Botanically a fruit and a vegetable for cuisines, tomato, however you pronounce it, has been in popular culture since centuries. The word tomato has been derived from the Nahuatl word tomato meaning “fat thing” or “fat water”. Etymology aside, tomatoes have been a big favorite for people around the world as an important ingredient for salads, soups, pizzas, curries and so on.
Tomato is an ideal hydroponic crop. Hydroponics is basically farming without soil. Before we look into how to grow tomatoes hydroponically, let us first learn more about the varieties and requirements of this important fruit.
Tomato: An Overview
VarietiesNot going into the specific varieties, tomatoes can be basically categorized as determinate, indeterminate and hybrid/heirloom.
Tomato plants thrives well in temperature 10°C to 30°C with optimum range of temperature is 21-24°C. Their growing period is the warm season and the fruits are ready for harvesting anywhere between 50 to 140 days depending on the variety.
pH Value and Soil
Tomatoes require a deep, loamy, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. They can be grown hydroponically too.
Pests and Diseases
Common tomato plant diseases include anthracnose, fusarium and verticillium wilt, early/late blight and septoria leaf spot. Some common pests are blister beetles, cutworms and leafhoppers.
Generally there will be 7-11 harvests in a crop life span. The yield per hectare varies greatly according to variety and season. On an average, the yield varies from 20-25 t/ha. Hybrid varieties may yield up to 50-60 t/ha.
Tomatoes are rich in natural vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, K, B1, B3, B5, B6, B7, and vitamin C. It also has folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, choline, zinc, and phosphorus.
Before you Begin
Tomato plants can be grown by using seeds or buying saplings. Using seeds means more work. But if you are ready for it and have got the seed of your desired variety, then you surely start with the seeds. For growing using seeds, you need to first ensure the soil is ready for providing the ideal nutrition required by the tomato plants. The health, taste and look of the tomatoes is greatly determined by the quality and suitability of the soil. Once these seeds grow into saplings you can shift them into your hydroponic system.
But there’s a catch: seedlings grown outfits are not preferred for hydroponics. Even if a single seedling is contaminated, the whole hydroponically system can and usually does get infected.
This is the major drawback of hydroponics. Health of each plant is quintessential. So your here’s the expert advice, use tomato plant seedlings that been grown indoors and are surely without any infection.
Healthy saplings bought from nurseries are easier work but obviously limit the choice of
varieties. With the desired saplings grown indoors, you now have the variety you want and also the pleasure of not working with any soil.
Let’s step into how do we meet the requirements for growing tomatoes in hydroponics.
Requirements to grow tomatoes hydroponically
Now let me name the specific varieties that you really wanted to know from the beginning. The best varieties of tomato that can be grown hydroponically are Moskvich, Thessaloniki, Brandywine Pinke, Mortgage Lifter. These are all heirloom varieties.
On average, the best solution is to go for 2:1 light and dark ratio. This means you need to provide 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of dark. The best light is through metal halides although CFL and LED can produce near satisfactory results.
The ambient temperature for tomato plants, as mentioned above, is 21-24°C. A grow tent can be used if the temperature is not right.
Growing Media and Hydroponics Technique
This is where you get a lot of liberty with tomatoes. Tomato plants can be grown in any growing media such as expanded clay pellets, coco coir, rockwool or perlite. The technique to grow them can be anyone you are comfortable with like nutrient film, deep flow, drip or ebb-and-flow system.
The hydroponic nutrients for tomatoes include Calcium Nitrate, Potassium Nitrate, Sulfate of Potash, Monopotassium Phosphate, and Magnesium Sulfate. The tomatoes also need around 54 elements in traces that include Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Boron, and Molybdenum.
Point to Remember
Okay, so now you are all set, ready to apply your new knowledge. But if you’ve ever been in
contact with a hydroponic veteran, you would definitely be advised that tomatoes are not the best choice for beginners and it is not entirely wrong. Here is the keyword that will allow you to grow your tomato plants successfully: pH. pH change is surprisingly frequent in tomato hydroponic. Keep the pH in control and you’ll surely have the best results.
A Step-by-Step Guide for Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes
- Reservoir with lid
- Growing tray
- Net pots
- Water pump
- PVC tubing, one thin and one large
- Any grow medium
- Tomato nutrient mix
- Clean and fill the reservoir with distilled water. Each tomato plant requires around 2.5 gallons, so plan accordingly.
- Make holes in the lid for tubing. The lid prevents algal growth.
- Keep the growing tray above the reservoir.
- Install the water pump in reservoir. The pump must be powerful enough to flood the
- By drilling two holes at the bottom of the tray, connect the reservoir, pump and tray
using the PVC tubes. The thinner tube acts as the water inlet and the larger tube is to be placed at the flooding limit.
- Filters are optional. They can be used in case of clogging.
- Place the seedlings inside individual grow/net pots. Place them in the grow tray.
- Add the required nutrients to the water.
- If growing indoors, ensure the maintenance of lighting and temperature requirement as mentioned above.
- As the plants grow the nutrition needs increase.
- Keep checking and maintaining the EC and pH levels. The nutrition solution must be
changed every week.
- The harvesting time depends on the choice of variety.
Working patiently towards growing your own fresh and hygienic tomatoes is a rewarding experience. Whether you have little experience with hydroponics or a veteran at the trade, if you follow our comprehensive guide you can definitely grow tomato plants hydroponically with guaranteed success.
The variety of uses of tomatoes in various cuisines around the world.
This makes it a loved vegetable even though it is technically a fruit. With you possessing the ability to grow tomatoes indoors even during the off season, you’ll never have to worry about the rising prices.
Happy Tomato Hydroponics!