Trying to grow a fresh supply of tomatoes outside their natural growing climate, used to mean you needed to have a greenhouse to grow them in. With the blooming market in smart garden hydroponic systems, this is no longer true.
With the AeroGarden hydroponic gardens, we already know about the assortment of herbs, edible fruits, and garden plants that can be grown from seed kits. I’ll be covering all you need to know about growing and harvesting AeroGarden Tomatoes.
It’s also possible to produce fantastic harvests of cherry tomatoes that are fresher and more flavorsome than any grocery store tomatoes. Of course, it can’t get any fresher than simply plucking the tomato from hydroponic gardens on your countertop and straight onto your plate.
- Related Article: What Else Can I Grow In An AeroGarden
In this article, I go over all you need to know to grow and harvest AeroGarden Tomatoes successfully.
1. Pick and Plant Tomato Seeds – Seed Pod Kits
When growing tomato plants it is important to note that they require a lot of light and are may not be good neighbors to grow alongside many other plants.
Tomatoes need extra space for growth and the number of tomato plants your AeroGarden can support is more limited than with other plant types. As a rule of thumb the following guide should be followed.
- 6-Pod AeroGarden Harvest – Will support two tomato plants.
- 7-Pod AeroGarden (Old Models) – Supports three tomato plants.
- 9-Pod AeroGarden Bounty Model – Supports four tomato plants.
All kits that AeroGarden provides that include tomato see pods are tailored with this in mind. Some varieties that AeroGarden supply are detailed below.
- Red Heirloom Cherry Tomato Seed Pod Kit – This includes 9 seed pods and all the required liquid nutrients, germination domes, etc.
- Mixed Cherry Tomato Pods – Includes 6 Red Heirloom Cherry Tomato grow pods and 6 Golden Harvest Cherry Tomato Pods.
- AeroGarden Salsa Garden Seed Pod Kit – Kit includes 5 Red Heirloom Cherry Tomato Grow Pods and 4 Jalapeño Pepper Grow Pods.
- Tomato and Pepper Variety Seed Pod Kit – This includes a variety of tomato seeds. Mega Cherry Tomato Pod, a Sweet Bell Pepper pod, and a Poblano Pepper. It also includes spacers to help spread the plants evenly.
Find various seed pod options for growing tomatoes on the AeroGarden website, including your ability to customize your own package of 6, 9, and more seed pods.
Once you have selected your seed pods, it is time for the real fun to begin. Planting and germinating your tomatoes with the Aerogarden system is pretty simple.
I cover step-by-step process below. If you are using your AeroGarden for the first time, then skip to the section “Planting Your Tomato Seeds.”
If you have used your AeroGarden before, then you will need to prepare your garden for its new plant growth by sanitizing it.
Sanitize Your AeroGarden for Tomato Growth
This is a step that is necessary when changing the the plants, vegetables, or fruits that you’re growing each time. It helps to ensure that any root pathogens from different roots will not turn new, healthy roots into dead roots.
- Fill the water bowl with either a mix of water and a 1/4 cup (0.95 l) of chlorine bleach or alternatively add 5 cups (1.18 l) of distilled white vinegar.
- Using the pump or aerator, circulate the mixture through the system for at least five minutes.
- After this is complete, rinse the bowl out thoroughly and refill with clean fresh water. Circulate this through the system for another five minutes.
- Once complete, re-rinse the bowl to ensure all residue of the bleach or vinegar mixture is removed.
- When this has been completed, it is simply a matter of resetting the Nutrient reminder and timer, and your AeroGarden system is prepared and ready for your delicious tomatoes.
Planting your Tomato Seed Pods
Let’s start the steps of planting and starting your homegrown tomatoes. Patience will be required with these tomato varieties as they aren’t amongst the quickest to get to the harvest stage. However, once they come to fruition, you can expect to continue reaping the benefits for up to nine months with abundant tomato harvests.
On average, you should expect your seeds to germinate within 7 to 10 days and see blossoms after around a month and a half. You should be picking your first ripe tomatoes after around 105 days.
The steps below will guide you through the planting procedure.
