Garden-fresh tomatoes in the dead of winter? Not a problem, once you get familiar with the beauty of container gardening indoors. When you’re accustomed to consuming the tasteless, store-bought variety this time of year, the idea of an authentic, juicy tomato grown right at home may make your mouth water. Enjoying the robust flavor or garden tomatoes year-round is a veggie lovers dream. We at the Humble Gardener are here to give you a quick tutorial on planting tomatoes indoors and reaping a beautiful harvest during the coldest months of the year.
1. Go seed shopping. Consider how much time you have to dedicate to your indoor tomatoes. ‘Determinate’ varieties will produce a one-time harvest, but require less attention than ‘Indeterminate’ tomatoes. An Indeterminate will produce tomatoes all through the season, but youíll need to spend time staking to keep its growth in control.
Some recommended varieties for winter container gardening include: Toy Boy, Small Fry, Tiny Tim, Pixie, Jelly Bean, Yellow Pear, Pixie, and Mattís Wild Cherry.
2. Plant! Once you’ve gathered up your seeds, begin planting. Place seeds about 1/4 deep in a 6-inch pot filled with starter mix. Water, making sure soil stays moist but never saturated! Keep your pots in a warm place (75-85 degrees F), for example above the fridge or on the radiator. Seeds will germinate in 5-10 days. At this point you can move your plants to a windowsill that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, or alternatively, under a bright light.
For back-to-back harvests all season long, try planting one or two new tomato plants from seed every couple of weeks.
3. Transplant and Fertilize. Once your seeds have grown about 3 inches tall, trade starter mix for potting soil, and place plants in a larger pot (the size you’ll need depends on the seed variety you’re growing). Two weeks after transplanting, you begin to lightly fertilize the seedlings on a regular basis. Continue to water without overdoing it!
4. Turn & Tap. Lend Mother Nature a hand by encouraging your tomatoes’ growth. Turn your pots every now and then, so each side receives plenty of sunshine. Promote pollination by tapping or shaking the main stem and larger side branches of your plants once they’ve bloomed.
5. Stake– if needed. Where needed, use a 1/4 inch dowel or small trellis to stake plants, especially after they’ve begun bearing fruit.
6. Enjoy! You’ve just harvested a winter tomato crop. Give yourself a pat on the back and bring those beauties into the kitchen. They may be smaller than their summer counterparts, but they more than make up for size in flavor. These varieties are ideal as healthy snacks or mixed in salads!