Grow Tomatoes Every Winter

In the sustainable house of the future, one goal is to grow vegetable crops year round. Such a structure would lend itself greatly to self-sufficient living and provide a continual harvest of food though every season. Admittedly, such a house looks much different to the suburban four squares and cottages that we live in today, so until then, unless we have our own greenhouses, we need to be a bit more creative to grow vegetables in the offseason. So...
As the cool season temperatures begin to drop, and the shorter days and the months of winter approach, many people end or curtail their gardening efforts to await the coming of the next spring, and for warmth to return again. A complete stoppage of your gardening activities does not necessarily have to be the case! You may still proceed with growing several vegetables during the winter including winter tomatoes.

In this article, I will provide you with some basic information you will need in order to grow winter tomatoes. The basic processes and premises that will be discussed here, are dedicated to growing tomatoes indoors. The following should be considered to help ensure your winter tomato gardening success:

1. PLANTING LOCATION: I would always recommend that any sun loving vegetable or tomato plant be located at a sunny window, preferably one that faces the southern exposure. This will provide for considerable direct sunlight and therefore reduce your dependency on artificial grow lights. It is worthy of mention, that is a good idea to rotate your tomato plants so that all sides will have the opportunity to receive some of that natural sunlight, rotating once a week is usually good.

2. WHEN TO START PLANTS: I would suggest starting your tomato plants as early as late summer, to as late as early fall. Remembering that tomatoes are long to mature and develop.

3. TOMATO CHOICES: This one is tough. If you have a large bay window that gets plenty of sun, I would suggest growing an indeterminate* variety. These plant can take allot of room, but the growth can be curtailed by pruning, topping and nipping. The advantage of an indeterminate variety is it will continue to grown and produce fruit until you remove it. You can also grow a determinate variety which is more commonly known as a bush tomato. These plant typically reach a pre-determined maximum size, and all the fruit typically sets, grows and matures at once.

4. CONTAINERS: Remember that even though you are growing your tomatoes in the house or inside, these are not houseplants. Not being houseplants, tomatoes will, depending on particular varieties require good sized containers with excellent drainage. Tomatoes are particular about water and room for the roots. I would recommend no less than a 5 gallon size container, will excellent drainage holes and water tray at the base.

5. SOIL PREPERATIONS: Of all factors, this one is in this humble gardener's opinion, the most important. In order for the tomato plant to have the right balance of soil conditions I suggest the following: in a large container mix .5 gallons tumbled pebbles, .5 gallons perlite or other water retaining material and .5 gallon potting soil, place this mixture in the bottom of a 5 gallon planting container, then mix 1.5 gallons of potting soil with 1.5 gallons composted manure and fill the planter to within 1 to 2 inches of the top. Set your plant in this mix with the top of the soil from the plant even with the soil in the planter. Compact or consolidate the materials gently, not too firmly, and at this point you will likely have 2 to 3 inches space left to the top edge of the planter, fill with potting soil to within about .5 inches from the top of the planter.

6. FERTILIZERS: While you are planting your tomatoes in the containers, mix 2 tablespoons of Organic low nitrogen fertilizer in the soil-compost mixture. You will add another 2 tablespoons to the soil surface to be watered in when the plants begin to set fruit.

7. PROPER WATERING: This is very important! Do not drown your tomatoes. Tomato plants have considerable sensitivity to water at both ends of the spectrum. They can be kept too wet, and they can be kept too dry. A good measure of water in an indoor tomato plant is to let the top or surface of the soil dry between watering. Water your plant very gently from the top, just until the first appearance of water in the water tray, and then add the balance of water to the drainage or watering tray, to just below the rim of the tray. By watering this way you ensure that the plant will pull up water through the roots, and every 3 to 4 days the surface of the soil will be dried out to about a half inch, this will mean it is time to water again.

8. LIGHTING: If your tomatoes don't get a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight, you will need to supplement with electric grow lights. Generally home type grow lights should be used to supplement at a rate of 2 to 1, meaning if you only get 6 hours of sunlight, you should give your plant 4 hours of artificial light. This is not the case if you are using high intensity commercial type lights, like may be found in a green house, these are used 1 to 1. Be careful with grow lights that you follow all recommendations.

9. PLANT CARE: If you have leaves that turn color or dry up you will need to check all or your growing conditions. Remove these leaves, so they cannot promote disease. Most problems will be water related, so work on this first. If problems persist refer to a complete gardening or tomato gardening manual, for definitive solutions.

10. HARVESTING: Allow your tomatoes to almost completely ripen on the vine before harvesting. Then complete the process in a place on you counters out of direct sunlight. I hope you enjoy growing tomatoes inside in the winter, and as always I wish you great tomato gardening success.

Whatever you do, continue your gardening efforts. It is a great benefit to you and your family to grow and eat as much homegrown food as possible. Grow organically as much as possible. The benefits are greater health, nutrition and reduced exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals that are a real hazard to all of us.

Tomato Gardening Success is written and published, to provide information on tomato gardening such as the best care for growing tomatoes, showing the proper conditions a growing tomato will need, and most all things tomato gardening related.

The tomato gardening success topics & tomato growing tips are presented for the benefit of successful tomato gardening.
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About Peter Paul

Welcome to I've spent my career helping people upgrade their homes and improve their lives. I learned first hand about home renovation from my father, who hand-built our family home.
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