Growing Tomatoes Inside the House—Part 2


[Catch up on the first installment here.]

The four tasty cherry tomato plants I started from cuttings in November 2020 are thriving in our dining area under fluorescent lighting in addition to ambient light. The 3-foot plants are supported by the grids in the shelves as well as string that reaches up from the pot to the higher shelf rungs. Since the plants are in 4-inch pots, they need to be watered twice a day with very dilute fertilizer. The 4-inch pots were the largest pots I had when I started this experiment. I will get bigger pots if I try this again.

Unfortunately, the main stem of one of the tomato plants broke half-way apart as I “gently” wrapped it around the string support. That was disappointing! So, I used a toothpick and some tape to make a “splint” to hold the stem together. Remarkably, this stem now has a bump where it grew back together. The stem and leaves above the break are flourishing.

White flies are still a problem.Periodically, the tomato plants are sprayed with an organic insecticide to control them.

Many blooms started to appear on the plants in mid-January. Tomatoes are self-pollinating having both male and female parts. In nature, the wind and pollinators will aide in dispersing the pollen to the stigma (female) of the flower. When the plants are inside, there are several methods you can use to mimic the wind and pollinators.

  1. Use an art brush: A small brush is useful to gather the pollen inside each bloom from the anthers (male) of the flower. Next, the brush is moved over the stigma to deliver the pollen. Do this process to each flower.
  2. Battery-operated toothbrush: Place the bristles at the back of the open flowers. Turn the toothbrush on for only a few seconds to give the flower a little shake. Move on to the next blossom.
  3. Cotton swab: Use a cotton swab in much the same way you use the art brush. You can also collect the pollen by tapping the bloom over a small cup. Then use the swab to transfer the pollen to the stigma of each flower.
  4. Shake the plant: You can gently shake the plants to initiate transfer of the pollen to the stigma. A similar method is flicking the plant with your finger.

These methods are repeated every 2 to 3 days to insure all the flowers get pollinated. I choose to use the “flicking the plant with your finger”method since I am not patient enough to manually pollinate every bloom.

Today (Feb. 25) there are several green tomatoes, about the size of large grapes, on the plants. My pollination technique is not as effective as wind and pollinators as my yield is not as robust as the yield last summer and fall.

Next month I hope to share photos of ripe, delicious, red tomatoes!

Continue reading the final installment.