How to grow tomatoes at home
Tomatoes are the ideal ingredient in a variety of different recipes.
If you are into cooking then it can be easy to grow tomatoes at home.
There are 2 main methods you can use:
- Either using soil
- Or using hydroponics or aquaponics
Below you will find more advice taking each one in turn:
How to grow tomatoes at home using soil
The advantage of growing tomatoes at home is not only that fresh tomatoes taste great, but also that you can grow varieties not often available in shops.
It is not very difficult to grow your own tomatoes at home.
If you use the steps below it should take about 2 to 3 months from sowing your seeds to being able to harvest your tomatoes. In addition it will take less than 30 minutes of your time to sow the seeds and get them ready.
For the costs I’ve only include an estimated tomato seed cost.
Total Time Needed :
How to grow your tomatoes:
The first step is to select the type of tomatoes you wish to grow.
There is a major difference is flavour and how you can use them in recipes.
For example Roma or San Marzano tomatoes are great for passata or tomato sauces. Tomatillo tomatoes are great Mexican and Central American recipes, etc.
When you have your seeds then start by adding the seeds into a bowl of water for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
That way they will start quicker then simply putting them in soil.
Then remove the seeds and put the seeds in the soil.
A very simple way is to fill a plant pot (or a few) with soil, then add the seeds and sprinkle a bit of soil on top.
A much more effective way is to use a seed tray with a lid.
The advantage of using a lid is that it will retain the moisture helping your plants grow. Simply put a bit of soil in the tray, spoon in the seeds and cover with a bit of soil.
Then simply put the pot or tray somewhere safe and leave the seed to sprout.
However a much, much quicker way is to use a heat mat.
All you do is put the tray on the mat and the extra heat will significantly speed up how fast your seeds will grow.
When your tomatoes start to grow make sure they are in a warm & sunny place. If you grow tomatoes indoors a very easy way is to use a grow light.
For example the picture on the right shows how I am growing Roma tomatoes on a kitchen shelf using grow light bars.
When they grow you can simply put them on a floor in pots, using a grow light if you don’t have a sunny place at home.
When they grow the plant will get to about 1.5 m tall (about 5 ft) which means you will need to support them.
If you grow them in a large tub a simple garden pole might work – or you can use a specialised support (like the one on the right)
The other key element is that you will need to pollinate the flowers, so you can get the tomatoes. Either a little bit of breeze will work (open window or small fan?) or simply use a cotton bud to transfer pollen between the flowers.
And then just wait for you tomatoes to ripen.
How to grow tomatoes indoors using hydroponics
The key to growing tomatoes at home using hydroponics is similar to soil above – focus on 4 items:
Item 1 – the type of tomatoes you want to grow
When you want to cook great tasting Italian or Mexican meals then the type of tomato you use will make a major difference.
- Roma tomatoes are great for Passata (using in many different Italian recipes)
- Tomatillo tomatoes are great Mexican and Central American recipes (even for items like Salsa Verde)
The key tomatoes we like are shown below – follow the links for more details or read on for more growing information:
Cherry Grape Tomato
San Marzano Tomato
Item 2 – What you grow them in – Soil or Water
As mentiond earlier there are 2 ways to grow tomatoes at home:
- Either in soil in a pot or tub
- Or using hydroponics
Item 2a – using soil
Simply using soil in a pot might seem easier because all you will need is to buy a plastic pot and some soil.
The key is to then make sure you water them regularly and ideally at some stage also provide some extra tomato plant food. (most garden centres and amazon sell them)
Alternatively a self watering pot (like the one on the right) does make an indoor tomato growing system a lot easier and will also help you get better results.
Item 2b – using hydroponics
Many commercial growers use hydroponic systems for growing tomatoes indoors. For example many of the tomatoes you will buy in a shop will have been grown using hydroponics.
In a hydroponic system you don’t use soil but instead grow the tomatoes with the roots hanging in water. For example like the one on the right.
The reason why hydroponics is so appealing is because
- Hydroponically grown tomatoes will grow faster with better yields. Compared to those grown in soil.
- It is easier to control key items like nutrients & ph levels.
- And of course it’s easier to water them.
Building your own DIY hydroponic tomato growing system is not that difficult, the video below shows how I built one for my own kitchen.
For step by step instructions have a look at DIY tomato hydroponic system
Item 3 – Light
Tomatoes like lots of sunshine & warmth.
Most houses (kitchen, etc) tend to be warm which will be great for your plants.
But (especially when growing them in Autumn or Winter) you will need to provide the right type of extra light.
The advantage of using a specialised grow light (like the one on the right) is you will be able to provide exactly the right type of light for your plants.
The advantage is that the best grow lights can be programmed so that they automatically switch on for optimum number of hours.
More details on growing lights
Item 4 – Support
The final element for growing tomatoes indoors is to provide support for your plants as they grow.
This can sometimes be a challenge indoors – outside (when growing in soil) you can often simply use a bamboo rod in the ground.
But indoors – especially when using hydroponics or aquaponics – that is not as easy.
In addition it helps to use a support system that you can grow, as the plants get bigger and need some support.
The only one we’ve found that seems to fit the bill, is the one on the right. More details on the freestanding tomato support
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