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Charley's Greenhouse
17979 State Route 536
Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
Fax 360-873-8264

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Growing Tomatoes in your Greenhouse
Growing Tomatoes
in your Greenhouse


In a greenhouse, you don't need to wait for the outdoor soil to warm to get a jump start on your tomatoes. You'll be the envy of your neighborhood enjoying homegrown, tasty tomatoes long before and after them.


What's best for your greenhouse? Determinate versus indeterminate

Start with how much room you have, then choose from one or a combination of the basic cultivars below.

Determinate plants form fairly compact bushes with shorter main stems and take up less space. All their fruit ripens at the same time. They are best grown in large pots, barrels, raised beds, grow bags. Use 5 gallon or larger containers. Pots need good drainage holes. Use new potting soil that drains well. Cage or stake them early on to control. Container plants require more frequent watering. For good ventilation space them approximately 2 feet apart. Do not to prune or remove side shoots, as these are the plant's fruiting shoots.

Indeterminate plants grow larger and higher until stopped. Often sprawling, fruit is carried on the shortish shoots coming off the main stem. Harvest continues over a longer period. Plant in grow bags*, raised beds, or transplant into the garden when the soil temperature reaches at least 55 degrees F. Support with cages or tall stakes. Stakes should be 6-8 ft. tall and at least 1" x 2". Drive them 6-8" into the ground. Use soft tie or Velcro to train them upward.

Another popular support system is to tie a length of twine from the ceiling or rafter to the ground for each plant. Tie the bottom end to a stake well anchored in the ground where the plant is growing. Leave 6-8 inches of slack on the twine to help spiral and train it upward as it grows.

For good ventilation and best light, space 2-3 feet apart, in a row running north and south.

Continually pinch out extra side shoots (at junctions of the stem and side branches) to control overcrowding and increase fruit production. You may choose to prune lower leaves at the base of plants for better air circulation. General rule - "less pruning is better than more." Refrain from pruning leaves covering fruit as they protect the fruit from possible cracking in the sun. If planted in the ground rotate tomatoes every year to avoid where potatoes, peppers or eggplant grew before.

Miniature and dwarf plants are commonly grown in space-saving smaller pots or hanging baskets. They are easy to grow and many have high yields. There are terrific varieties available now for salads and snacking.

Caring for my hanging basket tomato plant is so easy with a Down-Up Pulley. The Down-Up is also very convenient for my flower hanging basket displays.


Criteria for Choosing Greenhouse Tomatoes

Your favorite outside garden tomatoes probably aren't the best ones for your greenhouse. Select varieties that have been specially developed for the greenhouse or that are highly disease resistant. (Territorial Seed Co., Johnny's Select Seeds, Tomato Growers Supply, Stokes Seeds Co. all clearly mark recommendations for greenhouse growing and disease resistance to start with.) As well as space habits, you'll want to take into account flavor and texture, earliness, vigor, higher yields, if they set fruit without pollination and how well they do under low light conditions.

Transplanting Seed Starts

Always use fresh, sterile soil to avoid any soil-borne disease–especially with tomatoes! After the 4th or 5th true leaves have developed on seed starts you can transplant them into larger containers or beds. Each time you transplant bury the whole stem below the first set of leaves. The plant will continue to send out roots from the buried stem and increasingly develop a stronger root system.

General Care Tips

  • Tomatoes grow best when days are long and they are placed in the sunniest part of your greenhouse. They do best with day time temperatures of 70 -75°F. and night time temperatures of 60 -70°F. Try to avoid wide fluctuations in temperature. Growth slows and fruits stop setting under 50°F.
  • If your plants aren't self-pollinating, when they start to flower they need your help. In the morning or every other morning, tap lightly on the yellow blossoms with a long dowel or other easy reach tool.
  • Good ventilation and clean conditions are essential. Humid, warm conditions can multiply disease quickly! Keep an air circulation fan going 24 hrs. a day. Provide consistent means to exhaust hot air out—solar vent openers, exhaust fan, opening the door & windows.
  • Water tomatoes using warm or greenhouse temperature water. General rule—deep water, then let soil dry out before re-watering. Do not let plants wilt.
  • Avoid splashing water or dirt on leaves, which might cause disease.
  • Overwatering can cause fruit to crack.
  • Tomatoes are heavy feeders. As soon as the first fruit starts to form, fertilize them regularly with a fertilizer such as Grow More Terrific Tomato Food18-18-21 or Dyna-Gro Liquid 7-9-5. Tomatoes like a high phosphorus level (the middle number on fertilizer) for fruiting and flowering.
  • To prevent Tobacco Mosaic Virus, do not smoke cigarettes or bring tobacco into the greenhouse. (If you are a smoker wash your hands thoroughly before entering greenhouse.)
  • Pests & Disease- Whiteflies are the most common pest. Check under leaves often for signs of tiny flying insects. As a preventive measure use R3812 Yellow Sticky Traps and R3871 Neem Oil. Blossom-End Rot appears as a round, brown sunken area on the end of the fruit opposite the stem. Area turns dry and leathery as fruit ripens. Caused by a calcium deficiency. Treat with a Rot-Stop product. Check out Charley's pest controls for other pest and disease control.
To make a "grow bag", take a 2 cu.ft. bag of organic soil and punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Slit open the top of the bag. Add time-release fertilizer if you wish. Plant two tomato starts per bag.

Happy Succulent Tomatoes!

Alias Mrs. Charley

Watch Greenhouse 101
19 Short Video Clips