Can I grow that inside? - Tomatillo Edition
Can I grow tomatillos in a container and inside?
This series is a blog series dedicated to showing the process of how to grow edibles - the garden variety - inside your home. If you are interested in growing out of season, or if you don’t have any outdoor space, you can see what it would actually be like starting from seed to harvest with us. With each series post we have ONE post per edible type of item. We will be updating each post, so check back for new photos, tips/tricks and more.
Tomatillos - the most “wild” of the bunch when it comes to many of their “sister” plants, certainly more wild - in terms of growth and space than most things I am used to in the garden. They can ramble their growth over three feed wide, while staying relatively bushy in height about 2 ft. With that in mind, they aren’t usually noted as “suitable” for indoors. So this is an experiment that is on the likely hood of failing. But I happen to have a large garden box (it’s an Earth Box) but the key component is that it’s large enough to fit “two tomatoes” which means I could test out two tomatillos. There’s a self-watering reservoir, but I don’t use those, I consider them built-in-trays for water - since it’s an indoor garden we don’t want things to potentially be too wet - which equals issues inside.
So I started some seeds to see what happens. This is what happens when you have a packet of seeds and you only need a few for the summer season … “tests”. Well the tomatillos have done amazing.
Tomatillo Verde Seeds from Baker Creek
I chose good old “Tomatillo Verde” from Baker creek because it’s what I wanted to grow outside this summer. My mom and I are on a gung-ho gardening year, we WILL make it work this year in her garden ;) and Tomatillos are one of the things we are determined to try. Since I had not seen tomatillos starts except one location last year, I got the seeds with my winter order from Baker Creek.
Here’s the thing about tomatillos that you have to understand. You must grow two of them. It’s like apples and some other fruits (tomatillos being a fruit), they need a buddy to pollenate. The issue is that they need to be pollinated by a neighboring plant to get good prolific harvests. So if you are unsure about whether or not your two plants will survive - or thrive - plant more than two. Just know, you need LOTS of space for them. One fact I have read a few times for those interested in planting these outside is that if it’s too humid where you live, the plants will not pollinate well because it will stick to the plant - since they aren’t great self-pollinators if it’s too humid, or if you are indoors you will need to cross pollinate BY HAND.
Fast Facts about the Tomatillo Verde Seeds from Baker Creek
Planting: Need companion planting, size of more than 1, sprawling 2 ft high - 3 feet wide
Days to Harvest: 80 days (from transplant date - meaning date you put them outside// in a larger container)
Size/Description: 1-2 inch green fruits with husk
Hybrid/Yes or No?: No
Sun: Full Sun
Pollination: Needs a pair, so hand pollination needed inside.
First, I have little to zero expectation to actually get a fruit off of these plants. Mostly because fruit and meg don’t tend to make friends. However - I think with careful non-overwatering (think Mexico for region where the plant is from) and hand-pollinating - we have a chance. The one thing will be if the plants get too big to really thrive and set fruit. I suspect a good amount of feed will be needed!
Current Status of the Project:
( WAITING TO RIPEN, flowering constantly)
Date of Seeds Sown November 27th 2018 (day 1 of life - we have to wait till planted out before we count for harvest time frame)
Started two tomatillo plants as a “what the heck” when I got my seeds in the mail. Honestly, I thought - hey so they get big and I then plant them out. In the jiffy pot starter they went and germinated and kept growing and growing and growing!
February 16th - Day 82 of life - These guys were quickly outgrowing these pots. I knew there were maybe a week or two due to the fast growth of these guys! I moved them up out of the grow lights because now we had new seedlings and they were strong enough to handle just window light. (image from insta story)
February 26th- (day 92 of life) (day 1 - transplant day) - Cat devastation. If you follow me on instagram you know Mabel likes to eat my seedlings. This is why the door to the office has been kept closed. Seemingly forever, lol. I planted these out thinking - tomatillo plants are not delicious. They are not nasturtiums (yum), arugula (yum), or other edible leaves. In fact tomatillos can be harmful to pets when eaten (same with other nightshade plants - eggplant, tomato, potato etc). I thought these guys wouldn’t recover but they have - slowly and almost tripled in size since cat devastation day thanks to my handy bamboo and yarn fencing.
March 25th - (day 120 of life) (day 27 since transplant) - Growing so well! They have taken off since being in the grow box - seriously. They are turning into full on shrubs. The smell is distinctively tomatillo! There are now enough flowers on each plant we are cross pollinating daily! We will find out soon enough if it works. I can say it’s a LOT of work to hand pollinate all the flowers. I have most certainly missed some.
April 9th - (day 134 of life) (day 42 since transplant) - I rotated the plants to get even sun exposure - and when did I noticed one of the buds where the flower had fallen off with the potential for a tomatillo fruit to form that it had doubled in size and closed up - a good sign! Remember date from transplant to harvest is about 80 days, so we have a little more than a month to go till we get to that stage.
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