If you want to grow fruit or vegetables but you don’t have a garden, or a lot of outdoor space, how do you do it?
You could get an allotment, but that is difficult in some areas and it can cost money. What other alternatives do you have?
Depending on what you want to grow, you might be able to do it inside your home with a hydroponic system.
This is where nutrients are mixed into a solution with water and used to grow fruit and vegetables instead of planting them in soil.
This is a popular method of growing lettuce, but can also be used for other things too.
One of the most versatile things you can grow in a hydroponic system in your own home is a tomato plant.
If you want to learn how to grow hydroponic tomatoes at home then you are in the right place.
We have put together this guide to tell you everything that you need to know about growing hydroponic tomatoes.
Which Variety Of Tomato Should You Use?
The first thing you need to decide when you are growing tomatoes is which variety to choose.
There are certain varieties of tomato that will flourish in a hydroponic system more so than others.
Choosing the right type of tomato could be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful crop.
Tomatoes are split into two categories – determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes tend to be smaller, stockier plants that spread along the ground like a bush.
They will produce fruit once a year at a specific point in the growing season. Indeterminate tomatoes grow taller, more like trees.
They will continue to flower and produce fruit right up until the first frost, so they need to be harvested several times and pruned in between.
Determinate tomato varieties are better for hydroponic growing. They will not grow too big which makes it easier to grow them indoors.
There are three categories of determinate tomatoes – specialty tomatoes, vining tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes.
Speciality tomatoes include plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and cocktail tomatoes.
Vining tomatoes include Delilah tomatoes, giant beefsteak tomatoes and brandywine tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes include thessaloniki tomatoes and moskvich tomatoes. Any of these varieties would be a good choice for hydroponic growing.
Seeds Or Saplings?
Once you have chosen which variety of tomato you are going to grow, you then need to decide whether you want to grow them from seeds or from saplings.
Growing tomatoes from saplings (basically a baby plant) will make it easier for you as the plant has already started growing.
The issue with using saplings for hydroponic tomatoes is that you need to use saplings that have been grown indoors, not outdoors.
If you use outdoor-grown saplings they could be contaminated with pests and germs which will thrive much more in a hydroponic system than they would in the soil.
This means that your tomato plants could easily die.
If you decide to grow your tomatoes from seeds, this usually gives you more choice in terms of which variety of tomato you use.
Grow your seedlings indoors using a medium instead of a soil. This will make the transition from seedling tray to hydroponic system more smooth and successful.
Make sure you use acidic water to keep the medium moist at all times.
The seedlings will need to be kept covered to mimic being underground, and the temperature should be maintained between 68 and 77 degrees fahrenheit.
It will take around 2 weeks for them to show signs of sprouting, at which point they can be moved to the hydroponic system and exposed to light.
Growing Requirements For Hydroponic Tomatoes
You’ve chosen your tomato variety and you know how to start off the growing process – but once your seedlings are ready to be moved to the hydroponic system, what growing requirements will they need?
Tomatoes are warm weather plants rather than cold weather plants.
If you do not maintain the right temperature then this will significantly stunt their growth and impact their flavor.
During the day, the tomatoes should be kept between 64 and 77 degrees fahrenheit.
During the night, you need to make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 54 degrees fahrenheit.
Using a grow tent is a good way to keep control over the temperature of the tomatoes.
Plants get their energy from the process of photosynthesis, and this process requires light.
The amount of light exposure that your plants have will directly impact the size that the fruit grows to, as well as the quality and the flavor.
When tomatoes are grown outdoors then they should be South-facing with full exposure all day.
For hydroponic tomatoes, they will need 16 to 18 hours of light exposure. You can use a combination of natural light and LED light.
When you grow tomatoes in your garden they will get their nutrients from the soil and from fertilizer.
For hydroponic tomatoes, you need to add the nutrients to the water.
You can use a general plant nutrient mix if you want, but if you can get hold of a nutrient mix that is specific to tomatoes then you will achieve better results.
Tomatoes require a lot of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus and slightly acidic water – between PH 5.8 up to 6.3.
When you grow hydroponic tomatoes they do not sit directly in the water. You need to use a medium, which takes the place of the soil.
You could use rockwool, perlite, clay pellets or coco coir. The type of medium you use will depend on the hydroponic system you are using.
Nutrient Deficiency In Hydroponic Tomatoes
If your tomatoes are growing well or at all then this is probably due to a dud seed, or an issue with the temperature and light exposure.
If your tomatoes are growing, but the plant is showing some signs that it is unhappy, then this is likely due to a nutrient deficiency.
It is important to get the right plenty of nutrients to ensure that the tomato plant grows well. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Flowers falling off too soon – before the fruit grows, the plant will flower and the flowers will drop off. However, if the flowers are falling off too early then this could be a sign that the plant is not getting enough potassium
- Yellow Leaves – The leaves of the plant are supposed to be green, not yellow. Yellow leaves could be an indication that the PH of the water is too high. It could also mean that the plant isn’t getting enough light, or the concentration of nutrients in the water is too low.
- Leaf tips curling down – If the tips of the leaf are curling down then this could be a sign that the concentration of nutrients in the water is too high.
- Curled up leaf tips – if the tips of the leaves are curled up instead of flat then this could mean that the PH of the water is too low, so the water is too acidic. This could also result in the stems of the plant turning red.
5 Tips For Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes At Home
If you want to make sure that your hydroponic tomatoes are perfect, make sure you follow these tips:
- Use the right variety – Choosing a variety of tomato that will thrive in a hydroponic system is important if you want to succeed. Go for a determinate rather than an indeterminate variety.
- Hydroponic system – Choose a hydroponic system that does not require much maintenance, as tomatoes need a lot of nutrients and you don’t want to have to adjust the levels constantly.
- Growing Conditions – Make sure that you stick to the guidelines for temperature and light requirements. If you don’t, the size, flavor and quality of the fruit could be significantly impacted.
- Nutrients – Using a nutrient mix that is specific to tomatoes will give you much better results than a standard nutrient mix. Tomatoes need high levels of the big three nutrients – potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Medium – Make sure that you choose a medium that gives the tomato plant enough support. Rockwool is the most recommended medium for hydroponic tomatoes for this reason.
What Are The Benefits Of Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes?
If you’re still not sure whether you want to grow hydroponic tomatoes, consider these benefits:
- Easy – Growing tomatoes hydroponically rather than planting them in soil is much easier in terms of physical labor. Traditional gardening can be hard work, with digging and weeding and maintaining the ground. Hydroponic gardening is less labor intensive.
- Clean – Not using soil to grow tomatoes makes it a much cleaner process. You don’t need to worry about getting soil on your clothes or walking muddy footprints through the house after checking on your tomatoes.
- Faster – Tomatoes grow faster in hydroponic systems than they do in the soil, which means you have to wait less time to enjoy the fruits of your plant.
- Yield – Tomato plants grown hydroponically tend to produce a higher yield than those grown outdoors. You get more tomatoes for your money and efforts which is ideal if you love making soups, sauces and salads.
- Seasonal – If you grow tomatoes outside then you are restricted by the seasons. You can only plant and harvest during a specific time of year due to the climate. However, growing tomatoes hydroponically allows you to grow and harvest them all year around.
Growing hydroponic tomatoes is a great alternative to traditional tomatoes if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space.
Make sure that you provide your tomatoes with the most ideal conditions to ensure that you achieve the best results with your crop.
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