Can I Grow Tomatoes Indoors on the Tower Garden?

When I got my first Tower Garden in 2010, I tried growing tomatoes that came with the Tower. They were leggy (cue the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” music here) and attracted insects. I switched to lettuces and did much better, but never investigated why the tomatoes didn’t do well. Last year I wanted to try tomatoes indoors again. This time I asked questions and did some investigation on my own. I discovered that it’s possible to grow tomatoes indoors, but they won’t do near as well as growing outdoors. There are 2 reasons why.

  1. Pollination
  2. Light spectrum

We have to mimic inside what God designed perfectly to grow flowering fruits and vegetables outside.

Bees pollinate your flowers which produces the fruit and vegetables. Indoors you’ll need to pollinate the flowers yourself. That trick can be learned – and with the declining bee population, it isn’t a bad skill for outdoor gardeners to know.

But the most difficult problem is the light spectrum. For a plant to flower and produce fruit, it needs light in the low end of the spectrum—around 3,000 Kelvin. For a plant to produce nice leaves it needs a light in the high end of the spectrum—around 6,000 Kelvin. So tomatoes, for example, need a 6,000 Kelvin light during the leafy part of growth. Then they need a 3,000 Kelvin spectrum to produce the flowers and fruit.

Outside, the tomato gets this as the summer progresses. During the heat of the summer, the light is on the higher end of the spectrum helping the plant to produce nice leaves. As the summer progresses and the tomato grows, the light switches to the lower end of the spectrum helping the tomato to produce the flowers and fruit. (Here’s more than you probably ever want to know about light spectrum. http://suburbanvegetablegardening.com/lighting-an-indoor-garden/)

The lights that come with the Tower Garden are in the 6,500 Kelvin range. This spectrum of light produces great leafy greens, but won’t help produce the flowers.

Could you switch bulbs mid-way through the growing cycle of a tomato plant? There are professional growers that do, .but I’ll just stick with my leafy greens and herbs indoors

Fix Tower Garden Pump – SDH230

I went out one evening and found my plants wilted.  The Tower Garden pump had quit working.  Thinking it was totally dead, I ordered another one.  About a month later, a friend of mine took the pump and fixed it.  Here’s how we did it.

Pull the front of the pump off and clean out the mesh

Pull the front of the pump off and clean out the mesh

The mesh inside the Tower Garden pump should look similar to this.

The mesh inside the Tower Garden pump should look similar to this.

Turn the part under the cover clockwise.

Turn the part under the cover clockwise.

Then pull it out. When you put it back together, make sure it latches and seals properly.

Then pull it out. When you put it back together, make sure it latches and seals properly.

Inside the Tower Garden pump, you'll see something like this with a magnet on the end. Pull it out.

Inside the pump, you’ll see something like this with a magnet on the end. Pull it out.

Now use a toothbrush to clean the inside of the pump. If all goes well, this should get the Tower Garden pump working again.

As always, just because this worked for me, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.

Cut Your Own Rockwool – Arugula in the Tower Garden

In order to get more space for growing arugula in the Tower Garden, I decided to purchase full block of rockwool and cut my own.  I found some at htgsupply.com.  (I also purchased from them a single-bulb, t5 fixture to replace one of my fixtures that went out.)

August 11, 2015

The rockwool slab

The rockwool slab

Used a new, very clean blade to cut out the rockwool the size of a net pot.

Used a new, very clean blade to cut out the rockwool the size of a net pot.

The air supply into the Tower Garden can't be blocked off, so I cut a hole out of the bottom of the net pot.

The air supply into the Tower Garden can’t be blocked off, so I cut a hole out of the bottom of the net pot. (Hopefully this doesn’t cause any complications.)

The hole is for a straw to allow air into the Tower Garden

The hole is for a straw to allow air into the Tower Garden

Thanks to Joe of Level2 Concepts for the straw idea.

I poked about 13 holes in each rockwool and planted 2 Burpee arugula seeds in each hole.

I poked about 13 holes in each rockwool and planted 2 Burpee arugula seeds in each hole.

August 13, 2015

Placed the arugula seedlings in the Tower Garden

Placed the arugula seedlings in the Tower Garden

August 15, 2015

Arugula in the Tower Garden Cut your own rockwool

August 23, 2015

20150823_091832

August 29, 2015

Cut Your Own Rockwool - Arugula in the Tower Garden

Sept 6, 2015
IMG_20150906_135819[1]

Sept 13, 2015
20150913_170014[1]

October 25, 2015

20151025_143012

After 2 months and 2 weeks, I harvested 11.2 ounces of arugula.  This was in the Tower Garden a lot longer than I would like.  The arugula gets very strong with age.  So if you like it spicy, let it grow.  🙂

I’m going to experiment more with cutting my own rockwool, but on a shorter time-frame to better compare.

Arugula in the Tower Garden – Burpee Seeds, Sliced rockwool, eight holes

I’m narrowing down the best way to grow arugula – at least for my Tower Garden setup.  Of course, your mileage may vary.  🙂

Burpee arugula seeds seemed to produce a higher yield than Ferry Morse,  Slicing the bottom of the rockwool seemed to help as well. Letting 8 plants grow in one rockwool also produced a higher yield.

July 20, 2015

I sliced the bottom of the rockwool, poked 8 holes around the center hole and put 5 or 6 seeds in each hole.  Two rockwool cubes are the normal size.  Two are the quarter size doubled left over from this experiment.

July 20

July 20

July 25, 2015 – Placed in Tower Garden
Full rockwool cube Quarter size rockwool doubled
20150725_165032 20150725_165051
August 1, 2015
20150801_182633 20150801_182722
August 15, 2015
20150815_215558 20150815_215621
August 29, 2015
20150827_073400 20150827_073428
The arugula planted in the full rockwool cube is larger than the 1/4 size doubled.