Tomatoes are easy to grow on soil but can you grow them hydroponically? Tomatoes are a vegetable and a fruit that’s a staple in many dishes, and growing them in your home hydroponically means you’ll have fresh tomatoes all year round.
Yes, with hydroponics systems, you can grow tomatoes not just during spring to fall but all year round since you’ll be growing them without soil.
If you’ve never grown tomatoes hydroponically before, then you’ll be happy to know what this guide will teach you.
Growing your tomatoes in this kind of system is relatively easy and inexpensive, and it simply needs a few instructions to get started.
But first, let’s begin by understanding what hydroponics is.
What Is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a style of growing plants such as herbs and vegetables without the use of soil-based media. Instead of soil, a nutrient medium is used. This nutrient medium contains several minerals that are required for plant growth. It is mixed with water, and the plants are grown using this solution.
The solution is applied directly to the plants’ roots, allowing the plants to absorb the nutrients in the medium.
Some popular examples of hydroponic systems include:
- Ebb and Flow
- Deep Water Culture
- Nutrient Film Technique
- Hydroponic Drip
The Benefits of Hydroponically Grown Tomatoes
Here are some of the benefits of growing tomatoes hydroponically and why it can be an ideal solution for many people, especially those living in cities:
1. Year-Round Growth
When you plant vegetables outdoors in the soil, there’s a limit to their growth, and that’s somewhere between 7 to 8 months, from spring to fall. You can relatively grow tomatoes all year-round when you grow tomatoes hydroponically since you won’t depend on soil and sunlight to produce them.
2. Ability to Grow Tomatoes Indoors
If you live in a city or have minimal space at home, such as living in an apartment or a condominium, you can still grow your plants and vegetables.
Since you won’t need soil or sunlight, you can grow your tomatoes indoors with hydroponic systems and LED lights.
3. Clean Tomatoes
Hydroponically grown tomatoes are less susceptible to common soil pests and diseases. You’ll also have a much cleaner growing indoor space.
4. Bigger and Better Yields
Since you can control the nutrient content of your tomatoes, you can grow much more prominent and heavier tomatoes compared to those that are soil-grown.
Drawbacks to Hydroponics
Though there are plenty of benefits of hydroponically grown tomatoes, there are also a few drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of them:
1. Expensive to Get Started
Setting up your hydroponics system can be pretty pricey. You’ll need to buy several supplies and your cuttings or seedlings.
2. Steep Learning Curve
If you’ve never tried hydroponics before, expect to experience a steep learning curve. Because the environment is controlled, there is less room for error, and if you make mistakes, it will be magnified.
Hydroponics requires a bit more work than soil gardening.
Steps to Growing Tomatoes Hydroponically
Now that we’ve learned what hydroponics is let’s begin our guide to growing tomatoes with a hydroponic system.
Step 1: Choose a Hydroponic System
Two popular hydroponic systems are easy to set up and maintain, and these are Ebb and Flow and Hydroponic Drip Systems.
Ebb and Flow involve flooding the roots of the tomato plant with the nutrient medium before draining back into the reservoir to let the plants breathe.
All you need for this hydroponic system are a reservoir, timer, water pump, nutrient solution, support stakes, plant pots, and a substrate.
Most home growers, especially beginners, tend to gravitate towards Ebb and Flow systems since they are the simplest and easiest.
The second most popular hydroponic system is the Hydroponic Drip System. Instead of flooding the plant with the nutrient solution, plants are fed through the top in a drip system. It also requires the same materials as an Ebb and Flow system.
Step 2: Choose the Lighting
Tomatoes need at least 12 to 18 hours of light daily. LED grow lights are the most powerful and most efficient for growing tomatoes hydroponically. However, they can be a significant investment upfront.
You can use fluorescent light, but they provide lower power. A cheap yet powerful alternative is MH/HPS lights, which will also work just fine.
Step 3: Choose the Nutrient Mix
Hydroponic tomatoes have high nutritional requirements, particularly the big 3; potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. They also need secondary nutrients and micronutrients such as magnesium.
Step 4: Choose Your Tomatoes
There are many different varieties of tomatoes, and you need to consider which type you are going to grow in your indoor garden. While you can grow tomatoes from seedlings, the ideal option is growing from cuttings.
The tomato variety you should choose is determinate tomatoes. They are easier to grow and won’t overtake your room once they mature. They grow like bushes and don’t need to be put on a stake, cage, or trellis.
If you choose indeterminate tomatoes, which grow on a vine, you will need to have an A-frame or trellis or some other kind of support to prevent the plant from toppling over.
Related: How to grow hydroponic herbs
Step 5: Creating the Perfect Indoor Garden Environment
To create the perfect indoor garden environment for growing your tomatoes, you have to ensure the following: temperature, humidity, and airflow.
Tomatoes that are grown hydroponically thrive in environments with moderate climates. Keep humidity under 40 to 50% and temperatures between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Proper airflow should also be considered, so if your home doesn’t have any adequate air circulation, that can lead to a few issues. Consider opening windows, but if you live in a windowless condo, that would mean you need to install a ventilation system.
You can also use a grow tent where you can create the perfect environment to grow your tomatoes.
Step 6: Daily Care and Maintenance
Once your tomatoes are growing and thriving, there are a few things you need to do to care for and maintain a healthy environment.
Determine your feeding cycle, such as how often you need to change out the nutrient solution, how many processes of flooding nutrients your plant needs daily, as well as cleaning your system.
If you think your tomatoes are growing too big for your home’s small space., you can also prune and trim the bushes so you can limit and direct their growth.
You would also need to monitor the pH level of the nutrient solution. Tomatoes thrive in an environment with a pH level between 5-8-6, which is the level where they can absorb the most nutrients.
Step 7: Harvesting Your Tomatoes
If you choose cuttings over seedlings, you can expect your plants to produce tomatoes in as little as 50 to 100 days. The older your cuttings, the faster your fruits will bear and ripen.
Wait for your tomatoes to be at their mature green color, and when you see the first signs of red, you can start harvesting them.
Tomatoes will continue to ripen once they are plucked.
Are all these steps and daily tasks tasking? If you’re intimidated by how much work you’ll need to do when growing tomatoes hydroponically, you can opt to buy indoor gardens that have all the essentials to grow your tomatoes.
Indoor gardens such as Rise Gardens feature LED lighting, a hydroponics system, ventilation, temperature and humidity control, and everything you need to make growing tomatoes indoors possible.
Three kinds of indoor gardens are designed especially for urban city dwellers with little space to grow vegetables. Even if you don’t have any windows in your home, you can grow your tomatoes hydroponically all year round. They’re an excellent solution for anyone who doesn’t want to set up their hydroponics system from scratch.
Tomatoes are an essential ingredient to many dishes, from Mexican to Italian to French cuisine. This versatile and nutritious fruit/veggie is easy to grow.
If you live in a home with no soil or a condominium with no direct sunlight, you can grow your tomatoes using a hydroponic system.
These systems allow you to grow plants without using soil, and instead, a nutrient mix or solution feeds the plants to make them grow. LED lighting, the right pH level, temperatures, airflow, and humidity provide the perfect indoor garden environment for your tomatoes to grow.
Sure, the initial costs and setup may be expensive and tasking, but once your tomatoes start growing and thriving, you’ll soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor.