Winter Tomatoes

With the right light, you can grow winter tomatoes indoors.

| October/November 2004

Indoor Gardening

Pot the cuttings.

Photo By David Cavagnaro

Just one encounter with a tasteless, artificially ripened, imported winter supermarket tomato makes you want to grow your own tangy, sweet-tasting tomatoes in the off-season.

It sure did me, and I met with enough initial success and continued refining my technique until now, in a good winter, at peak production, a single plant in my window produces a pint of cherry or pear tomatoes every day or two. Here’s how to do this yourself:

Although many varieties of “compact” bush tomatoes are advertised as good for container production, they won’t perform well over a long winter. These are “determinate” varieties — plants with branches that grow to a certain length and then stop. They produce a finite number of fruits over a limited period — certainly far less time than a long stretch of northern winter.

Better options for indoor winter tomatoes are “indeterminate” varieties — those that continue growing and producing indefinitely. Furthermore, I’ve found that cherry and plum types, bearing small fruits in abundance, are more productive than large slicing types.

Favorite Varieties

Because indeterminate vines bear a blossom cluster at each node, and the stems between nodes grow longer indoors in the dimmer light of winter than they would outdoors in summer, I recommend you choose from among the less-vigorous indeterminate varieties on the market, lest the vine take over the house without bearing much fruit. My favorite choices are old-fashioned ‘Yellow Pear’ and an unnamed, less vigorous red variety that I’ve grown for years, but the red ‘Tommy Toe,’ an Ozark heirloom and frequent winner of taste tests, and ‘Pink Ping Pong’, called “very sweet, smooth and juicy” by heirloom tomato expert Carolyn Male, are worth growing this way, too.

Sufficient light is paramount for successful indoor cherry tomato production. Choose a window as nearly floor-to-ceiling in height and as south-facing as possible. Large picture windows or sunroom exposures are ideal.

10/18/2014 4:48:15 PM

is it necessary to have grow light or something like that?

11/21/2007 6:57:14 PM

I really enjoyed your article about 'Growing Tomatoes Indoors during the Winter'. it seemed I am growing tomatoes indoors under a High Preasure Sodium Lamp. I realize that this is not neccessarily for everyone, however in spite of the electrical use (which isn't all that bad)the HPS lamp lights up the living room very well, I can grow just about any tomato variety, and herbs, and other veggies (Pole Beans in hanging baskets! beatiful vine and delicious too!) a little warmth (16,000-18,000 BTUs of light) and since it throws a wide range of light spectrem I haven't been bothered as much with depression due to lack of sunlight, and also the joy of gardening! What can I say more? Kind Regards, Royce Faina.

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