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Gardening - growing tomatoes etc over the winter


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Hydroponics Tomatoes



Imagine that first bite of a sweet, succulent, ripe tomato picked fresh from your garden. The warm juice runs down your chin as a delightful explosion of flavour awakens dormant taste buds. In our harsh climate fresh tomatoes can usually be enjoyed for only a few short weeks of the year. Then it's back to artificially ripened,


flavourless imports your grocer charges a small fortune for. Take heart, you can savour the homegrown tomato experience year round.


Tomatoes grown hydroponically, indoors under lights, are equal to, or superior in flavour and nutrition than their outdoor, soil grown counter-parts. A tomato's sweetness and flavour is largely dependent on light and temperature. The nutritional value of a tomato is dependent on the nutrition the plant receives while growing and producing fruit. In the controlled environment of an indoor garden the plants exact requirements can be met with artificial lighting, temperature control and supplemental nutrition. This enables the grower to enjoy a continuous harvest all year long without sacrificing taste and goodness.


Hydroponics is a pure, clean method of cultivation. For this reason it is recommended you start your tomatoes directly from seed. Bringing plants in from outside creates a potential for pest and disease contamination. Start seeds in 1 inch rockwool starter cubes in a standard nursery tray with dome. Rockwool cubes should be pre-soaked in water adjusted to a pH of 4.5 prior to planting. Keep covered tray in a moist, warm (20-25oC) environment until seedlings begin to sprout. Once vegetation appears, immediately move the seedling into a light source, metal halide or fluorescent lights, for at least 12 hours per day and remove domes. Failure to provide light soon enough will cause seedlings to bolt in search of a light source. Ensure roots are never exposed to the light as this will cause damage and death to the roots and delay plant growth.


Once true leaves appear and roots are showing through the bottom of the starter cubes usually around 10 - 14 days, seedlings are ready to be transplanted to their hydroponic garden. There are several different hydroponic methods used for cultivating tomatoes indoors. Space restrictions, type of tomato and plant size all have to be considered when choosing a system.


The most common method employed for large plants is the drip irrigation system. In this fully automated, re-circulating system nutrient solution is pumped from a reservoir, fed to the plants through drip emitters and allowed to drain back to the reservoir by gravity. In order to create gravity flow the grow unit must be placed higher than the nutrient reservoir. The nutrient is continuously circulated during light-on hours. For the home hobbyist we recommend using the expando system. This consists of an individual pot for each plant, linked to the nutrient reservoir by 1/2" tubing. Heydite, small, reusable porous rocks, are used as the growing medium providing excellent aeration to the roots. The 1 inch cube containing the seedling is transplanted directly into the pot and covered with heydite. The constant feeding allows the root system to develop in minimum space resulting in higher yields.


Drip irrigation can also be done with rockwool, a technique favoured by commercial growers. The starter cube and seedling are placed in the pre made hole of a 3 or 4 inch rockwool cube which is placed on slabs of rockwool in a trough. The roots will grow down through the cubes and into the slabs. The troughs should be slightly wider than the slabs to allow room for the nutrient solution to drain back to the reservoir. Tomato plants should be spaced about 10 to 12 inches apart or 4 plants per slab.


With both techniques the size of reservoir and pump will be determined by the number of plants. Irrigation will need adjusting as the plants grow, allow for four liters of nutrient solution per day for mature plants, smaller seedlings will consume less. The nutrient reservoir should be changed once a week. Choose a pump with a high enough gallons per hour rating to adequately reach the plants farthest from the reservoir. Emitters can become clogged with salts from the nutrient solution and should be watched closely and cleaned when necessary.


Ebb and flow or flood and drain tables are another excellent method used for cultivating tomatoes. Tables range in size from 1' X 2' to 4' X 8' and can accommodate many plants in a small area. For cherry tomatoes or smaller determinate varieties deep water culture may be used. Complete hydroponic gardens sold as kits are usually deep water culture and available in many shapes and sizes and are excellent for the novice hydroponic gardener.


No matter what technique you choose there are several growth influencing factors (GIFs) to consider. The most important GIF is light. Artificial metal halide light can simulate full summer sunlight when daylight is at it longest. At maturity tomato plants require a 16-18 hour photo-period to ensure maximum fruit production and an 8 hour respiration period of total darkness. Gradually introduce your plants to higher light levels by moving the bulb closer to the plants by an inch or two every few days.


pH is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of the nutrient solution and is another very important GIF. If pH levels are not maintained at the appropriate level (pH 5.8 - 6.3 for tomatoes) nutrient deficiencies and toxicity will occur. Even seemingly small fluctuations in pH levels can result in inferior nutrient uptake by the plant. pH will need to be adjusted up or down based on the original reading of your water source. Potassium hydroxide will raise pH while phosphoric acid will decrease pH levels. Both products are available at your local hydroponic retail store. pH can be influenced by other factors and must be monitored regularly and adjusted as necessary.


