Grow Tomatoes Indoors

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Photo by Amber Breen

You can grow a tomato plant indoors in any large jar. For this project, I used a large, inexpensive blue jar from a housewares store. The colored jar helps protect the roots from the sun’s rays, and it looks fabulous as a decorative planter in the home. If you have a large jar that happens to be clear, you can paint it any color you wish. I’ve found that good-quality spray paint, such as TREMCLAD, works best because it won’t scrape off, as acrylics may do.

Photo by Shelley Levis

For watering, I’ve chosen a funnel known as the Plant Nanny, though there are several terra cotta watering funnels available for purchase. The Plant Nanny works like an olla pot, in which the simple pottery funnel holds the water, and the soil absorbs it through osmosis. The soil draws the moisture from the apparatus as the plant draws water from the soil as needed. This simple yet ingenious device has been around for centuries and is available in a variety of size ranges to suit any pot.

  • Step 1: Start by putting a layer of charcoal (available at garden centers) in your jar to help prevent standing water from becoming sour and to allow air to circulate below the root zone. Overwatering this type of planter is easy to do, but as I explain in the next few steps, this should never occur if you use a simple water delivery device.
  • Step 2: Add a soil layer, leaving room for the tomato plant. Add some organic fertilizer, such as worm castings, to the soil as you fill the jar.

Photo by Amber Breen

  • Step 3: Plant the tomato plant of your choice. Good candidates include compact cherry-type tomatoes and tumblers that don’t grow very large.

Photo by Amber Breen

  • Step 4: Push the terra cotta Plant Nanny into the soil at an angle, halfway between the plant and the jar’s rim. Option: Some terra cotta funnels can support a recycled 24-ounce bottle full of water. Once everything’s planted, you can start with a small glass condiment bottle, and then slowly graduate to using a larger bottle. Fill the bottle with water and invert it into the funnel. Refill as needed, and watch how the plant waters itself.

Photo by Amber Breen

  • Step 5: Place the planted jar near a sunny window or under a grow light.
  • Step 6: Use a liquid fertilizer solution to maximize the plant’s performance and yield.

Shelley Levis, the voice behind the gardening blog Sow & Dipity, is a horticulturist and garden designer. This is from her book Countertop Gardens (Quarto Publishing Group).