are ideal for indoor planting because they grow only to a height of 3 to 4 feet, and their fruit sets all at once in about two weeks or so.
Trivia: Common determinate varieties are: Celebrity, Ace 55 Heirloom, Tumbling Toms, Bush Goliath Tomato, Better Bush, and Rutgers.
2. Choose a Spot
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Tomatoes require at least 8 hours of sunlight to thrive. When growing tomatoes in pots, it should be placed near a big south-facing window for maximum exposure. You will have to make sure to rotate them once a week to keep them from being lopsided.
3. Use LED Grow Lights
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If the abovementioned can't be met, not to worry because you can install grow lights as a substitute for natural sunlight. The advantage of grow lights is that you can still grow tomatoes even during the winter with these lights.
There are grow lights equipped with timers for hassle-free lighting.
- During Germination: 70 – 75 °F
- During Growth Stage: 75 – 80 °F
Reminder: Make sure to recreate day and night lighting conditions where you turn in on in the morning and turn it off at night.
4. Propagate Tomatoes
There are two ways to plant tomatoes.
By Seed (Sexual)
- Using a seedling starter tray, fill it with a mixture of soil and water or a seed starter mix. Poke a hole about 1/4 inch deep and plant a maximum of 3 seeds in each hole, then cover with soil or starter mix.
Note: It takes between 5 – 12 days for the seed to germinate, and another 6 to 8 weeks to reach a seedling size (3 inches).
Tip: There's a 60 – 80 day period from the time of sowing to harvesting. Put this into consideration should you want to plant by batches for a continuous supply of tomatoes.
By Stem Cuttings (Asexual)
- Cut an 8-inch long side shoot from the top portion of the main stem.
- Cut the bottom leaves and let 2 to 4 leaves remain at the top.
- Set it in a jar of water or plant directly in soil mix in a 4-inch container or into an 18 – 24-inch pot.
- It takes 7 to 14 days for cuttings to root and be ready for transplant.
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5. Transplant to Pots
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Once the seedling reaches 3 inches in height, transfer it to a pot.
Here are the following steps you need to take:
- Place the seedling between your fingers and put the palm of your hand on top of the soil.
- Flip the starter tray upside down and gently tap the bottom until the seedling falls out.
- Transfer the seedling to its final pot.
Note: Make sure you don't break any of the roots while doing so.
Things to remember in choosing a pot for your indoor tomatoes:
- An ideal sized pot is about 5 to 10 gallons and at least 12 inches deep.
- Make sure to water the seedlings abundantly after transplanting.
Tip: When planting tomatoes in pots, make sure you cover the ⅔ of the stem to promote root growth.
6. Water and Fertilize
Knowing when and how much water and fertilizer for tomatoes plants needs is challenging. It's a good thing you would not need to second guess anymore. Through an app on your smartphone or computer, you can monitor the nutrients, water, and overall condition of your plant.
Here are a few tools that can help:
- PlantLink wireless plant sensor
- Plant watering globes
- Automatic indoor watering systems
- Self-watering pots
7. Add Support
Another much-needed tip if you want to grow tomatoes in pots is to add support when needed. You can use a stake or a single trellis to help the main stem support the weight of the upcoming harvest.
Attach it to the plant every 6 – 8 inches using a string or plastic clamp. You can support the plant after a month of transplanting.
8. Self Pollinate
Without the aid of insects to pollinate the flowers, you will have to play a role to help your plant increase its fruit rate.
The invasive way is to choose a flower with the petals still closely attached to each other. Gently open up a petal or two using a tweezer or forceps until you see the style and the antlers.
The non-invasive method is tapping semi or fully bloomed flowers. You can do any of the following:
- Use a cotton swab or tiny paintbrush to rub the collected pollen onto the stigma of the flower
- Use your finger by tickling the flower or tapping the flower to knock down the pollen. The fast and gentle taps mean more pollen will be dropped
Note: A vibrating toothbrush is a better substitute for the finger
- Use an electric fan to imitate the wind to blow pollens
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This may be the most rewarding method one can experience when learning how to grow tomatoes in pots. It's pretty basic. Choose the ones that are already reddish and soft, which means it's ripe for the picking. Or you can pick them while they're still green. Your choice.
Watch this video from Kratky Method for some tips on growing tomatoes in hydroponics:
There you have it. If you haven't tried growing tomatoes in pots indoors yet, this might be the best time to start. Don't worry, everyone is new at something at some point.
Do you know any more tips on growing tomatoes in pots? Let us know in the comments section below.
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