BobbyDigital
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Tomato feeding schedule

Hi,Im looking to get serious with the tomato growing.I recently purchased a variety of some very interesting heirloom strains.I want to do this real nice and proper... So if I could get some help/advise from one of you pros that would be great.

First of all I would like to figure out a good feeding schedule.I plan on growing in a soilless mix (promix HP) and feeding with a 2 part (grow and bloom) organic tea.The grow formula is 1.50-0.75-1.50 and the bloom formula is .50-1.50-2.0

Im guessing that the strength of feeding depends of the strain,correct?

This is my first time really growing tomatoes so forgive all the newbie questions i may have.

Should i slowly incease the ppm of my nutrient solution weekly,reaching the peak in the middle of flower and then slowly drecrease? Should i give the plants plain water for the last 2 weeks to flush out accumulated nutrients?

Thanks in advance,these forums look great,glad to be aboard!

opabinia51
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Hi Bob,

Withrespect to the strength of your fertilizer; it doesn't really matter what the strength is per strain but, you would vary the amount of fertilizer that you give a plant based on it's size.

When the plants are small or if you are growing a particular strain that is denoted as being small; then apply less fertilizer.

I would recommend not using a soilless mix because of the fact that organic, non sterilized soils contain a plethora of macro and micronutrients that allow your plants to grow and produce wonderful, tasty fruit.

If you simply use a fertilizer with no soil, your fruit will not be as flavourful as fruit that are grown in soil (with organic fertilizer as soil ammendments) and the plants will also not grow as well with less aggregated tissues that will result in the plants being more susceptible to disease.

I must say that I am not a proponent of this sort of plant rearing.

If you really and truly want to grow your tomatoes Hydroponically (and that is what it sounds like you want to do) (and I don't recommend it) I would recommend finding a site on hydroponics.

Another note about hydroponics: It is very easy for your system to get contaminated and once it does, everything is ruined. You have to start from scratch.

Much, much, much easier to grow in soil.

BobbyDigital
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Well I totally agree with you about the soil vs. hydroponics...You do realize im talking about a peat /perlite mix don't you? Ive had great success with all types of plants in this medium.It has the wonderful qualities of soil such as ease,forgiveness,root buffer/insulation and still allow great control of what excactly your plants take up.

When i said soilless mix you must have thought i meant hydroton rocks or something right? Ive never heard anyone argue that a mix such as 70%peat 30% perlite produced inferior tasting/smelling fruit.

I agree that you can NEVER get the same quality fruit from hydroponics as you can from soil.Hydroponics is a ridiculous marketing scheme.The biggest factor to tastey fruit is that you have a good full %100 organic feeding regimen.The amino profile of the organics acts on the fatty acids in the plant and its just a reaction that can not be achieved with synthetics.Also I think one reason soil/soilless gives better tasting smelling fruit is because it tends to have dryer periods between waterings which causes the plant to draw from its carbohydrate supply and turn water in oils. Really the only difference between a soilless peat mix and whatever soil you use is the fact that with the peat mix you have much more control over what exactly is available for the plants to eat.I like the idea of a mix with guanos n such but i just hate the idea of not knowing exactly what is in there for the plants to eat.

opabinia51
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Actually, Peat (if you mean peat moss) contains few nutrients compared to soil. Perlite actually contains no nutrients and is just added to growing mediums to play with the water holding capacity.

Your described method is more sound than that of hydroponics but, using an natural soil (with compost) will provide more nutrients and especially trace elements for your plants and your tomatoes will taste and smell that much better. (Trust me, I have a lot of experience in this)

Oh and technically speaking: Peat would be considered a soil. That is why I thought you meant hydroponics.

The only thing I actually use to use peat for (and cocoa hulls are much better because they contain more nutrients that peat and they are a bi-product of the chocolate industry as apposed to peat which, is harvested from peat bogs) is as an ammendment for my compost pile.

The Helpful Gardener
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Okay Bobby, let me be the first to tell you that peat/perlite mix is inferior to a balanced organically based soil medium (and technically speaking it is a soiless mix, Opa. Peat is a component, not a soil).

Eventually you will begin to develop some strains of micorrhizal fungii in your "soiless" mix, and it will become soil, but why would you want to put your plants at a disadvantage? Miccorhizae help develop roots, but some strains even take the place of roots early on, helping with air, nutrient, or water uptake in younger plants. You can keep fertility in the soil with chemical fertilizers, but now you've gone back to a soiless mix because you killed the micorhizae with the salts those fertilizers are based on (ask the Carthaginians what salt does to long term soil fertility. Or the Dustbowl Okies.) You have now also limited nutrients to what you provide and you are the arbiter of uptake for micronutrients and other trace elements; plants can't decide how much, they just take whatever is there and I answer SO many questions where people are burning plants with nitrogen or getting deformations due to oversupplying trace elements.

