Maters, Maters Everywhere!
It is winter and the wind is howling and snow covers the ground but with hydroponic tomatoes, you are having a salad with brightly colored red and yellow fruit for lunch. Using a soilless gardening system, you can have those tasty, organic tomatoes without ever leaving your home.
There are a few things to consider before buying tomato seeds or plants for your hydroponic garden.
- Hybrid varieties produce sterile seed but tend to have larger yields.
- Heirloom plants produce seeds that are fertile and can be replanted.
- Bush type tomatoes are a good choice because they require less pruning and training.
- Vine type tomatoes are smaller and are easily trained to grow upright. Some vine type tomato are so prolific you may find a canopy of brightly colored fruits over your hydroponic garden.
- Italian Ice, (a white tomato,) Cherokee Purple, Amish Paste and Purple Leaf tomatoes are colorful hydroponic tomatoes.
The variety of tomato and how many plants you can grow is dependent upon how much space you have. The average amount of space required for hydroponic tomatoes is one plant per square foot. The space required for vine type tomatoes is slightly less. Larger tomato varieties like Beefsteak may need more space for support. Grape tomatoes planted on the edge of the garden will grow over the container using even less square footage per plant.
Starting from Seed
You can choose to purchase seedlings from a nursery or start your tomatoes from seed at home. Many hydroponic gardeners find starting plants at home is better since a specific hydroponic growth medium can be used.
Making your own starting mix is easy. Nutrients can be mixed in with the growth medium from the beginning preventing some problems later. Hydroponic gardening needs specific pH levels at different stages of development. Starting your own tomato plants allows you to control the pH right from the start.
Hydroponic tomatoes are placed in the soilless medium when they are about two inches tall. The nutrient mix should be adjusted to help them get started. Daily testing and quick action when potential problems arise will prevent your tomatoes from having delayed growth or limited produce.
If your hydroponic garden is inside your home or greenhouse you will have to pollinate the plants yourself. Stimulation of the plant when it begins to show signs of flowering is important. Bees and other pollinating insects provide stimulation that the plants need to produce flowers with heavy pollen.
You can stimulate your plants stalks by gently shaking the stalks, or with a hand held paper fan. Once the flowers appear, you can use a paintbrush or toothbrush to gently dab each flower transferring the pollen from flower to flower and in a few weeks you will have fresh tomatoes on your table.
Hydroponic tomatoes are easy to grow, produce large quantities of fresh tomatoes and provide you with nutritious, healthy food. Soilless gardening is easy and cost efficient, and with a little bit of effort you can have tomatoes year round.