Tomato Growing 101 - Step-by-Step Sustainable Instructions - Carla


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Initially, we wanted to grow a garden on the terrace of IES but we were informed by multiple members of faculty here that it would fail. Because our initial idea was unrealistic, we refocused our attention to something more practical and realistic. We brainstormed about what fruits or vegetables were most consumed by IES students and Spaniards and we concluded (with Cesar’s help) that tomatoes were one of the most valued and appreciated foods in Barcelona. Therefore, we decided to elaborate on that and help students learn to grow tomatoes sustainably and not just grow them for them. Teaching them how to grow tomatoes is more effective and valuable than doing the growing for them

What (updated)

Since our primary concern is to teach students how to grow tomatoes, we chose an alternate method of educating students. After speaking with many friends and peers, we realized that no one would actually attend these tutorials. So instead, we are filming a step-by-step guide to growing tomatoes. We will be narrating a video of the whole process and sending the link to not only the entire IES community but to our friends & families as well.


Why this action makes things more sustainable?

This project would make things more sustainable by removing the action of shipping the food from Point A to Point B. Therefore, less energy and pollution from transporting the food. Additionally, eating homegrown food without chemicals or pesticides is also sustainable for the environment. This means it is also healthier for the eater. The previous action introduced the idea of installing an “outdoor cover and watering system” which they even admitted was unrealistic. Instead, we just want to get students in the habit of growing their own vegetables. We are more focused on the attitude aspect. Implementing this would increase resiliency. If the economy ever crashed, if all tomatoes were ever recalled for some reason, or maybe if there was a natural disaster and no one could make it to the grocery store, this project would increase self-reliance and people would be prepared to grow their own. In turn, this would demonstrate people’s ability to recover from a crisis without reliance on others. This in turn reduces dependency on others (grocery stores, food suppliers, etc.). The long-term effects would be the ability to grow your own food and pass this knowledge onto others. In addition, growing your own produce decreases the amount of energy and pollution used to transport the food, and as a result, the ecological and water footprints are lowered. 


SWOT Analysis


Cost-effective – will help participants save a significant amount of money.

Eco-efficient – by growing your own produce, you reduce ecological damage.

Reduction in emissions / pollutants from shipping food.

Plants produce oxygen!


Not a good turn out – a tomato growing activity may not appeal to many.

This requires a lot of time, energy, and patience.

One has to be very dedicated to tomato growing to follow through with the whole process.


Community building – meet others who are also interested in being eco-efficient by growing their own produce.

Self-reliance – no need to go to El Corte Ingles when you can grow your own tomatoes.

Gaining more knowledge – this process teaches you some things about gardening, it’s an easy way to learn how to gaden.



Failure – something can always go wrong especially in gardening and the tomatoes may not grow right.

Inclement weather can affect the development of the plants (lack of sunlight).

Not being careful and attentive can impact the growth of the plants negatively.

Someone might interfere with the growth of the plants.

 Tomatoes can become diseased.


Feedback Loops

Reinforcing Loop:

A reinforcing loop could be responsible for an increase in the rate of tomato production (more tomatoes àmore seeds àmore tomatoes àmore seeds àad infinitum). 

Balancing Loop

Later, this trend might reverse (despite the idea that tomato growing is still popular)

If there was a decline in the production of tomatoes, we’d safely assume the quality of the soil is declining, then the balancing loop would be stronger than the reinforcing one. The balancing loop works to slow down the increase in tomato production so the production of tomatoes consequently declines.


Potential Benefits

We want students to return to their universities and be more inclined to do their own shopping / growing / cooking. We believe by simply teaching students how to grow tomatoes, they will naturally be more likely to use other organic and locally grown products. This would support the LOIS business model (for example, we also encourage students to purchase the seeds at La Boqueria). Hopefully, students would recognize the benefits of growing their own produce rather than purchasing food, which is shipped from somewhere else. Dependency on the middle man (supermarkets) is reduced as well. The vegetation sites that continue to become destroyed means plans can’t produce as much oxygen. If people are growing their own tomatoes, this number would increase.


Potential Costs

The costs are very minimal of this tomato growing tutorial project. The most expensive part will be to going to the pots we need to demonstrate how to grow the tomatoes however we do not need to purchase anything because I have pots in my home I can bring to IES. So the other financial aspect would go towards purchasing the seeds, plastic bags, and soil. Aside from financial costs, the time dedicated by students put into caring for the tomatoes is also minimal. This project is very attainable and can be achieved by anyone without much time or money spent. The weather can be an issue because depending on if the weather is too rainy or not sunny enough, the plants could potentially die.

