Information on Tomato Growing from TomatoFest

A Celebration of Heirloom Tomato Varieties from Around the World


Introducing the InnTainer™

Tomato growers can now grow tomatoes in any climate - INDOORS, with all of the taste of home garden summertime tomatoes.


This is thrilling information for me to share with you. Now, all those wishful would-be tomato gardeners who do not have an outdoor growing location or those gardeners who would like to grow tomatoes in the wintertime have an effective way to do so..the InnTainer, designed by Ray Newstead.

Many design elements of the highly successful outdoor EarthTainer™ have been incorporated into the new InnTainer growing system.

The InnTainer builds upon the principle of capillary action, wicking moisture from a built-in water reservoir in the form of a self-watering container (SWC).

InnTainer™ Day and Night
Click here to enlarge photo

The InnTainer which is based on an 18 gallon tote incorporates a self-contained 3 gallon water reservoir. Users can now go for weeks between watering intervals, for unattended operation. Positioned in a south facing window for either natural wintertime lighting, or incorporating an overhead artificial lighting system gives owners multiple growing options. Advances in Digital Ballasts for High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lighting as well as the rapid development of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technologies is now delivering excellent energy efficiencies for the Consumer market.

"This innovative portable self-container growing system will now give climate-challenged people a totally new alternative to putting up with tasteless Supermarket tomatoes" said Ray Newstead, "The leak-proof design lets users put the InnTainer in the home or apartment where one would never have placed normalcontainers".

I hear from customers every day who want organically grown tomatoes that taste like a real tomato should - all year around. So together with the InnTainer design, I paired up a series of heirloom tomato varieties, ideally suited for indoor gardening, with the InnTainer system. I then assembled some of these tomato varieties into two newly released Indoor Container Tomato Seed Collections: Collection #1 and Collection #2.

Plans for you to construct your own InnTainer growing system are available below. - Gary Ibsen

The EarthTainer™

Now, anyone can grow the BEST tomatoes in containers...and conserve water.


Recently, gardening friend Ray Newstead, alerted me to his innovative "EarthTainer" self-watering design. Newstead could not find any commercial container growing solutions with an integrated cage sturdy enough to grow heirloom tomatoes, so he designed his own system.

When I saw his EarthTainer design I responded immediately with enthusiasm. One of its primary merits is that the EarthTainer holds 10 gallons of water and can go several days before needing replenishment. Also, no water is wasted, as it is a self contained, closed loop "eco-system" that most efficiently uses precious water. And it is a system that is easy to build and replicate for little cost.

We then arranged to film the construction of an EarthTainer, made by the two of us, with the intention of sharing the idea as well as the plans for building the EarthTrainer with gardeners around the world... as "Freeware." Gary Ibsen

Read Sunset's article on the EarthTainer titled "Homemade EarthTainers for your best tomato crop ever."

Read Slate's article on the EarthTainer titled "A Revolutionary Way To Grow Tomatoes!"

EarthTainer Illustration
EarthTainer Illustration

A Revolutionary Alternative in Container Gardening is now available to all our gardening friends at

Not too many years ago there was abundant space and unlimited water available for gardening. Today, with our postage-stamp size yards and increasingly scarce, rationed water resources, a new paradigm for water management by the home gardener has come to the forefront.

Traditional in-ground planting with "broadcast" watering is highly inefficient, along with creating an unintended weed bed to cope with. Result: higher water bills coupled with back-breaking labor in pulling weeds and constant cultivation. Consider a Hybrid alternative. The demand for multi-use energy sources such as solar and wind, plus the huge growth of dual fuel automobiles has sparked innovation in combining the best of hybrid technologies. The same opportunity for improved efficiency and plant yield exists in new growing environments for the home garden.

