Introduction: Indoor Tomato Grower

Picture of Indoor Tomato Grower

hello everybody,


update 9/14/2014 - bucket update

update 9/6/2014 - first picture updates have been posted in the comments section. looks like I have 21+ yellow flowers visible at the moment.


i have been interested in growing a sustainable amount of tomatoes indoors for 2 adults, year round. how much space/time it will take per cycle etc.


so instead of dreaming about it, I decided to do a small data collecting simulation. currently my system has 4 buckets in a 115x115x50cm space. I can add 4 more buckets without the size changing. I have this much space in my bedroom and also my living room available right now


that would make 16 buckets going. If I can get 1 tomato per bucket and per day, that would make 16 tomatoes/day during harvest, a shorter harvest period. if I was to adjust planting times and reduce the number to something like 4 tomatoes/day but a longer harvest period, always aiming to year-round daily.. this system costs 0.13248cents/day X 365 days = $48/year to operate !


seems possible with small imagination. if I can manage to pull this off in a 1 bedroom apartment with my wife and 2 cats, imagine what most people can do in an abandoned garage, a trashed room.... empty those places up and grow your own food :)


My wife and I eat over 90% raw food, it is sometimes referred to as raw veganism. we eat mostly fruit. unfortunately it is not possible to grow bananas indoors, so I decided to concentrate on tomatoes, leafy greens and potato buckets. best things to grow indoors at this volume/space would be tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and leafy greens, you can try to do potato buckets...

Step 1: Plan & Gather Parts

Picture of Plan & Gather Parts

we will need some length of wood, L brackets and bunch of screws... try to gather your materials for free !


nothing fancy about the frame. I made an L shape frame, where the shorter leg of the L has two rows of wood to stabilize everything.


and each bucket also has a socket base, with a y-splitter and 2 CFLs attached (4x 2700K and 2x 5000K). these CFLs are 100W equivalent and we have 6 of them. so this is actually a 600W (using only about 140W) grow system. it's not just a simple toy..


lights are connected in parallel into a single AC cable. I found the cable from an old non-working electronic device.


you also want to create some sort of a reflector roof. the roof also acts as a light blocker for your eyes. otherwise it will get annoyingly bright in your house. I made mine out of foam board. cardboard with foil on the other side will do fine !

Step 2: Extra Help

Picture of Extra Help

get a thermometer with a humidity reading, simple ones are about $2


getting an automatic AC timer outlet is highly suggested.


6 CFLs in such a small space will create lots of heat quickly. this will dry out your leaves even if they are far away. a small fan aimed at the lights will cool them down and replicate wind in nature, growing your plants stronger.


smoke alarm as usual also remember to use a surge protecting extension cord, safety first !


you can also install a plant doctor to this system and fully automate the process..

Step 3: Upgrades + Online Calendar

Picture of Upgrades + Online Calendar

I started the tomato seedlings using the plant shelf. Now my plant shelf is nursing 3 lychee trees, lychee seeds were germinated under the life seeder. the seeds were bought from a california based company that I am VERY happy with always 100% organic and non-gmo.. I don't use a regular water filter, if you want truly clean water you have to get a berkey , I am a very satisfied customer with this product as well. they sell the filters as parts, so you can actually make your own system for much cheaper - do not consume fluoride !


I have created a "public online calendar" and have been manually logging the plants' activity. if you want to stay tuned and keep a track of the tomatoes with me then add this to your calendars.


this is my first trial to collect data while I am working on a much more complicated system. soon it will be equipped with the plant health monitor


the system will also eventually be getting garduino upgrade where I collect data to the cloud.


thank you for your time and please share my designs.

love & peace




Akin Yildiz (author)2014-09-06

1st picture updates. we are now at day 48. light height has been re-adjusted only once so far (2 days ago) - bucket transplanting is planned within the next 3 days.

Jaice33 (author)2016-05-03

Merhaba Akin Bey,

I have been reading a number of your posts with great interest and just love them. I am an Irishman living in Latvia since 1992, where I have bought myself a large plot of land some 2 years back (12,5 hectares). I have spent the last 2 years dreaming of the house I want to build there out of the old 1920 barn with 80cm walls, and how I can live off the grid growing many of my own fruits and vegetables year round.

The more I read your posts and those of everyone else on your instructables the more ideas I am getting :)

Keep up the good work :)

PS: I have a friend in Istanbul who is a namesake of yours called....believe it or not..... Akin Yildiz :)

Akin Yildiz (author)Jaice332016-05-03

hello, great plans.!!

make sure to automate the watering with a plant doctor setup. you will need all the help you can get at 12.5 hectars :) research "permaculture"


good luck.

jaldridge (author)2015-03-22

How much does your power bill roughly cost?
Is it a noticeable issue when doing indoor grows?

Thanks for sharing this :) - I love tomatoes!

Akin Yildiz (author)jaldridge2015-03-25

hello jaldridge,

i have used upto 8x 23WCFLs before in my house, no difference in the electricity bill. but check these out, i am yet to get some; they use only 10W to reach 100W equal.
although you should check out my custom LED grow lights; very easy to do if you can solder. you can make a very powerful light, cheap.! and it will use even less energy;
thank you for your interest. the tomatoes tasted great, very sugary. just great. i dont have this setup anymore however, not enough space in the apartment sadly

MoTinkerGNome (author)2015-01-04

Groovy set up man. I dig that ya'll are living how ya want to that is the essence of freedom. The only question I have for you is do you have any issues with little white flies? My last tomato experiment resulted in the little buggers all over the place.

Oh and point of bragging. I am on well water I filter sediment and finish with an activated charcoal filter for any heavy metals. Next step for the outdoor is a rain water cachment system off the shop roof (enamel steel) but that is a spring/summer project.

sounds very exciting. collecting rain water is a dream of mine.. i used to set pots under the roof gutter and collect buckets of water and use it to water my plants later on other days. i would love to have the chance to apply it in an automated large scale system...
not yet living the off grid life however :) one day !!
i've never had white flies, they were always black ones. just make sure to use brand new soil and brand new plants (from seed) and from then on keep it uncontaminated from other plants that you may bring inside. otherwise it may get out of hand, the best solution i had was to use sticky pads to catch flies. never really had an issue tho, if you check them once a day, or just look over and catch the forming of flies in the early stages you should be good.
however, once i had a grape vine inside my apartment, climbing over the windows, that turned out to be a disaster one day, it was covered in white maggots, but there were hundreds of them, i had to carefully take down the plant and throw it out immediately, it was really sad. the vine was looking great indoors :) no sticky pads or new soil could fix that..

jakerobinson (author)2014-09-02

Too bad you can't do this in your laundry room.... in the winter, you could cover the exhaust with panty hose to catch the lint and redirect the hot air from the dryer to your plants to boost room temps.

Also, are your using "full spectrum" lighting? best for plants.

I used to grow tomatoes in containers exactly like you have. I nested one inside the other and the bottom was my water reservoir. In the fall, I decided to go ahead and bring them into my unheated garage. I put up a full spectrum light and I occasionally watered them.. I produced fruit until Feb but then they struggled - of course because it was not heated and the temps prob were between 45 to 60 degrees... it's a wonder anything grew.... I believe they would have done pretty well if I had a heated space.

Here's my 'ible on container for plants:

Akin Yildiz (author)jakerobinson2014-09-03

laundry room would be nice and cozy :)

to reach a full spectrum scale I blend in both 2700K and 5000+K bulbs with different ratios depending on the season i'm imitating. currently the system has 4x 2700 and 2x 5000+ which should get me close to full spectrum. I am raising them to flower from seed with the shorter light cycle since my plan is to harvest quickly.

fixfireleo (author)Akin Yildiz2014-09-14

you can do that a LOT easier by just using the lights for SAD sold online at home depot for like $8 each. i got the 2000W equiv and i've never seen more natural looking light.

fixfireleo (author)fixfireleo2014-09-15

my bad...i typed 2000W when i meant 200W but you probably knew that. and they are $9 now. here is the link. some people say that about 1/2 of them stop working within 24 hours but last as long as they are suppose to if they make it past 24 hours so i ordered twice as many as i needed thinking i could take the others back but all of mine worked like they were suppose to.

Akin Yildiz (author)fixfireleo2014-09-15

this bulb is 9$ for 200W, I have paid 3$ for 100W, so 6$ for 200W. my setup is 3$ cheaper per bulb AND i ended up with 4 bulbs where as the other setup would have just 1 bulb. my coverage area would also be 4 times as much, which would reduce the dollar amount per bulb even lower, to about 2$ for 200W bulb.. the mentioned 200W single bulb would only be the right choice if space was an issue. I have used 150 and 200W equivalent CFLs before, 4pack 100W equal is the best bet of your money.!

fixfireleo (author)Akin Yildiz2014-09-15

hey, i'm just saying that this bulb gives you the closest light to natural sunlight that you can get. i use them in my house because every other bulb is either yellow or blue. if you are going for cost this isnt for you but if you want the best light you can get indoors, it is...or if you suffer from SAD. also, artists love them because of the natural color.

Akin Yildiz (author)fixfireleo2014-09-14

could you please post a link to the light source you are referring to? thank you..

fixfireleo (author)jakerobinson2014-09-03

dude, nix on the dryer idea. i use to do that to help heat my house and the humidity from the dryer CORRODED the plug to my dryer so bad that when i went to unplug it, one of the plug parts broke off in the socket. the whole plug was corroded and falling apart. i also ended up with mold behind the dryer and lint all over the place where the panty hose fell off and i didnt realize it. it was a huge mess. i also wonder if it corroded the electronics in my washer and dryer because i had problems with both and ended up buying new since they were old anyway. but i had never had any problems before doing this 2 years in a row.

jakerobinson (author)fixfireleo2014-09-03

sounds like you weren't paying enough attention to the system. If it is producing a lot of moisture, then use a dehumidifier and use the water from it to water your plants... problem solved. I have a dehumidifier in my garage now and I get about 2.5 gallons of water per day and I use that to hit some of my potted plants around my driveway for basil and other potted plants or my bell pepper gets a shot of extra water in my raised bed just outside my garage door. Think "permaculture" - where the problem is the solution... real men check their panty hose on a regular basis ;>)

fixfireleo (author)jakerobinson2014-09-04

my laundry room is in the house and with gas heat i wouldnt want a dehumidifier. i sometimes boil water to get MORE humidity in the house in the winter. ;-)

jimvandamme (author)fixfireleo2014-09-14

We have a condensing forced air furnace, and no humidifier. Maybe about February the mirror in the bathroom will stop fogging over when I take a shower. If it's too dry in your house you need to plug up some holes and get an efficient furnace that burns outside air.

fixfireleo (author)jimvandamme2014-09-14

LOL. efficient and my house in the same sentence! i'm rollin on the floor here! i paid $23,500 for my house. that should tell you everything. (oh and it is a real house, 112 yrs old, not a mobile home.)

Akin Yildiz (author)jakerobinson2014-09-04

what a simple and great solution....! thanks again jake

woodyardboy (author)jakerobinson2014-09-03

Hi Jake,

you might want to try this to heat your garage in the winter:

jakerobinson (author)woodyardboy2014-09-03

Very cool, this is a take-off of the French fellow, Jean Pain who would build a massive compost pile about 20' diameter x 9' tall... he would install it in the fall and it would give him two winters worth of heating his house and hot water 365/yr He also buried a biogas tank and take the gas off and inflate truck inner tube tires and power his landcruiser he used around his property... Thanks for passing this 'ible for a modern update - didn't know anyone had done this!

I had actually thought of a business that would be a "refillable" module that could be dropped off at your home and you would plug a hose into it to pre-heat your hot water and maybe replace the hot water heater altogether... design it to work for maybe 3 to 6 mos and then a truck would pick the spent one up (and use the compost as a revenue source) and drop a newly seeded new compost box and receive a revenue stream for service...

wow, didn't start reading it until now... they do refer to Jean Pain.. .I just saw the pics and knew instantly... should have read further.

ggallen103 (author)jakerobinson2014-09-03

DO NOT REDIRECT YOUR DRYER AIR VENT - especially if it's a gas dryer. You will be pumping carbon monoxide into your laundry room. There is a good reason why it's vented to the outside world. This could be a decision that could KILL you.

Jack Rodgers (author)2014-09-05

Excellent. When I get an RV I plan on creating a growing environment.

One point, you could shield the light so that it doesn't fill the room and the line the inside of the shield with aluminum foil to reflect the light at the plants reducing the light loss of your existing method in which the plants only receive a small percentage of the light.

Get a large cardboard box and remove the top and bottom. Cut out sections of the bottom to allow air to enter. Line the sides with aluminum foil to reflect your light.

You could, guessing, reduce your lights to 1/4 of the current number.

Make the shield movable so you can look at the plants when you want to see them.

Akin Yildiz (author)Jack Rodgers2014-09-05

yes the current hood isn't reflective really, if anything it absorbs the light. I just didn't have the time to upgrade it yet. I am planning on transplanting them to the big buckets this weekend (will post pics) maybe I can also find time to do smtg about the roof. Because I was also thinking about removing the amount of bulbs from 6 to 4, at least to 5..


thank you for your interest, I hope you get that RV soon and make an instructable about the whole process.

sbarrett11 (author)2014-09-05

wow yes i plan on growing many "tomatoes" with this, i have no intention on growing anything but "tomatoes" seriously i really love "tomatoes" i have no plan to use this in anyway that is illegal ahas so ever, just to grow "tomatoes"

ac-dc (author)2014-09-02

Your primary problems are as follows:

1) That's nowhere near enough light to get one tomato per bucket per day, not even remotely close to enough. It's also not a large enough area to support the plants once they are a couple months (maybe longer since there's not enough light) older.

2) There is no way to make it produce at a rate of 1 a day, you will get periods where there are none ripe and periods where more than one were ripe at once IF you had enough light.

3) Tomatoes are annuals and will start to die off after a few months. Even before that if they are getting enough light they will be several feet tall and you will need stakes or cages to support them and larger buckets than they are in.

My prediction is you may get 2 dozen tomatoes per plant over the year unless the issues above are addressed.

The worst things to grow inside are any things you eat a larger volume of at a time like a tomato, leafy greens (besides herbs), and potatoes. Potatoes are actually an extremely bad idea because you can buy many more at a store than the cost of lighting alone and they are messy to harvest indoors.

cfuse (author)ac-dc2014-09-03

Re point 3: Tomatoes come in determinate and indeterminate forms.

Determinate forms are small and bushy, and stop growing after fruiting.

Indeterminate forms are vine like, and will continue to grow after fruiting. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow very large, giant plants that grow for many years are common in hydroponic greenhouse situations.

Akin Yildiz (author)cfuse2014-09-04

I was just reading about these 2 types of tomatoes. If I'm not wrong, all of the plants I am using right now are small and bushy kinds. I figured only this would have a chance of succeeding indoors. I have actually volunteered at a tomato farm once in a huge greenhouse and the tomato plants were 7 meters tall (not straight up as we tied them down) and another 5 meters of roots in the soil the owner had said. thank you for your interest !

Akin Yildiz (author)ac-dc2014-09-03

I hope this instructable will prove us both wrong ac-dc.. :P

these are the challanges that need to be met, tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce indoors and a sustainable amount... I will soon be uploading a visual design of the system I am trying to build.

thank you for all the info

gluvit (author)2014-09-03

This is great

Akin Yildiz (author)gluvit2014-09-04

thank you very much sir ! please remember to check out my other instructables !

MrFrancis (author)2014-08-30

First off, thanks for the positive vibes. Question, would the amount of energy used to grow these indoors be more expensive than just buying Organic veggies from the farm?

Akin Yildiz (author)MrFrancis2014-08-30

very good question. the CFLs are actually consuming 138W but putting out about 600W. 138W is like keeping 2 x 60W lights on for 8hrs/day. so 138W @8hrs/day is 1.104kWh. "The average price people in the U.S. pay for electricity is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. (Context: A typical U.S. household uses about 908 kWha month of electricity.)" So; 1.104kWh/day for the system X 0.12cents/kWh = 0.13248cents/8hrs for the system to be on (correct me if my math is wrong).

I will also be upgrading the system to LED grow lights eventually. So then it should cost even less !


also there are many other benefits to growing your own food even if it was expensive. first of all you get to choose which variety to grow. in a store they sell only what grows the fastest. our bodies forgot what variety of food even means ! there are 25000+ apple varieties known, yet we have 4 different types at the store at best?! same with the lettuce. is iceberg lettuce so much superior to any other kind that we sell the most of??. but the biggest benefit is that you actually KNOW what goes into your food, I personally do not believe that just because there is an organic sticker on something means that it is pure & clean to eat. american usda organic standards are the lowest of any other country in the world. it's very relaxed, where as in portugal or france none of this produce would pass... so why take any chances.


thank you for your interest once again, I didn't even think about calculating the cost, now we know.! it is much cheaper than I thought. 0.13248cents/day X 365 days = $48/year !

i'm sorry but that's not true...
They are putting out as much light as 600watts in incandescent light would. Not very much, since most is converted to heat.

Not trying to sound negative, there is just no way that you can put 138 watts into a bulb and get 600w output in light.

Maybe try a 250 watt HPS bulb. They're the most efficient in converting electricity to light in comparison to TL's and CFL's.

I've noticed that in the USA organic doesn't even mean GMO-free. Which is one of the most important specifications in Europe.

you are true. but these bulbs are each rated at 1700lumens and I have 6 of them. It is still not a weak system, you have to admit that. and the tomatoes are growing wildly at the moment. I put this together real fast with what I had laying around just to get some data. I am designing now on paper a much more complicated and powerful scenario with LEDs. this is going to take a while tho... thank you !

Won't they start demanding more light when the tomatos themselves start to develop?
I'm currently also looking into LED's, but when it's winter, HPS all the time!
Heats the house, heats the plants, cozy lighting etc...

I am planning on making LED booster lights, when I find the time and money...! these boosters will be hidden all over the place, cool to touch and fully adjustable + water proof hopefully. check out step 4 especially. I think the current LED systems already have replaced the HPS systems and this is just the start.!

Funny light!
Most LED light have to hang quite low, because they don't have the amount of light that penetrates trough to the lower leaves, but clipping them wherever you want is a nice solution to that.

GreenMeUpScotty (author)2014-09-03

Screw the Naysayers. If it works for you who cares what they say. As you pointed out this is your experiment and you are sharing how to grow food indoors. I plan to do something similar based on "your design" this winter.

:) positive or negative comments are always welcome. I would love to see your copy. I am actually getting ready for the winter my self. I have about 10 mini trees outside right now. I also need to house them. please make sure to upload your design ! good luck

billbillt (author)2014-09-02

great.... got my votes..

Akin Yildiz (author)billbillt2014-09-03

nice ! thank you ..

totszwai (author)2014-09-03

You should use red and blue plants growing LED light, that will reduce the heat produced.

fixfireleo (author)2014-09-02

"tomato" LMAO! i bet that's exactly what people will use your excellent tutorial for. (wink wink) thanks for posting!! :)

cdevildevil (author)fixfireleo2014-09-02

Lol, beat me to it. "Tomato" plants:

ggallen103 (author)cdevildevil2014-09-03

Love it - the visual is great!

Hyshinara (author)cdevildevil2014-09-03

My thoughts exactly :P

Akin Yildiz (author)Hyshinara2014-09-03

and you of course :)

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