Potential Costs (updated):

Making this a project students can do within their own homes makes it easier to regulate and control potential costs such as weather and money whereas someone could easily blame the failure of the tomato growing on IES somehow. Also, if people have our pamphlet as well as the tutorial handy, it will be difficult to fail.


Survey I created:



Students have tried to create a garden with IES however due to the lack of attention and care for the idea, it was never properly carried out. The action we are continuing (but changing drastically) is “Creating a Garden”. The goal of their project was to build a garden of vegetables for students. While this is a great idea, we chose a different path where we would focus on the skill of growing rather than just obtaining the food.

In a perfect world, we could create a garden on the terrace that produced fresh fruits and vegetables every day for the students to appreciate. There would be no issue of inclement weather.

However, in the world, there is inclement weather that can affect the growth of gardening. Fortunately, tomatoes can be grown almost anywhere and start indoors.


The procedure is as follows:

1. Obtain Seeds & Soil
Acquire the seeds from a trustworthy commercial sources because as the seeds age their germination rate decreases. Seeds younger than 4 years old are best. But if not it’s fine as long as they are kept in a dry and cool atmostphere.

Soil: investing in good potting mix is recommended rather than using garden soil which can contain insects and weeds. Also, it is usually less compacted which means that the roots (which are young and weak) have to work less to grow through the soil.

Containers: any containers work – flats, egg cartons, milk or juice containers, etc. Just cut them down and create drainage holes in the bottoms of each. Strawberry containers are also recommended, they don’t need to be cut, they have lids to keep seeds moist. They’re also usually deep enough so that it’s not necessary to transfer the plant to another container and they have perforated lids that allow the seeds to stay moist.  

2. When to Plant Seeds / Sowing & Sprouting

Fortunately, planting tomatoes can begin indoors. Plant the seeds 1/8” inch deep and 7-10 weeks before the last frost date (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Professionals advise you to use a small fan near the plants to help them grow but waving your hand above the plant a couple of times a day works too. They can stay like this until the seedlings begin to emerge. They must be moist in order to sprout so make sure to water them gently and thoroughly. The seeds should germinate in approximately 10-14 days. If it has become wet and already has started germinating (seeds starting to grow) it will die if it dries out. It helps to keep the seeds in a plastic bag (you can use a paper bag, too) to retain moisture. Take them out once they begin sprouting because this cuts off light. At this point they need sunlight, otherwise a lack of sunlight causes them to become “leggy” (all stem). Put the plants outside when it is in the 70’s (degrees Farenheit) and the nights don’t get below the 50’s. Once you see the seeds sprout (green above the brown), remove the bag.

*Collect "warm-up" water from your shower and use that to water the seeds. 

3. Planting & Care
Once they germinate, be sure that the seedlings are getting a lot of light, they’re constantly moist, and that they’re warm. Ideally, the seedlings require 12-16 hours of light a day. Fluorescent lights work if need be. When there are four leaves on the seedlings, transfer them to deeper pots. Put an inch of potting soil at the bottom of the pots then tip the seedling plant into your hand and set it in the new pot 4-6 inches deep. Continue to gently fill the pot with soil covering most of the stem. If the tomato seedlings aren’t repotted by the time they have multiple leaves, pinch off all but the top clump, leaving three sets of leaves. Keep repeating until seedlings are 8-1” inches tall. , The only thing that should be above the soil are leaves. This process is repeated when seedlings (if it’s not ready to take outside).


1.3.1. "Cradle to Cradle" design

The “Cradle to Cradle” design represents the idea that we can produce food sustainably while in an industrialized and environmentally conscious environment. This process involves both human effort as well as the metabolic process of nature. The system is a cycle where all the ingredients are beneficial or safe (soil, water, and seeds) except for the plastic bag. This helps us learn to reuse natural materials. The lesson we can teach here is the value of things like soil without damaging our ecosystems.


1.3.2. Questions for the unified survey

  • Would you ever take advantage of a tomato growing tutorial?
  • Would you be willing to devote more time and energy into obtaining your food if it was more fiscally and economically responsible?

1.3.3. Analysis of the results in the survey



1.3.4. Incentives

The incentives for this project would be the abundance of tomatoes you receive at the end! So worth it!


1.3.5. Relationship with the "Sustainability Club" (SC)

Working with them to continue caring for the plants that already exist at IES in addition to this. This is merely a lesson and an effort to encourage students to consider growing their own produce. 


1.3.6. How will this action be sustained when you are not here?

I will leave behind step-by-step instructions so anyone who is ever interested can grow tomatoes. In addition to the instructions, I will leave all the information on where to purchase all the materials. We will hopefully have at least the seeds and soil to supply. I’m also always willing to keep in touch in case someone were to want to continue the project, they could contact me.


