Growing Tomatoes Indoors Over Winter

susanlynne48(OKC7a)August 12, 2011

Is it possible? I'd like to try to grow a cherry or grape tomato indoors over winter.

My daughter has been diagnosed with Interstitial cystitis and the IC diet says she can only have homegrown tomatos, not store bought or those provided by restaurants and/or fast food places. Why, I have no idea, but only have speculations. I will have to research this further, but we are in the very initial stages of learning about the diet and this disease. I only know that diet is an essential treatment for IC patients.

Anyway, she has several very sunny spaces in her home, altho I realize she won't get near as much sun inside, and won't get near the production as an outdoor plant.

Any suggestions or recommendations are appreciated.

Thank you.


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I have grown toms. in a greenhouse during the winter with no additional lighting and they didnt produce as well as they did outdoors but they were still worth the effort. I no longer have a greenhouse but im planning to grow 2 or 3 in a room where they will receive about 3hrs. of sunlight in the morning and I will augment that with 6500K T8 flourescent fixtures the rest of the day. I intend to use tom. bloom for pollination (a chemical that sets toms.) but you can use a q-tip if you prefer. A moisture meter is a must.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 12:18PM
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Thanks, Telow! I have a moisture meter, so am cool there. I have supplement flourescent lights that I used for my seed starting this year that I can take to my daughter's house and have her hubby set up.

I usually do pollination with an artist's brush, so should be okay there. Do you fertilize as frequently, or less frequently than if they were growing "in season" and in optimum conditions? Guess I need to get some of the tomatoe bloom stuff, too.

You are a great help! Thanks!


    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 7:17PM
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I would read on the pepper forum. A lot of those guys grow indoors during the winter. I think you will have to provide lighting. I've tried growing outdoors, here in AZ. I've kept a few plants alive all winter, but have not had any production until the light levels have increased in the spring.
This may sound weird, but, you may also try getting on to some marijuana forums. They are the masters at growing indoors. Although, you may not want to grow hydroponically, they will probably have a lot to offer in the lighting and container gardening knowledge areas. I've perused the forums once or twice. It's different but loaded with information.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 9:21PM
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Susan - I've had good results with the SunGold tomato - it will produce with temps as low as in the 40's at night sometimes - just needs lots of light and I keep a small fan on a timer to keep the plant healthy and to assist pollination. Only downside is sometimes you need to do some severe pruning or it will get leggy inside (I have a large tall cage that I put inside the container) Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 7:43AM
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when growing with flourescent lights train the plants to run paralell to the light since flours do project the light very far. Use fast fruiting and or dwarf varieties.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 11:12AM
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I'd recommend the tiny tim, it has produced pretty good in my greenhouse and does not get very large in size. You could space the plantings out and get an extended harvest.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 12:50PM
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see also for the growing of medical "tomatos"

i"m not doubting the seriousness of your concerns but did they give any detail as to why no commercial toms will do ??? Good luck

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 1:07PM
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PHJ, no they didn't give any particulars about why. I do know that on this diet, anything containing preservatives or chemicals are off limits, so am assuming that is the reason why. Another is acid content. She can't have any citrus, obviously, but I know tomatos contain a certain amount of acid. So also need to have a "low acid" tomato. I think the ones mentioned are low acid because they are very sweet tomatos, while I find that those high in acid are less sweet, having less sugar content.

I am thinking that because tomatos grown commercially are treated with more chemicals, pesticides, etc., that is why she cannot eat them. Also, no canned toms either.

This diet is pretty specific. Remove all potential offenders, and then add something back in slowly to see if it is a trigger for an episode. That way, she can discover what is bothersome and what is not.

I like the Tiny Tim tomato suggestion because it grows more compact. As I said, I do have flourescent lighting I can use that is right by my east and south facing windows. So it can get some natural light, too.

You all are great, and thanks so much.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 8:44AM
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Susan first I want to say I wish your daughter the best in her effort to handle this disease.

