Caring for Your Tomato and Pepper Plants

Tips to ensure your tomatoes and peppers remain compact and under control.

All tomato varieties selected by AeroGarden seed kit creators are chosen for their compact growth patterns for maximum success in the AeroGarden. However, each individual tomato plant is unique and some tomato plants can start growing and stretching more than others at mature stages. Always extend your light to at least 3-5 in away from the tops of plants. If you are growing tomatoes in an AeroGarden model with less vertical growing space and you are concerned about your tomato plant stretching too close to the grow light, here are some pruning tips to ensure your tomatoes remain compact and under control.

Week 1: (Germination Phase)

To ensure your tomatoes have the best chance to sprout you’ll want to add cool tap water and the recommended plant food for best success. Make sure to shake the nutrient bottle well before each feeding.

Week 2: (Germination Phase)

To produce maximum yields you’ll want to clip out the smallest sprouts! This early pruning method is called thinning, it helps your tomato plant collect maximum energy without stress from competition. When your tomatoes sprout to nearly 1” tall, check each seed pod for multiple tomato plants. Using scissors gently snip out the smallest plants at the base of their stem, leaving one healthy tomato plant in each seed pod. If your tomato seeds don’t sprout after 21 days, give us a call and we’ll be happy to send you replacement pods.

Week 3: (Germination Phase)

No maintenance required. Fun Fact: When tomatoes are grown outdoors. there is usually no need to prune them. However, we recommend pruning AeroGarden tomatoes to keep them small and compact and produce maximum harvests.

Week 4: (Mid-Growth Phase)

No maintenance required. (Your seedlings are too young to prune.)

Week 5: (Mid-Growth Phase)

Time to top your plant! We recommend clipping the main stem above the fifth branch. (Skip the first two "leaves" during this count to avoid shocking your tomato plants). This method helps strengthen the main stem and encourages the plant to branch out to produce more blooms to pollinate. A strong main stem will bear the weight to support large tomato yields without breaking or tipping over.

For example, follow the base of the plant up the main stem, past all the branches until you come to the Colas. Here, the main stem splits into a Y-shape, where flower buds form. Cut the Colas just below the Y-shape for doubled production!

Week 6: (Mid-Growth Phase)

To ensure your tomatoes remain compact, you can occasionally prune branches that are growing outside of the light hood. Follow the branch to where it meets another branch and make the cut just before this junction.

Week 7: (Mature Plant Phase)

You should see yellow flowers on your tomato plants at 5-7 weeks. Unpollinated flowers simply fall off the plants without setting fruit, and failure to pollinate is one of the greatest causes of disappointment in growing tomato and pepper plants. Many plants, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons require pollination in order to produce fruit. When growing outdoors, this critical step is performed by wind, animals, bees and other insects. When growing indoors, we need to "be the bee" and perform this task ourselves if we want to enjoy those vine-ripened tomatoes in the middle of winter. You will need to pollinate regularly once they begin to flower, at least every other day, and only when the lights are on.

Week 8: (Mature Plant Phase)

If you are not seeing any signs of flowers or fruiting by week 8 be sure to check the following:

  • For maximum plant care you'll need to test your pump/aerator/airstone to flush out any plant build-up. Learn how to clean & sanitize your AeroGarden for best results! You can also try a quick rinse & refill to restore a good nutrient balance.
  •  Tomatoes are a summertime crop; the fruit needs warmth to ripen. The ideal range for fruit to set is 70º-76ºF. If your AeroGarden is facing a sunny window, try changing locations to avoid complications.
  •  Are there lots of flowers? That limits fruit-set. Try removing some.
  •  As your tomato plants age you may see some brown or yellow leaves. This is perfectly normal. Remove these leaves with scissors. Also remove older branches that are dead and brown.

Week 9-12: (Mature Plant Phase)

Time to start harvesting your tomatoes! Pick your tomatoes gently with your fingers. A ripe tomato feels firm but has a little "give" when pressed. Ripe yellow tomatoes will still be a little bit green. Harvest tomatoes just before eating for a sweet flavor. Continue to pollinate tomato flowers for your next harvest.

As your tomatoes begin to send new shoots out at the top, prune them off again. When pruning the tops, look for the newest, smallest leaves, and make sure you remove these. The growing tip is not the actual highest part of the plant, but just a little below that, in the V where one stem branches off from another. 

Keep pruning the new growth off the top about every two weeks, making sure to remove the growing tip. After the plant determines that growing upward is not an option, it will send out new branches lower down on the stem. Keeping the tops pruned down also allows more light to reach the new leaves that will form at the base. Keep training it this way until the plant has developed a more compact shape, and it will then begin to flower throughout its height. 

If you need further assistance, or if you have any other questions about your AeroGarden or Seed Kits, there are more articles available on this web site.