Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes

Growing your own hydroponic tomatoes, you can’t beat the taste of homegrown freshly picked tomatoes, the satisfaction you get from growing your own succulent ripe fresh fruits, so much better than the supermarket ones. Why do yours taste better? Because they are ripe when you pick them, unlike tomatoes commercial grown these are picked way before they are ready to increase the shelf life which allows for storage and transport to the supermarkets.Growing Hydroponic tomatoes once the domain of commercial growers and a few home growers pioneering this method of growing, not any longer we now have large commercial farms producing vast amounts of tomatoes around the world. This has led to an increasing number of home gardeners growing their tomatoes using hydroponics allowing you to enjoy homegrown fruits all year round even if you don’t have room outside. Start by deciding were you are going to grow them, in a greenhouse, outside or indoors and remember you can have staking, these will need supporting as they grow or bush which should be self supporting, now choose a verity of tomato to grow that suits your growing environment and system examples are cherry, beefsteak, etc.

Starting from seed.
The quickest and easiest way to start growing your tomatoes is to buy the plants; however you could also introduce diseases or pests from these plants. Growing your own plants from seed will eliminate this risk and is less expensive than buying plants, this will increase the total growing time by a couple of weeks, rockwool is a good medium to start your seeds in. Rockwool cubes are good for this, although other cubes can be used like peat, generally rockwool is considered superior with its firm structure, drains well allowing for good oxygenation. Soak the 1.5″ rockwool cubes well in water then place the seeds in them, place them on a tray and cover keep moist and warm, after 8-9 days lay the plants on their side for another 14 days many hydroponics experts recommend this to encourage a sturdier plant. Transplant to 3″ cubes that have been well watered after 2-2.5 weeks, make sure to space plants apart so their leaves don’t touch or overlap this should help stop your plants from going leggy. Only keep healthy seedlings and you will get healthy plants, healthy seedling should be as broad as it is tall, transplant to the final growing system at the end of another 2-3 weeks, always make sure your system has been well sterilized and the rockwool well soaked with hydroponic nutrient solution.

The System
What system you choose to use should be one you feel comfortable using and fits your budget, the two most commonly used are the drip system and the ebb and flow (flood and drain) system, popular mediums used for either system and favored by many growers are rockwool or course perlite. A timer to control the irrigation of the system should prevent over or under watering, remember perlite will need watering more often than the rockwool. Both of these systems are either recovery where the nutrient solution drains back to the reservoir or non-recovery which speaks for itself. The drip irrigation system uses a pump to supply the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the drip emitters with the drain off being returned to the reservoir. You should check the emitters regularly as they tend to get clogged, the PH level should be carefully monitored and kept between 6 and 6.3. Hydroponic Tomatoes are susceptible to stem and root rot so good drainage is essential with the flood and drain system the nutrient solution should be just high enough to wet the root ball this prevents the stem from getting over moist reducing the risk of stem rot whilst allowing sufficient moisture and nutrients to the roots. Always allow your plant’s room to grow, four square feet is recommended for each plant this will allow more light to reach the lower leaves. As mentioned earlier some verities of plants will need support this can be done in several ways by tying the plant to a stake, strings hanging down from an overhead support and attached near the base of the plant, the plant is then trained around the string as it grows or by caging, supporting the plants with mesh.

Pollination
To get “fruit set” when growing hydroponic tomatoes in a greenhouse or indoors, then they will need to be pollinated every day to encourage the formation of small fruit on the plants, this is best carried out late morning or early afternoon and is essential for tomato production. From planting the seed to the first picking of tomatoes is approximately 100days, when growing indoors it is advisable to do two plantings a year, as the plants from the first sowing start to age the size and quantity of tomatoes reduces. The second crop should be sown six weeks before the removal of the first crop, so you will have to try to estimate when that will be; by doing this it reduces the time between crops.

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