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Heirlooms, containers, trying to move outside to my roof??

holy wow, anybody feel like helping a noob? Pretty please!?!?!

So here's the sequence I started to get you up to speed:

Started heirlooms in jiffys under aerogarden grow lights (great results)
~3-4 weeks later moved to 5" planters with "bumper crop" potting mix underneath a 400W MH grow light.

Initially had decent results (growth, color looked good), but after about a week and a half in their new bed the lower set of leaves started wilting (not referring to the first cotyledons).

At that point I started using miracle grow once a week, which hasn't done much of anything.

Right now the plants are about 6-8" tall. Almost all plants are very very leggy, and they still have dying lower leaves (tops of the plants look good but have lost the deep dark green they had a few weeks back).

I want to move them to full sized grow bags i bought off of amazon and move them to my roof because I think the big issue is the grow light. I live in an apartment in chicago and I don't have many other legit options for full sun exposure. I know it sounds like I might be using a good grow light, but I feel like the legginess and lack of deep foliage might be because of the light (and to a lesser extent the lack of space for root growth).

My biggest concern with moving the plants to my roof is the heat that the surface will create. I want to put particle board down on the roof and then place the grow bags on top.

Can anyone help guide me on this experiment here? I've hit a wall, and I don't want to risk my plants on the roof if there's another way around this. Either way, I'll basically run out of room on my grow shelves in the next week or so if I leave the plants as is.

Any help is so so so so much appreciated. Thank you in advance!!!!

One of my sad leggy plants:

[img]https://i1138.photobucket.com/albums/n527/border_/DSC01960.jpg[img][/img]

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Kisal
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Stop the fertilizer. Stressed plants cannot use it, and it just compounds the problems.

Your lights should be fluorescent and about 2" above the tops of the plants. As the plants leaf out, it's sometimes necessary to add supplemental light from the side, because the leafy tops shade the bottom leaves. Without light, the leaves will turn yellow and eventually drop off.

Your plants aren't suffering from cramped roots yet, but you can move them to grow bags if you want. However, if you move the plants outside into full sun, they will probably get sunburned and die. You should harden them off by taking them outside for a few hours each day. The first few days, keep them in full shade, then each day, expose them to more sunlight. By the end of a week to 10 days, they should be okay in full sun all day. Lugging around planted grow bags is probably not something appealing to you -- it sure isn't to me -- so I suggest that you keep them in the pots they're in while you harden them off, i.e. get them used to being in outdoor sunlight. Put the pots in some kind of container ... personally, I buy cheap cat boxes for this purpose :lol: ... so you can carry 4 or 6 of them at a time. Saves on having to make too many jaunts to the roof. ;)

Once your plants are hardened off, take your grow bags to the roof and transplant your plants into them. :)

And welcome aboard! It's nice to have you with us! :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

cynthia_h
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Wet soil can weigh quite a bit. Do you know whether the apartment building roof will sustain fully wet grow bags? I don't know how many are involved, but the ones I've seen hold something like 10 to 15 gallons of soil. I have to get to work so I don't have time to do the math (density of soil, weight of water, etc.), but we're talking some serious weight here.

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rainbowgardener
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All good advice and it does sound like your tomatoes aren't getting enough light. But is there any middle ground between indoors and roof top? The roof top is certainly possible, but it can be a pretty challenging environment. Very hot, with heat reflected up from the roof as well as down, very dry, very windy. Can be done, but you will need to take very good care of your plants and keep them well watered. Tomatoes in containers on a roof top will likely need to be watered twice a day through the summer.
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applestar
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All great advice.

I'm just going to focus on "bumpers crop" you mentioned since I like using them. If you planted in "Master Gardeners Bumper Crop Soil Amendment" and not "Master Gardeners Gardeners Gold Organic Potting Soil" then that's part of your problem. Bumper Crop is a mixture of compost and humus --great organic materials to mix into your garden soil or use as mulch, but doesn't contain the essential ingredients to grow plants by itself.

How do I know this? -- because I had a disastrous time with it when I tried mixing it half and half with sand for uppotting some of my seedlings last year. :oops: :wink: I thought it could substitute for my home made compost, which I have used successfully as described, but I believe my compost almost always contains a certain amount of soil.

