DWC Tomatoes Easy Deep Water Culture Setup

DWC or deep water culture is a hydroponic growing method that does not use soil. Roots grow in oxygenated water instead. It is suitable for large plants like tomatoes.

DWC Tomatoes - Easy Deep Water Culture Setup
Can you grow DWC Tomatoes? The answer is yes. Learn about deep water culture and how to grow your own DWC tomatoes.

DWC or deep water culture is a hydroponic growing method that does not use soil. Roots grow in oxygenated water instead. It is suitable for large plants like tomatoes.

What Do I Need To Grow DWC Tomatoes?

Growing DWC tomatoes indoors does not require a lot of equipment. It is very easy to set up too.

You will need the following:

  1. A 5 gallon bucket and lid.
  2. A six inch net pot
  3. Some hydroton
  4. An air pump and airstones
  5. A grow light
  6. A tomato plant or seeds

Here’s How To Grow DWC Tomatoes

DWC Tomatoes Showing DWC Roots

You will need to cut a hole in the lid to fit the 6 inch net pot in. You can buy a bucket lid with the net pot built into it.

You do not need anything larger than a 6 inch net pot because the roots will grow inside the bucket and not in the pot.

Either buy a tomato transplant or start one from seed. If you buy one you will want to gently wash away as much soil as you can from the roots.

Whether you grow from plants or seeds I recommend you get a bush variety, often they are called determinate varieties. This will give you a shorter plant and make it easier to grow.

You will want to place the plant in your net pot and fill in all around it with hydroton.

You will want to drill a 1/4 inch hole in the lid for your airline and attach the end in the bucket to your airstone or airstones. It’s ok to use more than one.

Fill the bucket up with water and add nutrients at half the manufacturers recommended amount.

The water level should be about an inch above the bottom of your net pot. We will let it drop a few inches over time.

Then throughout the grow you will want to keep the bucket water level a few inches below your net pot.

The roots that grow in this space are called air roots and they help the plant get additional oxygen.

Plug in your air pump and make sure you have bubbles in your bucket. DWC like this is also called bubble buckets.

You may need to water your tomatoes from the top for the first few days until roots are established.

Pat yourself on the back. You are now growing DWC tomatoes.

Remember tomatoes are a plant that needs a lot of light. Unless you are growing them on a sunny balcony you will need to keep them under a LED grow light.

Read more about my DWC apartment kitchen garden here: Apartment Kitchen Garden – Growing A Hydroponic Garden In An Apartment (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

Determinate Vs Indeterminate Tomatoes

There are many different ways tomato plants grow. In the greenhouse most growers will choose indeterminate tomatoes because they grow and bear continuously.

Determinate varieties are more bush like and very popular in outdoor gardens because they are easier to train and yield sooner.

The harvest will also be more uniform with most tomatoes ready at about the same time.

When tomatoes are field grown these determinate plants allow for machine harvest. In the garden they allow peak harvests before frost.

One of the classifications you will often see on the label of a tomato plant or on a packet of tomato seeds is “determinate” or “indeterminate.” These terms refer to the growth habit of the tomato plants. They essentially mean bush or vining tomatoes, respectively. https://www.thespruce.com/indeterminate-tomato-variety-1403423

Determinate Vs Indeterminate Tomatoes What To Grow

I think determinate tomato varieties are best for growing indoors. Although indeterminate varieties can be grown, training them can be difficult.

Determinate tomatoes should not be pruned as it would reduce yield. But indeterminate tomatoes can benefit from pruning because they can over produce more than they can ripen. 

Also because we will be growing our tomatoes indoors under lights, bush varieties will be much easier to manage and grow.

Early Girl Bush Tomato (Determinate)

What Hydroponic System Is Best For Tomatoes?

Most tomatoes are large plants with a large root system. Indeterminate varieties can grow quite tall with many stems.

Because of this they are often staked or grown in tomato cages or under a trellis net to support their branches.

DWC is probably the best and most productive hydroponic system for growing tomatoes. It can allow a large root system to grow and be fed directly.