I can be reached via e-mail at: Carlaf at gwmail.gwu.edu

1.3.7. Document format

HTML Document. 

1.3.8. Copyright license of your report

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms


1.4. Time-sheet / Chronogram








Research materials

Sow seeds indoors

Should sprout after 10-14 days


Begin to encourage others to grow their own produce

Once seeds sprout, transport seedlings into deeper pot.


Gather people interested for an info session explaining the dedication required for growing.

Repeat repotting of the tomato seedlings until 8-10” inches tall


Begin tutorals

Watch over


Continue tutorials

Remove tomatoes and enjoy!


Continue tutorials & check on progress on students

Begin process again?



Enjoy tomatoes!!


References & Links

One site offering step-by-step instructions for tomato growing.


More similar sites:



Where to purchase seeds:


Soil information:


Common mistakes made when growing tomatoes:



Students involved in this action

Gabriella Nardi and I decided on this tomato growing lesson project. She is responsible for the financial and publicity aspects while I am more in charge of the actual tutorial and teaching how to grow tomatoes. While she spreads the word about our mission and determines the costs of everything, I have been encouraging my peers to attend my tutorials and seriously consider participating.

Co-author: Gabriella Nardi


 Assignment 4: Peer review form

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Items found: 18
Grade per actionReviewerComments
94 agluskerI think you did a great job collaborating on this idea with Gabby. I agree with everyone below that the specifics of how to grow a tomato, or any other plant rather are vital for the success of the IES terrace. It is also a fun experience that can be continued at a person's backyard in their own homes in the States. I agree with the idea of a pamphlet or some type of tangible directions that could allow people to easily access how to grow tomatoes. Good job!
93 Brian McNevinAgain, I think that the continued action of growing tomatoes is a fantastic idea that many IES students would be more than happy to participate in, especially with step by step details on how to successfully do it. This also helps lots of local business by removing middle men and buying directly from the farmer. Something I would do in future semesters if I were re-designing this action would be go to IES staff and see if they would be willing to rent out a garden terrace. There are places that will rent out a section for a somewhat small fee if IES cannot sustain it.
100 carlafI love the tomato growing idea! A whole garden on the terrace isn't practical but a tutorial on tomato growing is a great idea for improving the sustainability of IES. It's not only a way to preserve the environment here, but it's also teaching students how to garden something easy and they can pass this skill onto their friends & family. Bravo Carla & Gabby!
96 CFaheyI think this is a good and feasible action. On thing I would change in the future is adding additional guids for other vegetables. Students can easily participate and cut down on transportation costs for imported produce by creating it in there own home, apartment, or dorm. The knowledge can also be brought back home to be used in the future making it sustainable.
91 Drew.peroGreat idea to help eliminate the middle man and help people rely on the farmers more. Also, it is a very easy thing for many students to become involved in.
99 gnardigreat idea!! eveyone loves tomatos, they are necessary for so many reasons.
90 Julia NuttAs mentioned to the other people working on this project, I think that this is avery good idea. I think that you should encourage future students to hold sessions about teaching students to grow fruits in vegetables throughout the semester and offer incentives to encourage them to come. I think that you should try and hold sessions about several different fruits and vegetables and no only tomatoes. I really like this idea and know that it would be something that I would be very interested in participating in. I have always wanted to know how to grow different types of fruits and vegetables. You should find creative ways to advertise these events as well as offer incentives.
88 Kmacdonald4I really like the idea of a tutorial instead of an entire garden onthe terrace because it teaches skills we can bring home to the United States.. like I said to Gabby I think if you pick times where students are just getting out of class you might have better luck with attendance since they are already at IES.
88 m.bernsteinAgain, I think this action is good because it spreads knowledge not only about how to plant tomatoes and other homegrown vegetables but it also spreads awareness about the growing issues the world is facing and how this action can help aid the decline. Like i said on the other page you guys should definitely put together a pamphlet with this information on it and other easy vegetables to grow. You can also incorporate this action with the idea of LOIS vs. TINA. if enough people participate they could start selling or evening trading their goods with others in IES Barcelona Abroad.
87 MarthaMayIt seems like you have done a lot of research! Again I like that you took an old action and are re-designing it to make it more attainable. My suggestion that I also put on Gabby's page would be to coordinate the tutorial with our field trip to ecoterra and have the tutorial during sustainability class as well as during a club meeting! Great idea!!
96 MbowermanThis is such a great idea! Not only does it help students while they are in Barcelona but gives them a skill to bring back to the US to continue lessening the dependence on food from faraway. It would also be great for students in homestays etc to be able to teach their host parents something like this.
85 obiajuluThis is a good idea and sustainable because it teaches knowledge which is easily spreadable and is also not confined to one space. There should be some incentive though to get people to come maybe give pizza or some type of food as an accompaniment.
95 Sarah ColeI think this is a fun and easy way for IES students to take action in improving sustainability. I think the only issue you will run into is getting enough students who are dedicated towards tomato growing, maybe more incentives would help!
91 seantubridyI don't like tomatoes, but I would still be interested in attending a tutorial on how to grow them correctly. You have obviously done your research about growing tomatoes. Maybe you can make more incentives for people to attend the tutorials, such as eco-euros or pizza/soda. Gabby's pamphlets will advertise.
90 SolomonBPI like this idea of starting with just tomatoes, since the garden was somewhat nixed by students and faculty alike. I think if we could get a hanging tomato plant on the terrace for future students to maintain, it would be a fun way to promote sustainable living at IES BCN. The one thing that administration said with any plants on the terrace, we need to find a IES staffer or member, willing to maintain the plants between semesters/sustainability clubs. If we can ensure that there is someone who is willing and able to take care of the plant between semesters, I can get IES administration to fun the necessary seeds, soil, and hanging device to plant the tomatoes.
94 steph.eastlakeThis is a great idea for a new action. It seemss like she really thought about the plant that was going to be grown because the weather and the way the terrace is in the shade most of the year could pose a problem for other vegetables. I think that if this is implemented it will really help the sustainability of IES Barcelona.
92 vsienkieI love this idea! I would love to learn how to grow tomatoes. Maybe IES could provide some soil, dirt, seeds, and small potting plants that students can use to grow their own tomatos in their apartments here in Barcelona.
91 vydraThis is very smart, as giving knowledge related to growing tomatoes is more sustainable than the garden itself. I think to make this more sustainable, I would type up the step by step directions and have those be available to students during the entire semester so that even if they didn't want to invest their time learning from someone teaching them, they could simply grab the sheet of paper off the IES bulletin board and start growing tomatoes right away at their apartment/residence.

