Back in January I introduced you to my office tomato, a mystery volunteer plant that I began nurturing for its delicious tomato leaf smell. Well, it looks like Mystery Tomato is about to offer up something else that is delicious — it’s making fruit!
Here is a photograph of my plant in the window it lives in, taken just this morning. The plant is over 2 feet tall now. I have steadily upgraded it into bigger pots as it has grown. It could have been taller, but I buried a large portion of the stem when I last upgraded it as a way to ensure a more stable root system. Its current pot is 9″ deep and 10″ wide at the top.
Surprisingly, the plant isn’t leggy. It’s growing in a south-facing window and it seems to be getting just enough light to keep it happy. Any less and I’d be concerned. One of the biggest challenges around growing tomatoes indoors through the winter is the lack of sunlight. For the most part, the sun isn’t bright enough and the days are too short. Tomatoes need a lot of sunlight to produce fruit. If you want to try growing your own, I’d recommend growing dwarf varieties that are less demanding and will fit underneath supplemental artificial lights. My plant is much too large for that so the most I can do is turn it regularly so that it receives an even amount of light on all sides, and hope for sunny days.
Other things I have been doing to nurture its growth:
- Watering: I give it a big drink whenever the soil starts to dry. It’s been drying out faster since it started to flower — I’m watering it every other day now.
- Fertilizing: When it was younger, I worked vermicompost (worm castings) and a very small amount of powdered fish meal into the soil whenever I repotted. I also fed it kelp meal now and again. Now that it’s blooming and flowering I’m going to lay off of the fish meal entirely (it’s too high in nitrogen) and give it kelp meal and a bit of vermicompost only.
- Touch Therapy: I gently stroke the plant everyday. Touching and moving the leaves mimics the effect the wind would have on an outdoor plant. This helps it to grow stockier and sturdier, and I get to carry that delicious tomato leaf smell around with me in return.
- Repotting: I’m not yet sure if it will need an upgrade as I am still uncertain about the variety. This is one of those instances where I wish I did a better job of documenting the varieties I grow. The fruit looks like it is developing a ribbed shape. This narrows the possibilities down to a few varieties, but the leaves have me baffled. They don’t look like the leaves of the plant that comes to mind. In the end it will be the size and colour of the mature fruit that solves the mystery. Here’s hoping that I can keep the plant healthy enough to produce mature fruit!
Thankfully, the days are getting longer and brighter as we head into spring, so my chances are improving as the plant grows larger and more demanding.
- Hand Pollinating: Since my plant is not outside where there are insects and the wind to help it pollinate, I’ve been doing the deed myself using a soft paintbrush. Everyday I gently rub the bristles around each open flower until every blossom has been touched more than once. It’s working. I haven’t lost a single blossom yet and there are five tomatoes developing as I write this.
Other methods of hand-pollinating include: Gently flicking the flowers or shaking the plant, using a cotton swab, using one flower to swab the others, using your fingers, and using a toothbrush or an electric toothbrush (the vibration mimics the movement of a bee).
UPDATE: I’m posting update photos of the tomato’s progress to my flickr account. Click here.