- Fill your bowl with water to the “Fill to Here” mark. Either use cool tap water or distilled water, do not use softened water. That can hinder the germination process or even cause it to fail altogether. It is always good practice at any stage of the planting or growing process to ensure the water is close to room temperature.
- The next step is to plant your seed pod kit. When growing tomatoes (and/or peppers), it is essential that they have room to grow, so always leave empty gaps between the plants to allow them plenty of room to grow. It is also important to leave the labels on the grow pods, not only do they give important information like germination times, but they also inhibit possible algae growth.
- Once your seed pods are in place, cover each pod with the supplied germination domes and position the grow lights in their lowest height.
- Add nutrient solution. A guide to how much nutrients need to be added is printed on the labels of each bottle. Stick to the guidelines always, don’t add more or less than the label advises. That could result in tomatoes no longer growing.
You will also need to add more nutrients every two weeks throughout the whole growing cycle. The AeroGarden will give reminders when nutrients and water need to be replenished. When adding nutrients, it is advised that you also top up the water each time, this helps to maintain the right balance and concentration of nutrients.
I give more details on good nutrient levels for growing healthy tomatoes in the next section.
Caring For and Growing AeroGarden Tomatoes
Now that your seeds have been planted, watered, and fed, they should start to germinate in around a week to a week and a half.
This section will take you through the tomatoes growth timeline, processes, and best practices needed to get the best from your tomato plants.
1. Remove the Germination Domes
Timing is critical here. Once you notice tiny plants appearing through the holes in the seed pod labels, it is time to remove the AeroGarden domes.
Never leave the plants under the dome until they are touching it, if this has happened, then remove the dome immediately.
When removing the dome it is best to do this shortly after the lights have gone off, this reduces the stress on the plants.
2. Grow Lights
Throughout the whole growth process, be sure to monitor the light height. For optimum growth, the space between the top of the plant and the light should be between 1″ and 2″. Don’t let the space gap be more than a couple of inches. Tomatoes love the light and doing this will ensure you always have healthy tomato plants.
3. Thin the Plants Out
AeroGarden seed pods contain more than one seed, which helps to guarantee successful germination. Once the plants have reached about 1″ in height, check each pod and remove all but the healthiest plant from each pod.
4. Water and Nutrients
Keep an eye on the water levels and always add nutrients as required. When adding water, ensure it’s around room temperature as the shock of too hot or too cold water can damage the plants.
Nutrients should be added every two weeks and the instructions detailing the quantity of nutrients is displayed on the nutrient solution bottle. Nutrient level guidelines are as follows:
- 2 & 3 Pod Models – 4 ml every two weeks
- 6 & 7 Pod Models – 8 ml every two weeks
- 9 Pod Models – 8 ml for start up feed and first fortnightly feed, then 12 ml every two weeks
- 12 Pod Models – 16 ml for startup feed and first fortnightly feed, then 24 ml every two weeks afterwards.
5. Pruning Tomato Plants
Correct and constant pruning promotes a strong main stem and helps to ensure good tomato yields. Normally, the time for pruning is when the plants are between 4–5 weeks old. You may see small yellow flowers blooming as well.
The easiest way to do this is to count from the base of the plant up past the first five stem branches. Once you have identified the sixth branch, snip the main stem just above it. Prune overloaded branches too.
For ongoing pruning, it is a matter of pruning longer, overgrown branches that extend outside the AeroGarden hood. The lights wouldn’t be able to reach that far outside anyways.
Also prune any branches that have grown too high and are close to or touching the lights once they’re set at the highest height. If the lights aren’t at its maximum height, just move the lights higher if branches are touching it. In both these instances, follow the branch until you find where it branches from the main stem and with a pair of scissors cut as close to this point as possible.
Pollinated tomato flowers are important to get those mature tomato plants for good yields. Once your tomato plants begin to flower it is time to start pollinating them. This should be done at least every second day and always when the lights are on.
To pollinate your plants, place an open hand inside the branches and close to a flower cluster. Move your hand backwards and forwards at least ten times to shake and spread the pollen releases to other flowers.