I did not fertilize my tomatoes once last year. No one on the block had bigger plants or fruit, and when the weather got hot and dry and others plants strarted to stress and look crappy (and stop setting fruit), mine kept going strong. I worked my own compost (Cost=sweat) into the soil when I planted and topdressed twice with the same (combatting weeds at the same time) I just hauled the plants out last weekend with the neighbor (chemical fertilizer/rototiller and three times the plants I had with about as many tomatoes as I had) looking over the fence and he was stunned at the root masses; while he hauled his out single handed with no effort, I had to use both hands and really strain, even used the shovel for the 'Matt's Wild Cherry'.

The way you think of hydroponics is exactly how we feel about chemical fertilization. Organic grows bigger healthier plants, period. I work in the nursery trade and have access to all the fetilizer I could carry; slow release temperature controlled, micronutrients, you name it. I have grown that way before; for years actually. Had pretty good plants and fruit, but always struggled during hot, dry weather, and that organic composting stuff seemed like too much work...And those assays on organic fertilizers are so low...(Silly comparison as the chemical stuff is really only available until it washes away, and as there are no miccorhizae to help uptake, that happens as soon as you water)
Try it. Just try it for a season. I have studied and done the reasearch; look yourself. You are getting better food, healthier soil and there really isn't more work because as you work the soil, it gets better every year. Just keeps getting better. The results I got this year (first year in a new garden) are nothing; I'm going to start blowing minds in my neighborhood next year. Meanwhile I'm not polluting our water supply with nitrates, (they're ALWAYS water-soluable, so they wash out of the soil as soon as you water) the plants are healthier (I didn't spray those mater's once) so I'm not killing anything with the 'cides and the quality of my food is better (natural ingredients make natural food). AND it's cheaper (to an old swamp Yankee like me, that's good stuff)

Long story short; there is a better way. Go organic...

The Helpful Gardener

BobbyDigital
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well im all about natural...you wanna give me your soil recipe? I know alot of old schoolers don't like to give away their secret mix.Tell me what you use... So you don't fertilize at all ey? hmmm....

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I didn't jump in sooner because I felt at first this topic was over my head. I don't know much about hydroponics, and thanks to Opa and Val I am learning more about WHY my compost is so much more superior to commercial fertilizers. I've always preferred the organic - I have a husband that isn't completely convinced yet tho.

Maybe this spring he and I should have a competition - his fertlizer & chemicals vs my organic compost!

Anyway, back on topic - you know those little peat pods the stores sell by the truckload during the early spring? I used those at first for starting my plants - but one year I ran out of the pods and had to use something else to start the rest of my seeds. Necessity being the mother of invention, I took the eggs out of their container, tossed some dirt from my compost heap in there... and the seedlings that came from my compost were greener, stronger, and withstood being transferred to the garden a whole lot better.

Later I learned that peat has practially no nurtritional value whatsoever. And pearlite - it just loosens the soil. Nothing in that either.

I have no science to my compost heap really. I know what leaves are in there, and there's a list of the NPK values under Organic Gardening on this site for the various leaves (and other goodies) out there.

What I really want is some chicken manure. Haven't found a source around here yet!

I also keep all the fruit/veggie scraps from my kitchen. I go through a LOT of eggs (lots of baking, plus I give my dogs eggs every couple of days) so I crush up the shells and scatter them around a plant that appears to need a nitrogen boost. Otherwise I have the kitchen scraps in a smaller bin, separate from the leaves. I call that my "black gold" when it is done.

opabinia51
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I guess the industry term: of Soil less mix is peat with perlite but technically speaking peat is a soil. Just a soil that is composed of one component.

opabinia51
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Oh and soil recipes are really quite simple. If you don't have a readily available source of compost, no matter. Start a compost pile for next year. Lots of information on that in here.

It's good to get a non sterilized potting soil (best to dig some out of the garden (I think)) and some well composted manure. Chicken is amazing for tomatoes. And if you have some (you can buy it at nurseries) some compost.

I just mix the three together and plant my tomatoes in that. Either directly in the ground or in pots.

I have also grown tomatoes in straight composted chicken manure and they did well in that as well. Though, I personally think that it is good to have a good balance of good stuff in your soil.

BobbyDigital
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I think you guys have some misconceptions about the peat mix.The fact that it has no nutritional value is actually why its so nice,that way you add all the nutrion when you water..and have complete control over what exactly is available to your plants through out its life.

All you use is manure,and never fertilize?

This 100% organic tea that i have and was planning to use on my tomatoes consists of blood meal,seabird guano,bat guano,shrimp meal,fish meal,sea kelp,crab meal,bone meal,canola meal, and citric acid.
I thought maybe i would add some carbs to that as well.How could that not be better than mixing some organic clays and foriegn matter together with some compost and have a faint idea what type of nutrion is available to your plants and how long it is available.I don't doubt you guys get good result with your methods and im all about natural but I dunno... maybe im just over complicating things(i tend to be a bit of a perfectionist).


Like i said i recently bought quite a variety of some very interesting heirlooms strains and i wanna bring them to their full potential.After hearing how you guy don't even fertilize its sounding better and better,the idea of using some type of enriched soil/time released formula or something vs. my way (which im sure would probally be better) but then i gotta mix up nutrient solutions constantly test my ppm and PH ect.
Id like to hear more about what exactly your guys' soil mixes consist of.

