Stov54
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Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:35 pm
Location: IL, USA

Tomato, Jalapeno & Lettuce in SWC:Overwatered or underfe

Hi all,

I just recently decided to jump into growing a few edible plants on the balcony in my apartment. I built two fairly large self watering containers on the balcony, one of which contains mixed varieties of lettuce and the second, a 5 gal bucket, hosts two tomato seedlings and two jalapeno seedlings.

Lettuce container:
[img]https://img195.imageshack.us/img195/613/lettucecontainer.jpg[/img]

Tomato and Jalapeno container:
[img]https://img291.imageshack.us/img291/5941/tomatoandjalapenocontai.jpg[/img]

I used potting soil in all planters.

All plants have been in this setup for about two month, the lettuce is growing slowly and I'm starting to see a few tomatoes as well one solitary jalapeno appear between the four seedlings that I bought originally.

I'm a little concerned that I'm doing something wrong, however, and was hoping that the community here could help out.

1. Tomato plants

One tomato plant is not producing any fruit and both have a few leaves that are yellowing/drying out towards the edges. From the reading I've done online this could be due to overwatering or a deficiency in magnesium or calcium. Not sure if it's possible to identify the problem through the leaves but there's some images in the link below to help out.

[img]https://img535.imageshack.us/img535/1536/tomatoleaf.jpg[/img]

[img]https://img337.imageshack.us/img337/5369/tomatoleafii.jpg[/img]

[img]https://img23.imageshack.us/img23/5073/tomatoleafiii.jpg[/img]

2. Jalapeno plants

There is one jalapeno currently visible but there were far more flowers on the plant than this. A second jalapeno had actually started growing but has now stunted.

Again, overwatering? Under? Not enough food?

[img]https://img13.imageshack.us/img13/2700/jalapenoi.jpg[/img]

[img]https://img443.imageshack.us/img443/4005/jalapenoii.jpg[/img]

3. Lettuce

The lettuce is coming in fairly well but the leaves are showing areas of white spots that don't look right. The lettuce is in a totally separate container but used essentially the same soil.

[img]https://img14.imageshack.us/img14/496/lettuceleaves.jpg[/img]

[img]https://img641.imageshack.us/img641/7097/lettuceleavesii.jpg[/img]

I water these containers from the top with a 1/2 gal of water every three to four days and they obviously have the water reservoir at the bottom of the self watering containers also.

I have not put tarpaulin over the top of the self watering containers as the instructions state to do so I water from the top to keep the top of the soil dry. Is this too much? My next step is to put tarp on the tomato/jalapeno container to see if that helps. The lettuce, which I grew from seeds, is still a bit small to do this, however.

I've not put any fertilizer/plant food in either container since I read that it would need to be fairly specialised to work in a self watering container.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated since it's hard to correct whatever it is I'm doing wrong when I don't know what that might be :/

In case you have trouble seeing the images linked above, here's a link to the gallery of all the images:

https://img195.imageshack.us/gal.php?g=lettucecontainer.jpg

Thanks in advance!
Chris

DoubleDogFarm
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Posts: 6113
Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:43 am

I really like the lettuce setup.

Are you telling use that there are 4 plants in the 5 gallon bucket :?: IMO, this is 3 to many. I'm thinking you have a root bound and root competition problem. It's hard enough to grow one of these plants in a 5 gallon bucket. You can try liquid fish and or kelp fertilizer.

Eric

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engineeredgarden
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Posts: 426
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 3:51 pm
Location: NW Alabama

stov - I have 20 swc's on the property that are growing tomatoes, watermelons, corn, and cucumbers. Your problem is too much water....The secret to healthy plants is:

1. The drainage characteristics of the growing medium within
2. The amount of water allowed to enter the wicking basket

What does your growing medium consist of, and in what percentages?

EG

Stov54
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Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:35 pm
Location: IL, USA

Thanks for your replies. I plan on moving out the jalapeno plants to another container altogether this weekend to alleviate some of the crowding. I'll also swing by a nursery to try for some liquid fish or kelp.

I took another look at the water reservoir of the 5 gal bucket and boy was I surprised. Turns out the roots of these plants had gone through the aeration holes in the bottom of the bucket and were reaching to the very bottom of the reservoir itself! There were tendrils literally out of every aeration hole reaching almost to the bottom. Given that I had kept the reservoir mostly full this whole time I'm surprised these plants survived at all.

I'm curious about your second point EG. I have a PVC pipe acting as my wicking "basket" though it's more of a pipe :)

Is this too much? Should the basket be shallower? How do you control the amount of water allowed to enter the wicking basket? Simply by keeping the level in the reservoir fairly low?

As for my growing medium, it's simple potting soil. I took a quick look to try and get ratios from it but didn't see anything jumping out at me.

Thanks again and hopefully these guys recover!

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engineeredgarden
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Posts: 426
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 3:51 pm
Location: NW Alabama

stov - potting soil is not recommended for a swc. Potting mix is much better, but perlite needs to be added to it to increase drainage/reduce wicking characteristics.
*On the wicking basket, you just need to supply enough effective area for water to enter the soil mass in the basket, so that enough water can wick to the plant roots - nothing more. There are several ways to accomplish this, and for the record - I use a single 1/8" hole drilled into the bottom of a yogurt cup when using a 5 gallon bucket swc.

Saying this, the drainage characteristics of the growing medium is the key....

EG

Stov54
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Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:35 pm
Location: IL, USA

Cheers for the reply EG. I jumped on your blog for a little while and read through your instructional posts on building SWCs which were helpful.

I'm likely to replant the jalapenos in the lettuce SWC (I'm not holding out much hope for that lettuce) and line the bottoms of each with gardening fabric as well as plugging up the overtly open wicking chambers I've got going on.

You keep mentioning drainage characteristics. Do you have a recommended resource where I could read up a bit more about this? Alternatively, with cherry tomatoes and jalapenos should the soil drain quickly/slowly/need additives?

Thanks again for the help.

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engineeredgarden
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Posts: 426
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 3:51 pm
Location: NW Alabama

Stov54 - different varieties of plants react differently in a swc that has a certain percentage of moisture content in the soil. For instance, corn does really well in nothing but potting mix, but tomatoes are a completely different story. Tomatoes and peppers are the most picky about soil moisture content, and it's mandatory to grow them in a mix that has really good drainage. The reason I am so adamant about drainage, is because it's the key to maintaining green foliage throughout the entire growing season from the bottom to the top of the plant.
Ever seen a small tomato planting in someone's backyard that has all of the foliage dried up, and has only tomatoes left? This is due to the gardener's soil characteristics. For the record, I have brandywine tomato plants right now that are 9 feet 3 inches tall, and have not lost one single leaf (other than a few that were affected by a disease early in the season)

You're gonna want to introduce something that will increase air space in your mix - and perlite is excellent at achieving this.
For the record, I mix my growing medium form components puchased in bulk, and am using 6 parts peat moss, 3 parts perlite, and 1 part vermiculite for this year. Even though it's performing quite well, i'll probably go with a 60/40 mix of peat/perlite for next season.

EG

garden5
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Posts: 3062
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:40 pm
Location: ohio

If your potting soil is sterile, there very well could be a nutrient deficiency present. I like the idea of adding some fish emulsion.
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