My friend who raises tomatoes in 3 greenhouses has quit raising them in Dec, Jan and the first part of Feb. Says that the sunlight hours are so short it affects flavor and too costly for him to provide enough light to make a difference. On a few plants though lighting shouldn't be that bad.
I will add a link to a thread on the tomato forum that maybe of interest to you if you haven't already read it. Sounds like the diet may be the same one your daughter is on. The link to Korney's acid test is interesting. This is a thread I go to everytime someone mentions low acid tomatoes. Jay

Here is a link that might be useful: Low acid tomatoes

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 12:23PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I think that they recommend home-grown tomatoes because there is a belief that home-grown tomatoes have a lower pH than commercially-grown ones, although I have no idea if that is a valid belief. Also, if you grow your own, you can choose the supposedly low-acid types, which is problematic as Korney's chart in Jay's link shows. And, of course, if growing your own you can use only organic products.

I'd lean towards growing the cherry types because they produce fruit more quickly than larger-fruited ones. Busy1 already recommended Tiny Tim, and in addition to it, very dwarf ones they have produced well in pots indoors for me include Red Robin, Yellow Canary and Orange Pixie. They all get 12-18" tall for me and produce almost as many fruit as tomatoes if grown outside, but somewhat fewer indoors. The seed of all those was available from Tomato Growers' Supply Co. back when I grew them. Micro-tom is another very dwarf cherry type.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 1:47PM
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I just ordered seeds of Micro Tom and Tumbling Tom. I would never expect much, if any, production from a larger tomato during winter.

I hope these don't produce much acid, because they are primarily known for their sweetness. ???

Thanks for all the help and explanations. I would grow a yellow, but I doubt she would think of a yellow as a true tomato.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:45PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Well, Susan, if she wouldn't think of a yellow as a true tomato, we just need to convince her!

I hope the tomatoes grow well and produce enough to feed your daughter's tomato cravings.

Tumbling Tom produced really well for me in containers and in the ground last year and it produced a lot of tomatoes outdoors. If it produces 25% as many fruit for her inside as it did for us outside, I think y'all will be pleased with its production. I grew both Tumbling Tom Red and Tumbling Tom Yellow and in last year's condition, the yellow greatly outproduced the red but I don't know if that is typical or if it was a fluke.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 12:03PM
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No advice, other than saying I accidentally grew tomatoes inside last year. I had a plant that I bought late summer & brought it inside when it got cold. Couple weeks later, I noticed it had a tomato forming. I have to say, that was the best tasting winter tomato I've ever eaten. Didn't taste quite like "real" tomatoes, but it tasted better than anything you'd buy in the store.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:29PM
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I will keep everyone posted on progress. You haven't grown Micro Tom, Dawn? It is a pretty small plant, but I got the seeds at Swallowtail, where the description states that it is the "perfect tomato to grow under lights".

Dawn, how did your Sara's Galapagos and Sweet Pea tomatos do this year for you? I just remembered that you were going to try these 2 new ones.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 6:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I don't usually grow the really small plants because their yield is so small. If I'm going to take the time to plant, feed and water a plant, I want a lot of tomatoes. I kept a Husky Red Cherry in production last winter in the garage until it froze in either Dec. or Jan. and it produced pretty well. I grew Tiny Tim long ago and wasn't impressed with the number of fruit per plant, but found Red Robin, Yellow Canary and Orange Pixie all produced oodles on slightly larger plants. I haven't tried micro-Tom, but did like both the Tumbling Toms and also Pear Drops.

This year I avoided planting in containers because I didn't want to have a billion containers to water in all this heat and drought. If the drought lingers into next year, I'll probably plant only in containers and will go with tomatoes that were reliable producers in containers in the past. My ground is so dry right now you probably could go out to the garden and ignite the soil with a match. It is hard to imagine enough rain ever will fall again to replenish the poor, old dry and dusty soil.

