How to Grow Tomato Plants in the House

Overview

If you long for the taste of fresh, homegrown tomatoes but lack gardening space, indoor gardening may be the solution. With some window or floor space and plenty of sunlight, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes can be grown successfully indoors. Tomatoes, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, are great for everything from salads to main dishes. Grape or cherry tomato varieties are great for snacking, while Roma and paste varieties are excellent in sauces and salsas. Larger varieties, such as Big Boy or Beefsteak, enhance sandwiches and work well as a stand-alone side dish.

Step 1

Decide which type(s) of tomatoes to grow indoors. For limited space, choose compact varieties such as Cherry Gold or Husky Red. The Small Fry variety and grape or cherry tomatoes do well in hanging baskets. If you've got a lot of space available, a wide range of hybrids or heirlooms succeed indoors.

Step 2

Choose a location that provides full sun and temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. If relative humidity is low (below 40 percent), supplement moisture with a humidifier or more frequent watering during the growing cycle. If relative humidity is high (over 50%), a dehumidifier can maintain proper moisture levels for tomato plants.

Step 3

Prepare containers and soil for planting. Measure out enough soil to fill container(s) being used for planting into a large bowl or bucket. Add one cup of water at a time and stir until soil is lightly moistened but not soggy, then place soil into planting containers.

Step 4

Poke 1/4-inch holes, spaced 1 to 2 inches apart, into the soil of each container. Place one tomato seed in each hole then cover lightly with soil. Set containers in a seed tray and fill tray with 1 inch of water. This will allow all containers to get adequate water without disturbing the seeds as they germinate. Loosely cover the tray with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, sunny location.

Step 5

Remove plastic wrap once seeds begin to sprout. Allow each seedling to develop one or two sets of true leaves, then transplant seedlings into permanent containers. For smaller varieties, plant one or two seedlings, spaced at least 3 inches apart per container. For larger varieties, place one seedling in the center of each container.

Step 6

Insert one bamboo stake per plant into the container, 1 to 2 inches from each seedling. Once the tomato plants establish their roots and grow to 6 inches or more, use kitchen twine or cloth strips to loosely tie each plant to its stake. Continue adding ties as the plant grows in height.

Step 7

Apply fertilizer one week after transplant. Use a water soluble plant or tomato food and follow manufacturer's recommendations for measurements and frequency of application. Provide 1 to 2 inches of water, per plant, per week.

Step 8

Aid the pollination process by tapping gently on the main stem and side branches, after blooms have formed on each plant. The gentle tapping releases the pollen inside each bloom and pollinates the plant. Since the plants do not have access to wind or bees, this action is required in order to ensure that fruit production continues.

Step 9

Prune off suckers (small branches that form on larger branches) once the tomato plant starts blooming. Gently twist off suckers or use a sharp paring knife to cut them off close to the base.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid feeding tomatoes too much nitrogen, as this will deter blooming and production of fruit. Overwatering increases the chance of disease, destroy roots and stunt growth of tomato plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato seeds
  • Seed starter potting mix
  • Water-soluble fertilizer/plant food
  • Peat or clay pots
  • Containers for final transplant
  • Bamboo stakes
  • Growing lamps
  • Plastic wrap or clear plastic storage bags

References

  • Jason's Indoor Guide to Organic and Hydroponic Gardening: How to Grow Tomatoes in your Indoor Garden
  • CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010: Grow Your Own Tomatoes Indoors This Winter
  • University of Georgia: Growing Indoor Plants with Success

Who Can Help

  • Arizona Cooperative Extension: Vegetable Garden-Container Garden
  • Burpee.com: Tomato Seeds & Plants
  • Gardener's Supply Company: GSC Organic Tomato Fertilizer
Keywords: grow tomato plants indoors, starting tomato seeds, tomato plant pollination

About this Author

Deborah Waltenburg has been a freelance writer since 2002. In addition to her work for Demand Studios, Waltenburg has written for websites such as Freelance Writerville and Constant Content, and has worked as a ghostwriter for travel/tourism websites and numerous financial/debt reduction blogs.