Can Tomatoes Be Grown Vertically?
There is nothing like the taste of ripe red fresh tomatoes grown in compost-rich soil, nourished by sunlight, and pollinated by nature’s workhorses: wind and bees.
Tomatoes are a popular crop in many parts of the world, and they can be grown in a variety of different ways. One relatively new method is known as vertical farming, and it offers some distinct advantages. In a vertical farm, tomato plants are grown in rows on shelves that are stacked vertically. This allows for a much higher density of plants, and it also cuts down on the amount of space needed. Vertical farms also often make use of led lighting, which can promote more efficient growth.
So, can tomatoes be grown vertically? The answer is yes, and many tomato growers are finding that vertical farming offers some real benefits. Not only does it save space, but it can also lead to higher yields and better quality tomatoes. If you’re looking for a way to improve your tomato crop, vertical farming may be worth exploring. If you live outside the city center, this is your method.
The easiest method for vertical farming tomatoes is to cultivate them using soil/compost and train them up a trellis. Or you can install a hydroponic system using a nutrient-supplemented growing medium. Depending on the location, both methods may need additional lighting.
If you prefer to eat your fruit and vegetables naturally, you should opt for a mixture of soil and compost fed with worm castings and worm casting tea. Natural sunlight and open access for pollinating insects will be a bonus. If this is not possible, you may opt for a hydroponic system with artificial lighting. Both methods are easy to install if you follow the step-by-step instructions.
Growing Top-Quality Tomatoes In A Vertical Farm
Vertical farming tomatoes is the most accepted way to cultivate the fruit. It minimizes disease, allows air circulation on the plants, and ensures that the flowers and fruit get maximum light. According to Jeff O’Hara of Union Hill Farms in Denville, staking your tomatoes vertically makes excellent fruit. Although describing it as vertical farming tomatoes might make it sound novel, it’s a fairly well-accepted method. Charles Malki, a biologist, discusses how to grow giant tomatoes in an informative video, especially the importance of genetics.
How Do You Grow Vertical Farming Tomatoes?
There are several ways in which you can construct a system for vertical farming tomatoes. We’ll explain the soil-based organic approach and then the hydroponic method. Whichever method you choose, Jamo Mooren, a plant specialist, suggests that growing optimally indoors is about finding the correct balance between yield, light, and temperature.
Equipment And Materials Needed for Vertical Farming Tomatoes Organically
Here is the equipment you will need:
- 10-gallon plastic grow bags, buckets, or pots. They should be at least 15 inches (38cm) in diameter and at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep for your tomatoes to thrive.
- Drip trays. You can buy drip trays for each packet or buy geyser drip trays to house at least four bags.
- A trellis made of metal, wood, and plastic. You can buy cheap, readymade lengths of lattice at hardware stores, lumberyards, or gardening centers. Build your own with slats of thin flat wood and some nails.
- Strips of material or wide plastic ties. You’ll need these to tie the vines up as they grow and produce fruit.
- A mixture of loamy soil and compost. You can buy these from any gardening center or nursery.
- Tomato seedlings. Choose an indeterminate varietal. These are plants that you can train up a trellis (creepers). Different fruit sizes are available, from big such as Burpee “Big Boy” to small cherry tomatoes.
- Earthworm castings and worm casting tea. Dig castings into the soil or drench foliage and soil once a week with the tea. This will ensure your plants get beneficial microbes, minerals, and vitamins and protect them from disease.
How To Set Up Your Organic Vertical Farming Tomatoes Growing System
Once you have your equipment and materials, you can set it up and experience the thrill of watching your healthy tomato plants grow, flower, and produce fruit. According to Tanya Anderson, a location that offers maximum light is essential.
The following 7 steps will get you going:
Step 1: Select a suitable location for your tomato farm. An airy setting that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day is ideal, such as a veranda, balcony, or a room with south-facing windows. Otherwise, you will need supplementary light.
Step 2: Choose a wall against which to attach the trellis with steel nails. Make sure it is firmly attached to the wall as a couple of plants in full fruit can weigh a few pounds. If no wall is available, you will have to construct a self-standing sturdy frame to attach the trellis to.
Step 3: Arrange the grow bags or pots filled with soil, compost, and worm castings adjacent to each other below the trellis. Water well and add a cup of earthworm casting tea to each bag.
Step 4: Transplant tomato seedlings into the bags. Avoid disturbing the roots too much when removing them from the seedling tray. Cover gently but firmly with the soil removed from the packet.
Step 5: Water twice a week and add worm tea once a week. Water each packet thoroughly. It is better to water well once or twice a week (depending on how hot it is) than water little bits more regularly.
Step 6: Gently attach the main stems with cloth strips or plastic cable ties to the trellis as the plants grow. Arrange them so that each plant and its sub-branches get maximum light.
Step 7: Ensure that bees and other pollinating insects access your plants for natural pollination. Good air circulation, such as a gentle breeze, is essential too. Otherwise, it would help to give the flower clusters a gentle shake to release the pollen into the air.
You can check out this video for more information on vertical farming tomatoes, particularly how to prune and train to get the shape you need for maximum yield.
Equipment And Materials for Vertical Farming Tomatoes Hydroponically
Vertical farming tomatoes hydroponically has advantages, including an extended growing season if you’re using lights, less water, a faster growth rate, higher yield (if you get it all right), and a less messy setup. It is more expensive to set up.
There are many different hydroponic systems for vertical farming tomatoes indoors. The one most suited to growing tomatoes is the Ebb and Flow system.
You will need:
- A grow tray. It needs to be of sufficient depth to contain the liquid and accommodate the number of grow bags you will use. It will also need a hole for the liquid to be fed back to the reservoir via a tube.
- A tray stand. The stand must be high enough to fit the reservoir underneath it so that the nutrient draining out of the grow bags can gravity feed liquid back into the tank.
- A reservoir for the nutrient solution. It must have a lid to protect the nutrient solution from light. The top should have two holes. One for the returning nutrient and the other for the feeder tube from the submersible pump.
- Submersible pump and timer. A submersible pump used in ornamental fountains and an electronic timer.
- Inline drippers. These must be suspended just above the grow bags, each dripper above individual packets. The dripper line will be connected to the tube coming from the submersible pump.
- Grow bags and substrate. To give the roots access to the air, you need net pots or fabric pots filled with expanded clay pebbles.
- Lights. LED lights are best as they use the least electricity, but neon lights will also work.
- A trellis set up as described above in the organic section. You will need to train your plants to grow vertically up the frame and tie them with cloth strips or plastic ties.
You will need to ensure that the tomato farm is adequately ventilated to prevent anaerobic diseases. If you set up in a basement, heating will also be an issue, especially if you want to grow tomatoes year-round. Debbie Wolfe says that tomatoes are warm climate fruit and do well in the average home temperature range – between 65 -80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Final Thoughts on Vertical Farming Tomatoes
Vertical farming tomatoes indoors is extremely rewarding if you follow the simple steps above, whether for the organic or the hydroponic option. Both methods will give you good yields if you are diligent about watering, feeding, and pollinating them.
Adequate amounts of light, aeration, and warmth are essential as well. Make sure to let your tomatoes ripen on the vine – this will ensure you get maximum flavor from your fruit.