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[img]https://i1138.photobucket.com/albums/n527/border_/DSC01960.jpg[/img]

DoubleDogFarm
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Looks like all mentioned above. Not enough light, to much fert and maybe overly rich water retaining soil.

Eric

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Wow. Thank you all for the advice. Let me focus on three different items here:

The light:
I'm really surprised that the general consensus is that they aren't getting enough light. That 400W grow bulb is a MH beast, and it's on for about 10 hours every day directly above the maters. How could a flour light be more effective (other than offering better heat properties)???

The soil:
I bought the bumper crop from a local nursery based on the advice of a very very old man who's been gardening for about 60+ years. He said the nursery actually took an heirloom seedling, ripped a new bag of the bumper open, and just plopped the seedling right on the soil and let it grow all summer long with great results. I asked him if i would need supplemental nutes or amendments and he responded with a resounding no. I'm new at this, so not sure if I'm off, but I do feel like the soil retains too much water when I compare it to my starting mix.

The roof:
This is really my only legit option for full sun exposure. The backyard is extremely small, and its north facing. I didn't feel like amount of sunlight would be enough to produce fruit. The pro is definitely the ground temp which is much much much cooler than what the roof will reach during the really hot days. Like I said in my initial post, the biggest concern for the roof isn't even windy conditions (heck i live in the windy city here!!) it's really the heat that will come off of the roofing. I thought placing a thin sheet of particle board between the roof and the grow bags would negate this. Any thoughts?

Thank you so much again for all of your time!!

Bobberman
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I think the black plastic will really get hot. The flake board will help but you have to do something with the black plastic or they will cook! Tape some white cloth or some reflective surface to the plastic boxes!
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applestar
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ripped a new bag of the bumper open, and just plopped the seedling right on the soil and let it grow all summer long with great results
Did he mean they grew the plant in bumper crop alone, or did he mean the opened bag or the CONTENTS of the bag was on top of the ground soil?

He may simply have been amazed that they didn't have to till the product into the soil for one thing. No other ground prep was necessary, etc. (Sheet Mulching 8)) If the ripped bag was on the ground, the tomato roots probably found the soil underneath.

The manufacturer is careful to describe the product as soil amendment and conditioner, not meant to be used by itself. I did find that detail somewhere on the bag AFTER the fact.
Mfrs. Website: https://www.coastofmaine.com/mn-bumpercrop.shtml

I don't know about the particleboard. The ENTIRE roof area would be hot, presumably, so covering just the area the plants are may not help much in the end. Also, now we're talking 100% full sun, right? You may need to do what the southern gardeners do and provide mid day or afternoon shade when the sun's rays are strongest.

I read an article once somewhere in which a southern gardener was describing how they build insulated sleeve covers for their container plants. I think they were footed to raise off the ground for air circulation with slatted bottom for good drainage and had double-walls with exterior wall insulation board sandwiched in-between. painted white on the outside. I have no idea if such things are common practice or that it would work. To my knowledge, no one has mentioned it here.

Most people talk about using tree or structural shade and having to water often with automated drip irrigation being the best choice, but I think someone recently mentioned using empty soda bottles filled, turned upside down, and plunged in the soil for supplemental moisture. BEWARE though that I have heard mentioned that the water-filled bottles can, on rare occasions, cause freak fire hazards due to the lens effect.

Also, without previously being designed, roofs are not always meant to take the extra weight, althoug it just occurred to me that in Chicago, you may get sufficient snow cover on the roofs for them to be engineered to take extra weight -- and moisture levels. Too bad you can't just build a green roof....
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15211

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Nice link to the green roofs. I'll be dreaming of one of those for the next 5 years :)

As for the soil, I'm pretty sure he meant he just opened the bag and grew a plant out of it... He was a pretty old man, so maybe he forgot to mention the fact that you also need stuff like vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum. Which I think might be my main issue.

Applestar, do you think those would be appropriate items to add? Something different? What ratios with the bumper crop? I haven't completely messed up yet, as I've been taking baby hardening steps and I still need to move the plants over to their final homes (grow bags). I might try and split up my crop between the roof, the backyard, and indoors under lights to see which performs better.

I think you're right though about the heat factor. Unless I get ridiculous with shading, I may not be able to get around the heat situation.

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