 Grades for this action report (From the PROFESSOR)

Items found: 2
1.12 Tomato Growing 101 - Step-by-Step Sustainable Instructions - Carla & Gabriella Good Very good re-design based from former actions, and improving them removing the weaknesses and risks. Congratulations! I hope you succeed this semester Discussion about why this would increase resilience, and the whole "why" section. Well done! Feedback loops (reinforcing and balancing): very well identified! 1.3.8. Good election of copyright license! using tables for swot and time-sheet/chronogram Improvable Numbered sections missing. Why, if they were in the template? They are very useful in technical reports. swot: O: use the ecoeuro system of incentives also. Potential costs: "Aside from financial costs, the time dedicated by students put into caring for the tomatoes is also minimal. This project is very attainable and can be achieved by anyone without much time or money spent. (...)." Ok, I'm convinced, but I would be more convinced if you were able to diagnose what was wrong in the plantation of tomatoes from last semester, and why there are no tomatoes any more in the pot at the terrace. Check the pictures from the wiki pages from that action from last semester (I think), or the other before. "Students have tried to create a garden with IES however due to the lack of attention and care for the idea, ..." Are you sure about this being the reason? How are you going to prevent this from happening again? They key issue seems to be to get someone un further semesters to take (the minimal required ) care of it in time, for replanting seeds (maybe), or watering in summer the minimal water needed (that can be obtained by means of the rainwater collector in the terrace already). How: "Put the plants outside when it is in the 70’s (degrees Farenheit) and the nights don’t get below the 50’s" In case you expect some local to help, you need to provide temperatures in international units or much easier to convert, like degrees Celsius or Kelvin (you are not in the USA, remember, and he target population includes people that it's not either). What to do with plants when they dry up? Remember that "Waste = food". In your design, you should close the loop/cycle: what to do with the waste (dead plant): throw it away? leave it in the soil chopped in small pieces (to ease compost) in the same area/pot? or in another are/pot for another species to be planted different than tomatoes?... Close the cycle in your design! 1.3.1.: "plastic bags": you can obtain cheap biodegradable film (similar to plastic) if you buy compostable organic waste bags in any supermarket. 1.3.3.: Why no results have been analysed?. You said you created your own survey: "Survey I created:
Excellent modification of the project after the feedback received from your first version of report/action. Good idea to do this video-tutorial instead. 2nd

Page last modified on Friday 29 of April, 2011 00:33:12