Electrical conductivity (EC), measured in milliMhos, is the measure of electrical conductance of the total dissolved solutes (minerals) in the solution. The optimum EC range for tomatoes is 2.0 to 3.5 milliMhos. While EC measures the total dissolved minerals in a solution it does not identify the amounts of specific elements present. Therefore, it is easier to achieve the ideal EC using premixed 2-part hydroponic nutrient formulations than attempting to create your own formula using individual components.


Temperature is also an important GIF however, it is quite easily controlled. Tomatoes, like most plants grow best with a day/night temperature differential based on light or daytime perception. When there is light the plant considers it daytime and the temperature should be adjusted accordingly. The ideal daytime temperature for mature tomato plants bearing fruit is 18 - 25oC and nighttime is 12 - 18oC. An independent thermostat should be placed among your plants to ensure temperature regulation. An exhaust fan will help control temperature and provide air exchange.


Plant nutrition is the basis for hydroponics and holds the key to the nutritional quality of your tomatoes. There are a wealth of pre-mixed nutrients available, however when determining which nutrient to use, look for a product that is especially formulated for hydroponic use. A 2-part formula will eliminate binding, solidification and waste of mineral elements, which occurs with ordinary 1-part plant foods.


Close observation of any changes are critical when growing hydroponic tomatoes. Early diagnosis and adjustment of nutritional disorders is crucial as they rapidly increase in severity and spread quickly.


Check the colour of the leaves; yellow leaves may indicate that the nutrient solution isn't strong enough or pH is too high, locking out nitrogen - leach and change the solution.

Leaf tips curl up or red stem may indicate a magnesium deficiency caused by too low a pH - leach and change solution

Leaf tips curling under may mean the nutrient level is too high - add pH 6.0 water

A potassium deficiency my cause flowers to fall off before setting fruit - leach and change solution.

Blossom-end-rot caused by too much water puddling in the root zone will create a calcium deficiency - leach and foliar spray with a calcium nitrate solution.

Leaching should be done at every reservoir change to avoid encountering problems. This will rid the growing medium and root zone of toxic salt build up. To leach, rinse the root zone with straight pH balanced water. Use twice as much liquid as the hydroponic container would have held when empty.


These are some basic nutritional disorders however, they are easily avoided by using a good 2-part fertilizer, maintaining a correct pH and changing your solution regularly.


Tomatoes are pollinated outdoors by the wind, bees and other insects which carry the male pollen to the female part of the flower (stigma.) Indoors pollination must be performed manually by the grower. This can easily be accomplished using a small paint brush or q-tip to transfer the pollen. Simply dab the brush or q-tip on the stigma of each flower. This is best done daily over a period of several days when the flowers indicate their readiness to receive fertilization by bending their petals back and exposing the stigma.


Tomato plants are quite brittle and require gentle handling when pruning and staking. Use plastic twine or a plant yo-yo to encourage and support vertical growth and bear the weight of the fruit. Removing side shoots and suckers that grow between the main stem and leaf stems will further help train with vertical growth and eliminate unnecessary distribution of nutrients. Suckers should be gently broken off at their base by hand. Avoid the use of knives or scissors which can transfer diseases from plant to plant. As plants begin to produce fruit the bottom leaves will start to yellow and dry out. Remove these leaves at the main stem of the plant to allow air flow and to prevent disease and infection.


A little bit of knowledge and patience will produce infinite rewards in hydroponic gardening. That first bite of juicy August tomato in the middle of January will be your stepping stone to a culinary adventure. Harvest all of summer's pleasures indoors year round hydroponically, the homegrown way.

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Research up on it, start checking out, and receiving free catalogs from the plants/seeds catalogs.


Sweet corn isn't hard to grow, but it takes a high nitrogen fertilzer.


But, on other things, high nitrogen is not good, it creates more plant above ground than

it will help below ground crops.


You can lime a garden to get it less acidic. You can use compost like decayed lawn clippings to increase the acid level.


Our friends can have gardens in our 1/2 garden. Lots of work to do next spring. We may grow our own oats for oatmeal,

wheat for flour (both can also be cutstemmed and baled as straw). My brotherinlaw has about 100 chickens...


We'll sell some firewood... our friends won't go hungry. And we'll increase our tomato plants to about 250.


...gave too many away our first season to sell very many ... LOL


The farmer across the way wants to get cattle again. Now, if I could just talk the wonderful cute Wife into trying fried rabbit and groudhog... LOL


I need wild turkey and pheasants now. Have plenty of squirrel.


...wonder how I can extract the soybean wax from the soybeans - it makes superior candles. Those sell like crazy.