With a good support system like a trellis or cage they can produce many pounds of fruit on a continual basis.

Kratky Tomatoes Indoors?

The Kratky system is a passive hydroponic system and a form of DWC that does not use airstones.

Typically it is used for small plants like lettuce or other fast growing greens. It is only filled once at the start of the grow.

However, the developer of this system was able to grow tomatoes in his Kratky system by using a garbage can for a bucket.

So it can be done if you dont mind having a trash can in your house. You would still use a tomato plant in a  6 inch net pot with hydroton inside inserted into the lid.

Other Ways To Grow Hydroponic Tomatoes Indoors

Good news! If you are limited in space or dont want to buy a LED grow light you can still grow hydroponic tomatoes indoors.

Have you heard of an AeroGarden? AeroGarden worth buying? An Honest Review Of The Aerogarden Harvest (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

The AeroGarden is a small hydroponic unit that can be fit almost anywhere. It comes with its own grow light too.

growing hydroponic tomatoes in an AeroGarden

You can grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs in it. You cant grow full sized tomatoes in it because of its smaller size.

But if you like cherry or patio tomatoes you can grow them in an AeroGarden.

GroBuckets For Indoor Tomatoes

If you want to grow tomatoes indoors but want a more conventional way to grow tomatoes, peppers or other larger plants with soil you can use 5 gallon GroBuckets with coco coir or soil.

Growing Vegetables In Coco Coir In A GroBucket

GroBuckets can be used indoors or out and filled with potting soil or coco coir. They are also a SIP or sub irrigated planter. Read more: GroBucket Garden Kit How To Easily Grow Great Veggies In 2022 (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

Hempy Buckets For Tomatoes

The hempy bucket is very similar to the GroBucket. Generally they are a passive hydroponic system that usually uses perlite but it can also use a coco/perlite mix. Read more about hempy buckets here:     What Is A Hempy Bucket? [Best Easy Hydro System For Beginners] (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

What Is A Hempy Bucket? GroBuckets some peppers

How Long Can A Hydroponic Tomato Plant Live?

Tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicon) are perennials in their natural environment although in most areas they are grown as annuals.

They naturally grow as a sprawling vine and can reach a length of 10 feet or more.

However shorter and bush varieties have been developed. Outdoors cold temperatures will eventually kill them.

Also you may be surprised to know that tomatoes are actually a fruit and not a vegetable. They are actually a large berry.

When you grow tomatoes indoors they can live for up to 2 years provided the roots remain healthy but 6 months would probably be more realistic.

More info on tomatoes: https://www.britannica.com/plant/tomato

Some Thoughts On DWC Tomatoes

If you want to grow tomatoes they are a large plant with a large root system. They will grow their best in a DWC hydroponic system.

Deep water culture provides much faster growth than soil systems and crops will mature sooner too.

To really succeed with DWC tomatoes you need to keep your water temperatures on the cool side. Warm temperatures can promote root rot. 

68 degrees is considered optimal because as temperatures rise oxygenation decreases.

Above 72 degrees you are in the danger zone for Phytophthora root rot. Phytophthora – Wikipedia

But there are ways to prevent it by using bleach or hydrogen peroxide as an additive. More info at https://www.indoorvegetablegrower.com/what-is-a-hydroponic-reservoir/

Tomatoes are self pollinating but there are no bees in your apartment (hopefully) so you may want to hand pollinate your tomatoes.

You can do this once the flowers open by going from one flower to another while touching the pistils with a small brush.

Some growers even use an electric toothbrush for this.

Did you know tomatoes are actually a fruit? https://www.indoorvegetablegrower.com/are-you-growing-fruits-or-vegetables/

Growing Determinate Tomatoes How to Prune And Train Them

Here is a video showing my DWC determinate tomato plant put in a trellis.

Determinate varieties bear the bulk of their crop all at once so they will need support.

I also explain that determinate tomatoes should not be pruned like indeterminate ones. They are very different plants.