Q. I’ve been trying for years to grow “summertime tomatos in the wintertime”.
I’ve tried aquaponically w/o success. I can grow them, but the quantity and quality was not acceptable. I have tried hydroponically, but found it unreasonably expensive as well. Would be very interested in your input.
A. The Mittleider method can go a long way toward giving you your goal – but everything comes with a price. You can extend your growing season, both in Spring and Fall, by 1. growing seedlings in a protected environment, such as a seedhouse, coldframe/hotbed, or in the basement with inexpensive grow-lights (a warm and a cool tube in a shoplight) and 2. protecting your crop in the garden for an extra month or so with an inexpensive “garden-greenhouse” covering (see picture at email@example.com).
Anything beyond this – which can give you tomatoes in December in Utah, and
later in Southern states – will start to cost some money, because heat may be
involved. If you are willing or able to add heat to your garden greenhouse, you can begin earlier and end later.
We do prefer to grow in the soil – even if we use containers, and they are thus open to the soil at the bottom – because plants are then able to access all the natural nutrients that may be available in the soil. The Mittleider Method is sometimes called The Poor Man’s Hydroponic System because we make sure plants are properly fed all essential nutrients, and we control every element of plant growth, so far as is possible consistent with keeping costs low, so everyone can do it.