The Helpful Gardener
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Hey Bobby,

All my compost is is my grass clippings, my leaves (pine, red and planetree maple and some poplar) and the veggie waste from my kitchen (LOTS of coffee grounds as the missus is a java junkie). I have a hollow tree that affords me a steady supply of stump dirt (that crumbly soil-like stuff that comes out of hollow trees or logs): THAT'S as close as I come to a secret ingredient. The cocoa hulls that Opa talked about are a fantastic substitute that is fairly readily available; one of the best organic additives I know...

You have been brainwashed (we all have) to think in terms of nutrition additives for your garden and are getting obsessed with ingredients, where the REAL benefit here is developing live soil that helps your plants to take what they need. Organic culture helps to develop healthy soil, which in turn will give you healthy plants with a lot less work in the long run (and a LOT less expense). Sure we work a LITTLE harder to make good compost, but Mother Nature does all the hard work and we reap the benefits.

So let go and give the garden up to Mother Nature; she is a much better gardener than we have been led to believe, and no, we CAN'T do better than she does, not in the long run...

HG

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My ingredients for the compost consist of whatever I can get my hands on.

Coffee grounds from Starbucks, I'm a big tea drinker so I have lots of teabags, lots of eggshells, whatever kitchen waste there is, maple & poplar leaves, and parts of last year's garden.

Oak leaves go around established bushes and trees, especially those smaller water oak leaves. Cuts down on my weeding. :lol:

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Bobby, hit Opa's threads on the Organic forum; you can find NPK values for all sorts of compost items so you could figure out roughly what you are putting in...

Like I said, you won't be impressed with the NPK values because you have gotten used to providing EVERYTHING and in the American tradition of "More is better" we've come to assume the bigger numbers are better numbers. Just ain't so. Low numbers are just fine if the plant can always readily access the nutrients, which being carbon based, organic nutrition always is (try to dissolve a piece of charcoal; suspension yes, solution, no).

Scott

opabinia51
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Yes, I forgot to mention that I ferilize my tomatoes with liquid fish fertilizer one week and liquid seaweed fertilizer the next. Works really well. But, the essence of growing great tomatoes is the soil. And good soil starts with good compost.

BobbyDigital
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ive got access to some horse manure...Think horse manure and cow manure mixed with my peat/perlite would be good?

opabinia51
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Yes, that would be good. Of course, it would be better to add some compost. Don't forget to feed your tomatoes with liquid seaweed fertilizer and/or liquid fish fertilizer.

Also, when you plant the seedlings in their final pots add a handful of kelp meal to the hole before adding the seedling.

Kelp meal is an organic slow release fertilizer that will give your plants all the micronutrients they need to get started.

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EAsy with the manure. Needs to compost some itself or it will be hot (chemically burn with ammonia). Put it in the garden now for next season.

NOW you're talking. Add in the seaweed and fish emulsions once and a while, like Opa is talkiing about, and get that compost started (a little manure there will get things cooking fast) adn you are on your way. Can't wait to hear how you do with tomatoes next season, Bobby. I think you're gonna be suprised; I was...

HG

BobbyDigital
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so its gotta sit for a year!?! wow.. if its gunna take a year to make i wanna do it right.Could you guys give me a recipe like 1 part this 1 part that, 10% of this.. type of thing.I have a large amount of a peat/perlite mix that i would like to use a the base of my mix.

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It would be a big improvement, just be sure it's "finished"; i.e., composted enough to not be high ammonia/nitrite, as that can burn plants.

Frankly the peat thing is not that great for the garden or the environment. Sure it holds water; unless it dries out and then it EXCLUDES water until you get it rehydrated (hard to do when it's excluding water). It's a destructive mining process and a non-renewable source (Oh, sure it will renew...in a thouand or ten years!) AND it highly acidifies soil; while tomotes like a 6.2 to 6.5 ph fully peat soils like the one you were talking about can regularly get to 4.5, even 4.0!. Tomatoes don't like below 6.0; could be the basis of the problem that started this discussion. Plants can't access nutrition in soil that acidic, so it wouldn't matter HOW much you fed it or with what...

The kind of compost we are talking about addresses everything you are expecting peat to do, with none of the ugly side effects you didn't know about. If you are really liking that type of base for growing, coconut coir (the fiber from the husk) is becoming more available, has the consistency and characteristics of peat, and none of the down sides (it's a waste product, not mined and it's ph neutral). I'd still recommend the compost or manure to get a good biological culture going...

Scott

opabinia51
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Hi Bobby, you don't need to have 10% this, 70% that recipe.

But, seeing that is what you want:


5 Gallons non sterilized soil
2 Gallons manure (I like composted chicken manure or mushroom manure)
2 or 3 handfulls kelp meal
2 gallons compost (you can buy some or ask a neighbour)


That would be a great mix for your tomatoes. You can add perlite to if you wish. Also, instead of using Peat Moss I would recommend getting some mulched cocoa bean husks.
They have nutrients in them and absorb water like peat moss does. Furthermore, with peat; it is very hard to be sure that water has been absorbed by the peat and with cocoa husks; well, throw a block into a five gallon bucket, add water and just watch!

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