According to the University of Illinois Extension, tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in American home gardens. With the right care, these summer vegetables produce thriving vines, blossoms and fruit during the growing season. In colder regions, or grown against their natural season, tomatoes require a greenhouse for protection, support and warmth.
Tomatoes require six to eight hours of full sun every day to thrive and grow, and will not blossom or bear fruit if their sun exposure is inadequate. Tomatoes with too little light become sparse and leggy, though the plants will grow in both natural and artificial light.
Tomatoes require the warmth that comes with summer sunshine, and do best in temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F. They suffer in frost and stop fruiting in temperatures under 60 degrees F.
A tomato greenhouse makes it possible to control a tomato plant's environment and block out inhospitable northern or winter temperatures. Sealed windows, growing lights, heaters, misters and fans all combine to manipulate the temperature, lighting and moisture inside the structure, and cater it to a tomato's specific needs.
Greenhouses range from very small (5 feet squared) to several hundred feet in square footage. They generally have steel frames, but may have windows constructed of plastic, glass or plastic sheeting. For tomatoes, which require a degree of control, the best choice is a mid-size greenhouse with glass panels.
Seasonal Greenhouse Growing
During the winter, tomato greenhouses require heaters to keep the temperature between 75 and 85 degrees F, and growing lights to give tomatoes their full eight hours of exposure. Misting and irrigation systems provide additional water to keep the heat and light from drying the tomato plants, which wilt and suffer if they grow too dry.
No greenhouse can manipulate the growth of a tomato plant or ripening of its fruit. Tomatoes require 60 to 90 days for full growth, depending on their variety, and will continue to maintain fruit until picked.