The currants did as well as everything else in dealing with the heat, drought, spider mites, etc. and all had that typical currant tomato flavor, but my favorite this year was Matt's Wild Cherry, which was simply superb. When I cut off the water, they all died together. We havested lots of tasty tomatoes from late April through either latest July or early August, and then nothing much since then because I stopped watering. One Sungold and one Ildi plant are hanging on and ripening 2 or 3 tomatoes a week, so I guess they win the prize for hanging in there and producing even after I stopped watering. At our house, the tomato harvest peaked in late May through late June. As hot as it was early in the year, I'm surprised it did that well. I expected it to be a no tomato year when the highs were hitting the 90s in April and May, and really we had a lot. We just had them really early.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 7:16PM
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I can relate as far as my annuals, perennials, and tropicals. It has just been a year of "survival" until next year. What's been heppening in the garden? Nothing - that sums it up. A very limited number of butterflies and moths. The few I had were the fruit, dung, sap eating butterflies, because I fed them. The tropicals bloomed well because they can tolerate the heat and humidity. But, there are no big butterflies to nectar on them. The heat prevented a lot of bloom on my plants. Just got too hot, too fast, for them to bloom well.

This last break from the heat - a short one - has at least produced more blooms on my sole tomato plant, and hopefully they will get pollinated to produce tomatos in fall.

The best plants in the garden for flowering? Pyramid Bush (in the Chocolate family), a very pretty little bright pink flowering tropical; Dwarf Red Porterweed (tropical), Gerbera daisy (red/orange), Datura, Flame Acanthus - this plant just keeps on going and nothing bothers the flowers or the foliage, I love it! - Maximilian Sunflower; Golden Crownbeard; David Verity Cuphea, and Tropical Milkweed.

My Verbena bonariensis, which is normally a very prolific blooming plant, has had some kind of foliage disease this year that turns the plant foliage white, and it hasn't produced near the blooms in normally does. Those it does produce don't last very long at all.

The Southern Pink Moth has all but decimated my Salvias this year, and some kind of little leaf-cutting, petiole cutting caterpillars have demolished the Morning Glories. I like caterpillars, but not those that are destructive and appear in such large numbers it is literally impossible for an organic gardener to fight.

It is so strange - I have a Packman broccoli that has never produced a head, but is still growing and hasn't bolted yet. ?????

Even the Zinnias are not producing as well as they should, few blooms, and wonky stems.

I have kept the garden watered as well as possible, and am hoping the fall will turn things around, altho I keep hearing extended weather predictions of a very warm fall. We'll see.

I feel very bad for all of you who put so much work into your vegetable gardens only to have them burn up in this heat and drought. My heart just melts for you guys!


    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 7:29AM
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If you go over to T-ville, you can find out about the dwarf tomato project. They are developing all kinds of dwarfs, some are already available.
The one dwarf that I like is Lime Green Salad. Sweet, yet a bit citrusy.
Sorry, I couldn't put the forum's whole name, the spam blocker got me.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 5:18PM
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Hi Susan,

My DH has IC. IC patients cannot eat store tomatoes or tomato products (salsa, diced, crushed, paste, ketchup, etc) because all the store tomatoes are picked when they are not ripe. As I'm sure you know, toms are nightshades and all nightshades have a certain acid in them (I think it's oxalic, but I'm unsure) in them that is very abrasive to the IC bladder. If the fruit is actually allowed to ripen, then the plant changes the acid to sugar, thus making it safe to eat. Send me an email if you have any IC questions. I have loads of great recipes using the approved IC list and have some very good suggestions to make the DIL feel better.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 12:20AM
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Hi, Susan. I just noticed that Glecklers has a bunch of dwarfs with full sized tomatoes. Mostly reds, some in the other colors as well. I think yellow tomatoes are the sweetest and least acidic.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Kelly, you are so sweet! I will definitely PM you for suggestions. Jess just had the trial Interstim last Thursday. The procedure was very painful for her, and, of course, lugging around two of the MedTronic devices is no fun, but the good news is that it has truly helped her out and she is tickled pink about that!

She is on so many medications. This is apparently what she has been dealing with for several years now, and just recently got a correct DX.

Yes, her diet will be limited, but not too bad, if she can just forego the soda, chocolate (she can have white choc), and fruit. The only fruit she can have is pears and blueberries, melons, but no canteloupe. She can have most all veggies, except for a select few.

It'll be so great to visit with someone who knows about IC! Thanks so much for sharing that with me, Kelly!

Thanks for the heads up, Tracy, on Gleckler's. I'll definitely check them out.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 10:57PM
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