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I heard that too.


During the depression, farmers way out in the country didn't feel any effect at all from the depression. They had

their own fruit and vegetables and chickens and cattle and milk and some had maple syrup and fresh water and

did their own preserving.


Read up on canning. If hell freezes over and a second, much worse depression hits (given the population now), knowing

how to preserve food SAFELY will be a good thing.


Man, having our canned tomatoes in the winter is awesome. Frozen apples (ya have to blanch them in boiling water) from

the freezer are priceless.


Politically, it is coming down to a national "Ant and the Grasshoppers" situation, possiby, because of what Obama has said

and represents, so far.


That is scary.

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So many dont know how to Hunt, Fish or Plant a seed now days. What have we taught our young?


there is approx. only 3 weeks supply of food in any one city that is what lies on the shelf. if something would happen that would stop the flow, say a major terrorist attack that Borat Obama has been warned about there would be many left without. Just look at New Orleans when Katrina hit!

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Well, the farmer down the way cut down several big pine trees, and gave me all the wood I'd like to have.


We'll use the branches to create wildlife areas in the woods to have more rabbits.. etc, protected from the foxes.


I want to make maple syrup in the spring.


And our garden is going to be a total 1/2, not including sweet corn.


Thinking to grow an acre of beans that are dried and stored, like pinto beans, navy beans, and cranberry beans, the latter

I have never tried, but they are supposed to be excellent.


we can dehydrate them if needed, to bag and sell at the farmer's market, too.


Big plans. well over 200 tomato plants. Also plan to grow hay to trade to the farmer for beef, or for $$.


This farming thing is exciting.





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we have freeze warnings, so I went out and covered all of my young palm tree seedlings!


Im getting ready to build a small greenhouse so i can put all my seedlings in there thru the winter,



I will also start up some vegetables in there. what do you think about a uv light so the veggies will be able to produce.


any suggestions

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I've never fully grown tomatoes indoors...


it isn't a UV light. It's a grow light. A florescent bulb with the design of replicating sunlight.


I'd still try to get them plenty of genuine sunlight, especially the first 4 weeks, otherwise, your plants

will end up tall, thin, and poorly rooted.


A greenhouse is a great investment, I bought us a new one this summer, we are going

to grow our own 250 tomatoe plants, etc.


Started a small orchard of eight trees, but that was before we discovered an old orchard back

in the 14 acre woods. Three different types of apples, some are bigger than baseballs.


Some are the banana apples... amazing. We are going to trim those trees this winter.


I can't wait to get a very good metal detector - the old farmer says that there used to be

the remnants of a cabin out there in the woods when he was a kid. I'd like to check it out.


Also have to learn how to take cuttings off our blueberry bushes to grow other blueberry bushes...


so much fun, working on it.


Growing a vagetable garden is going to be huge, if fuel prices skyrocket again because of the lib

Dems forbidding developing our own oil resources. We'll be even worse at the mercy of the

oil cartel.


OTH, in four years, the pendulum will swing way, way back the other direction, politically.


Learning to garden is a huge skill to have in a depression.


I think I'd like to eventually have a Henry rifle - made in the USA. Other farmers are figuring

that they could have their resources eyed, theftwise, if there is a very bad depression...


BTW, next spring? groundhog makes great chicken. Really.

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Started a small orchard of eight trees, but that was before we discovered an old orchard back

in the 14 acre woods. Three different types of apples, some are bigger than baseballs.


Some are the banana apples... amazing. We are going to trim those trees this winter.



sounds like a great place to put out a salt block and also get a good ladder stand for hunting deer!

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I'm complaining - you guys are messing up my great farming thread.


Only a farm kid! There isn't any thing like country logic. When you're from the country you look at things a little differently.

A farmer got in his pickup and drove to a neighboring ranch and knocked at the door. A young boy, about 9, opened the door.

'Is yer Dad home?' the rancher asked. 'No sir, he ain't,' the boy replied. 'He went into town.' 'Well,' said the farmer, 'Is yer Mom here?'

'No, sir, she ain't here neither. She went into town with Dad.' 'How about your brother, Howard? Is he here?' 'He went with Mom and Dad.'


The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one foot to the other and mumbling to himself. 'Is th ere anything I can do fer ya?' the boy asked politely.

'I know where all the tools are, if you want to borry one. Or maybe I could take a message fer Dad.' 'Well,' said the farmer uncomfortably,

'I really wanted to talk to yer Dad. It's about your brother Howard getting my daughter, Pearly Mae, pregnant.' The boy considered for a moment.


'You would have to talk to Pa about that,' > he finally conceded. 'If it helps you any, I know that Pa charges $500 for the bull and $50 for the hog,

but I really don't know how much he gets fer Howard.'

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