Ray Newstead
Ray Newstead
Enter Ray Newstead, a home gardener of heirloom tomatoes in Campbell, California. Newstead, a long time Silicon Valley resident and Executive with semiconductor company SMSC, has focused his spare time efforts in designing a "Green" self-contained vegetable growing eco-system dubbed the "EarthTainer". This container-based system combines the traditional soil-based growing cycle with elements of hydroponic moisture delivery to the plants for sustainable, organic gardening.

Unlike manual or drip irrigation top watering, the EarthTainer employs a bottom up, automated watering approach based on the principle of capillary action. Water stored in the lower reservoir is wicked up into the soil much like the wick in a candle draws the liquefied wax upward to the flame. Moisture meets the roots of the plant where the plant "drinks" just as much water as it needs. This water consumption will vary significantly throughout the growing season as the plant produces fruit, and by providing a constant supply of water from the reservoir, the plant can achieve optimal growth and productivity.

Newstead estimates that EarthTainer-grown tomato plants consume 75% less water than is used in conventional in-ground planting, as the "closed-loop" EarthTainer design concentrates 100% of the available water exclusively to the plant, not leaking any to encourage weed growth, nor wasted runoff. Additionally, the moisture barrier top cover reduces a significant moisture loss due to evaporation experienced in traditional in-ground gardening. With the June 4, 2008 Declaration of a statewide drought by the Governor of California, water conservation and efficient use of available water is crucial as uncertainty of future supply grows in magnitude.

EarthTainer gardening can make use of marginal growing space where concrete patios or deck areas may be the only sunny locations available to apartment or condo owners. The portable nature of the EarthTainer allows it to be moved or rotated during the growing season to balance plant growth, which is not possible with in-ground gardening. The container walls make it difficult for ground rodents to "stop in for a snack" and the isolation of the growing compartment inhibits soil-borne insect and disease transmission.

Newstead has found that the soil in the EarthTainer warms up to suitable planting temperature in Springtime one month earlier than his in-ground soil bed, permitting him to plant out in early April. In 2008, his harvest of ripe tomatoes began on May 25. "If there were an Energy-Star rating for garden devices, this design would top the charts", said Gary Ibsen, Founder of the Carmel TomatoFest. "The water saving advantage alone is extremely compelling. With the EarthTainer system , urban gardeners have a new alternative in growing their own quality vegetables."

While you can't buy an EarthTainer anywhere, Newstead has teamed up with Ibsen and his TomatoFest organization ( to create a self-construction guide for download in PDF and video format (see video links below) for those with basic tools skills to make their own. These instructions are provided for you here as "Freeware". As Newstead puts it, "With the global food crisis escalating, I believe that spreading knowledge worldwide of how to build EarthTainer growing systems could help feed hungry people in impoverished areas around the world. Not just heirloom tomatoes, but corn, soybeans, and other high-nutrient crops can be grown."

All we request if you do use these design plans to build your own EarthTainer, is to make a voluntary contribution to the Feeding America Organization Cost of purchasing components at Lowes or Home Depot to assemble the base unit runs approximately $23.00 and $18.00 for the optional self-supporting tomato cage system.

Download EarthTainer Construction Guide Version III:

New simplified construction, with removable/folding Cage System. A new construction video will be available soon, in the meantime you can use the previous construction videos below as a reference guide.
EarthTainer PDF Construction Guide

EarthTainer Construction Reference Videos Version II

These are the EarthTainer Version II videos and should only be used as a reference until the new EarthTainer Version III videos are released. You can view the video now or download a higher resolution version of the video for future reference during construction. To download the video right click on the "Download video" link and select "save link/target as".

You can view the video now or download a higher resolution version of the video for future reference during construction. To download the video right click on the "Download video" link and select "save link/target as".

Chapter 1 - Introduction and Building the EarthTainer   View video,   Download video
Chapter 2 - Assembling the Cage System   View video,   Download video
Chapter 3 - Planting   View video,   Download video

Download InnTainer Construction Guide Version I:

InnTainer PDF Construction Guide