This is essential as non-pollinated flowers will not produce any fruit. AeroGarden does have a pollination tool available that can be used to perform this task, if you want to simplify this process.
AeroGarden Be the Bee Pollinator for Indoor Gardens, Use on Tomatoes, Peppers, Strawberries, and More
- Specially designed pollinating tool with bristles vibrates and distributes pollen within each blossom
- Easy-to-use - simply touch the pollinator to each flower for an extra heavy fruit set
- Use on tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and other flowering fruits and vegetables
- Increases yield by 300%
- Requires 2 AA batteries (not included)
7. Maintain a Healthy Garden
Even though the AeroGarden isn’t an outdoor garden, it’s still important to treat it with care and keep it healthy.
Continue with the cycle of pruning for those ripe fruits. Always prune dead or brown leaves from the plant, these are quite normal and are usually found lower in the plant where there’s less bright light per day.
Use a pair of garden scissors to remove any such leaves and always remove them from the growing surface. Tomato roots can also get a bit unwieldy, so if you want to trim bits of roots and leave the strongest roots alone, you can do that. But if you’re not sure, I’d leave them alone.
8. Support your Plants
As your plants get larger and heavier, it is essential to support them to keep them upright and support branches with a wave of fruit. Traditional methods work fine, e.g. bamboo or even a set of chopsticks will suffice. AeroGarden has a trellis system that is designed specifically for the job or you can also look at twist ties like these.
Harvesting AeroGarden Tomatoes
Your tomato plants should be ready to be harvested from about three months on. Harvest tomatoes when you’re ready to eat them.
Here are some handy tips to help you enjoy your tomatoes at their very best.
- To check the ripeness, give the tomato a gentle squeeze. If it’s ripe, it will feel firm with a bit of “give” as you squeeze.
- Keeping a part of the stem branch and tomato leaf attached when you harvest your tomato is good if you aren’t intending to eat your tomatoes straight away. The tomato will continue to draw nutrients and moisture from the stem for up to a couple of days more.
- Ideally harvest your tomatoes just before eating, this ensures you enjoy them at their freshest and with a sun-ripened flavor.
- Avoid refrigeration, refrigerating fresh tomatoes destroys the benefits of all that effort you put into growing them. Refrigeration ruins that fresh flavor and can turn the flesh pulpy. But if they’re ripe, go ahead and harvest ripe fruits to put in the fridge, instead of letting it over ripen.
AeroGarden Tomato Tips and Tricks
AeroGarden makes the process of growing tomatoes indoors simple.
Here are a few tips for success and ensure this simple process yields the best possible results.
- Don’t wait for the tank’s water level to drop. Tomatoes love fresh water, it’s better to top up the tank little, but often than to wait for the “Add Water” notification.
- Don’t shy away from the step of pruning. If you are new to growing plants, following the pruning guide above will ensure a healthy and plentiful harvest.
- Pollinate frequently, A common mistake is to forget this step. In nature, bees, birds, and wind fulfill the task of pollinating Summer garden beds and flower garden sets. In your indoor garden, it’s up to you to spread the pollen or there won’t be any yummy tomato crop to harvest.
- Be as precise as possible with your nutrient feeding. Don’t be tempted to over or under feed your plants, the nutrients they require is a precise science, and the recommended amounts are set at exact levels.
- Make sure they get plenty of light. Most plants need 16 hours of light for optimal growth. The LEDs are calibrated to mimic sunshine, the more “sunlight” they get the better the yield will be. Keep the lights within an inch or two from the tallest leaves.
AeroGarden Tomatoes Final Thoughts
Until you have tasted a freshly grown tomato, it’s hard to appreciate just how tasteless the whole process of getting standard tomatoes onto the supermarket shelves makes them.
Growing your own tomatoes is made simple with the AeroGarden garden kits. Just follow a few simple guidelines and you can soon be enjoying a “straight from plant to plate” taste sensation that is head and shoulders above any ordinary tomatoes you will find in any supermarket.
For guides on how to grow and harvest other plants, check these articles out: