Indoor Tomato Grower




Introduction: Indoor Tomato Grower

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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

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

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

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





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    66 Discussions

    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.


    I assumed you have to use special lights and not just the regular white lights I see. Could you comment on this? Why not use red or ? grow lights? Thanks!

    1 reply

    hello Sonny, this is a very highly assumed misconception. i have grown plants using just white, just yellow, just red, mix of all colors.. they all work, there is however 1 thing you have to keep in mind and that is the kelvin reading of the color of lights used. 2600k-5000k are used respectively. if you don't get too far off these numbers you should be good. check this out for examples of diferrent lighting applications;

    i'm using regular bagged soil from home depot, like soil for tomatoes or garden vegetables. to this i mix in perlite to make the soil more loose. I didn't add any fertilizer other than what was already inside the soil bag.

    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 :)

    1 reply

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

    Thanks for sharing this :) - I love tomatoes!

    1 reply

    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

    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.

    1 reply

    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..

    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:

    8 replies

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.!

    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.

    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.

    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 ;>)