Can I Grow Tomatoes Indoors on the Tower Garden?

When I first started growing on a Tower Garden, I tried growing inside tomatoes that came with the Tower Garden. They were leggy (cue the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” music here) and attracted insects. I switched to lettuce and did much better, but never investigated why the tomatoes didn’t do well. When I wanted to try tomatoes indoors again, I asked questions and did some investigation. 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.

Pollination

Bees pollinate your blossoms which produces the fruit and vegetables. Indoors you’ll need to pollinate the blossoms yourself. That trick can be learned – and with the declining bee population, it isn’t a bad skill for outdoor gardeners to know.  How you pollinate will depend on what you want to grow.  Peppers, for example, pollinate within the same flower.  So all you have to do is shake the stalk. Tomatoes pollinate between blossoms so you’ll need a paint brush, etc.  I can’t go into all the differences here and how to pollinate.  That’s what Google is for.  🙂

Lighting

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 2,700 Kelvin. For a plant to produce nice leaves it needs a light in the high end of the spectrum—around 6,500 Kelvin. So tomatoes, for example, need a 6,500 Kelvin light during the leafy part of growth. Then they need a 2,700 Kelvin spectrum to produce the blossoms 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 blossoms and fruit. (Here’s more than you probably ever want to know about light spectrum.)

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 fruit.

Could you switch bulbs mid-way through the growing cycle of a tomato plant? It’s possible, which would make it a great experiment for an upper-level science class.

What about Full Spectrum Bulbs?

Full spectrum lighting does not contain both ends of the color spectrum. Full spectrum lighting is usually the higher end of the spectrum. I’ve seen bulbs marked ‘full spectrum’ that are 6500 Kelvin and some that are 5,000 Kelvin.  Manufacturers don’t even agree what Kelvin full spectrum lighting should be.  The best thing to do is look at the Kelvin rating of the bulb and purchase accordingly.

But They Grew Tomatoes!

You’ll hear that someone has had ‘success’ growing fruit, inside, with the lights that come with the Tower Garden.  They might be growing near a window letting natural light in or some other reason that you can’t duplicate. It’s also possible that their definition of ‘success’ isn’t your definition. They might be very happy getting 5 small strawberries from one plant. Maybe you’ve grown strawberries outdoors and gotten 25 large strawberries from one plant and want that same production indoors.

In order to get the same production inside as outside, you’ll need to create the same environment inside as outside.  The two main factors are light and pollination.  Temperature is also a factor, but that’s a good topic for another article.

So What Do I Do?

Have fun trying to grow indoors or out whatever you want. I have brussels sprouts and egg plant growing in my Tower Garden now.  I don’t know if either will work, but it’ll be fun to try.

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

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August 29, 2015

Cut Your Own Rockwool - Arugula in the Tower Garden

Sept 6, 2015
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Sept 13, 2015
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October 25, 2015

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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
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August 1, 2015
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August 15, 2015
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August 29, 2015
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The arugula planted in the full rockwool cube is larger than the 1/4 size doubled.