Tomatoes are a mainstay in the summer gardens of most homesteads. But, what if there isn’t enough room for tomatoes in the garden area or you want fresh tomatoes all year-round instead of just the summer? Well, indoor growing is here to help! You might be asking yourself “how can I grow tomatoes hydroponically?”. There are many methods, but this guide will show you a simple ebb and flow setup to grow tomatoes indoors hydroponically.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Hydroponic Tomato System
- 2 Indoor Growing Lights For Tomatoes
- 3 Nutrients For Hydroponic Tomatoes
- 4 Starting Tomato Seedlings
- 5 Transplanting To Growing Tray
- 6 Monitoring & Adjusting
- 7 FAQs
- 7.1 1. How Fast Do Tomatoes Grow Hydroponically?
- 7.2 2. What Is The Best Hydroponic System For Tomatoes?
- 7.3 3. Can You Grow Tomatoes Indoors With LED Lights?
- 7.4 3. Do Hydroponic Tomatoes Taste Good?
- 7.5 4. Can You Grow Tomatoes In Just Water?
- 7.6 5. How Much Light Do Hydroponic Tomatoes Need?
- 7.7 6. Are Hydroponic Tomatoes Healthy?
- 8 Grow Your Tomatoes Indoors Hydroponically!
Hydroponic Tomato System
You can grow hydroponic tomatoes DIY-style with an ebb and flow system that you build yourself or buy a hydroponics kit. While there are other hydroponic setups, the ebb and flow system is the easiest for beginners.
Here are the components of an ebb and flow system:
- Water reservoir
- Growing tray
- Submersible water pump
- PVC pipe to create an inlet and outlet from the reservoir to the growing tray
- An adjustable timer to power the pump
The water reservoir should be below the growing tray and can be anything that blocks sunlight. A new plastic tote works well to hold water and prevent algae growth.
The growing tray is a smaller tray placed above the reservoir where the growing tomatoes will reside. Anything works for this really but you can buy a tray made for this purpose at nurseries or hydroponic stores.
An adjustable and submersible water pump is needed to pump water from the reservoir to the growing tray periodically.
PVC pipe can be used to connect the pump to the growing tray. Also, a pipe is needed to create an outlet from the growing tray back to the reservoir. The outlet pipe should be larger in diameter than the inlet pipe to prevent flooding.
An adjustable timer to turn the water pump on and off at set intervals is necessary unless you want to do it yourself all day and night. The pump should run for about 30 minutes every 2-2.5 hours. The watering needs of your plants will change based on size and fruit production, so it needs to be adjustable.
The pump pumps water from the reservoir to the growing tray, soaking the plant roots before leaving through the outlet pipe to recycle back to the reservoir. It’s quite a simple setup.
Indoor Growing Lights For Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes hydroponically in greenhouses won’t always require growing lights. But since we are growing indoors, we need an artificial sun for the tomato plants to grow.
Metal halide lights produce the best results, but other types of lights will work as well, like LED setups.
If you have a sunny location indoors you can use sunlight when it’s directly on the plants and then supplement with the artificial light to create light exposure for 10-16 hours.
Nutrients For Hydroponic Tomatoes
Hydroponic tomatoes nutrient solution products are available to support the unique needs of tomatoes. They are heavy feeders, require specific nutrient ratios, and also enjoy a slightly acidic environment compared to other crops.
If you are going to use a premixed tomato hydroponic nutrients formula, try and use one for the growing season and the blooming season to maximize tomato yields.
Starting Tomato Seedlings
Choosing the best tomatoes for hydroponics comes down to what you want to grow. For example, if you want small tomatoes, then you’ll probably opt for hydroponic cherry tomatoes. Most tomato varieties, whether dwarf, determinate, or indeterminate can work as the best tomatoes for indoor hydroponics.
Starting the plants from seed is the best idea since seedlings ready to transplant may carry disease or pests from the outdoors.
Rockwool is the most common growing medium to support the root structure for the plants but you can also use coco coir.
Simply place the seed in the Rockwool cube and keep it in a covered seed starting tray to ensure the environment stays moist enough to sprout.
Transplanting To Growing Tray
Once the plants have sprouted and been under the grow lights long enough to grow their first real leaf, they can be transplanted to the main growing tray.
More Rockwool or growing nets are used for each plant. Keep the plants around 12 inches apart as too close will hinder growth.
Turn on your timer and pump system and use nutrients as described by the labels. Water alone isn’t sufficient to grow tomatoes indoors hydroponically.
Monitoring & Adjusting
Your hydroponic tomatoes yield per plant will depend on the growing conditions throughout the life of the plant. Regularly checking nutrient and pH levels is required.
Changing out the reservoir water regularly is also required.
Since the plants won’t have insects to pollinate, you’ll have to manually do this by hand. You can use a soft paintbrush or a Q-tip to spread the pollen from mature blooms.
You may also need to create supports for your plant vines, trim unnecessary growth, and remove all pests and diseased plants if they happen to pop up.
This is a labor-intensive process but how else can you grow tomatoes in the middle of winter?!
1. How Fast Do Tomatoes Grow Hydroponically?
Having your lights on for 16 hours, ensuring your nutrient solutions are optimal, and choosing a hardy tomato variety will help them grow quicker. Also using metal halide lights over LED lights will increase the growth rate.
2. What Is The Best Hydroponic System For Tomatoes?
There are many systems but this ebb and flow system works very well for tomatoes and those with little experience with indoor hydroponics.
3. Can You Grow Tomatoes Indoors With LED Lights?
Yes, but the growth rate will be slower than with metal halide lights.
3. Do Hydroponic Tomatoes Taste Good?
They taste just as good as their outdoor counterparts!
4. Can You Grow Tomatoes In Just Water?
Plants need nutrients, just like a human! Macronutrients Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus are all required for tomatoes, along with a myriad of micronutrients.
5. How Much Light Do Hydroponic Tomatoes Need?
Up to 16 hours per day will maximize growth but in general, tomatoes can thrive on as low as 8-10 hours of sunlight per day.
6. Are Hydroponic Tomatoes Healthy?
Hydroponic tomato problems stem from unhealthy growing conditions. If the plants are well taken care of and grown right, hydroponic tomatoes can be just as healthy as tomatoes grown outdoors in soil.
Grow Your Tomatoes Indoors Hydroponically!
Hydroponic tomato production can work year-round Indoors. Building a simple ebb and flow hydroponic system yourself will ensure your homestead produces healthy tomatoes when most other homesteaders are relying on canned or frozen tomatoes! Simply follow the layout in the article and see the results for yourself.