hydroguy
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Hydroponic Tomatoes

This project is going to be a learning curve for me, I want to say up front it's gonna be a 60 day project as I am not planning on running my AC to combate the heat from this grow. My goals are to learn how these plants eat (just how heavy a feeder is a tomato), how to train the vines to grow like the pics of greenhouse plants, how high a temperature can they stand, etc. I am wanting to give this system a trial run and if all goes well put it back into production this fall after the outdoor tomatos are finished.

My lack of planning for the outdoor starts gave me some plants to play with and since I had a system sitting idle I figured it was as good a time to experiment as any. These will be grown in the same chamber as I did the trial with the peppers back a few months ago and yes I do have an insect management plan in place this grow, a 30" x 30" x 6' tent DR80. Light is supplied from a 600watt HPS bulb. Difference for this grow is it will be an open bulb design where the bulb hangs down vertically in the middle of the tent. No reflector or glass or ducting just a bare bulb. Its a proven method if and only if there is adequate ventilation for the tent as HPS bulbs produce a lot of heat. Easily 50% more heat than a MH bulb. I'll ventilate the tent with a 4" Vortex fan which is rated around 150cfm's. What all those numbers mean is the air inside the tent will be exchanged every 15 seconds if my math is correct. There's enough negative pressure to pull the sides of the tent inwards.

The grow will be flood/drain utilizing the same system I had for the peppers except I re-designed the pots down from 9 to only 4. This is especially easy with the modular pots from an old Ebb & Grow unit. To my surprise 2 of the 4 plants placed in the system were started in STG and the other 2 in rockwool. This proves to me there is no difference in the 2 products after plants have germintated and are growing. It's only the germination part for the STG that is tricky.

My expectations for this grow are not about production but that would be nice, mainly I'm just wanting to learn a few things about how tomatos are grown hydroponically.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/0315111754-00.jpg[/img]

Day 1
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/0315111813-00.jpg[/img]

and the learning curve begins

hydroguy

hydroguy
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10 days into this trial and things are looking good. Have the first sets of blooms on all the plants and after some research here at HG in the mater section I figured out what they were talking about when they mentioned suckers. So off they came, yep a little late, but they are gone none the less. Second set of blooms is beginning to form already so i might just get a few toms out of this grow after all. Serious growth in 10 days but this system surprises me just how fast it grows things every time it's loaded.

10 days
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0326111600-00.jpg[/img]

Blooms with suckers attached
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0326111600-02.jpg[/img]

Suckers gone
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0326111641-00.jpg[/img]

Light just coming on, takes a good 10 minutes for it reach full strength
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0326111648-00.jpg[/img]

So far they aren't that heavy of a feeder, started off at 550ppm and its risen to 615 so I'm guessing the ideal concentration for this age a plant is close to 500 ppm. Next step is to get some support in there before the fruits form.

hydroguy

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Halfway
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That is a very efficient system. They should begin to really consume the nutes in the next couple weeks if they behave as the outdoor brothers do.

How do you plan on supporting these and what variety are they HG? My apologies if I missed it somewhere.
Zone 4a.

hydroguy
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Location: Midwest, USA

Halfway wrote:That is a very efficient system. They should begin to really consume the nutes in the next couple weeks if they behave as the outdoor brothers do.

How do you plan on supporting these and what variety are they HG? My apologies if I missed it somewhere.
Guess I forgot to mention the varieties Halfway. The 2 on the left are Heritage Hybrid and the 2 on the right are Better Boy Hybrid VFN, both from Burpee. You'll laugh at this one but I hate tomatos, wouldn't eat one for nothing so I'll have to get my neighbors to tate them if I ever harvest any.

Put together some spare parts and figured out a way to support the plants. I had some extra Yo-Yo's I use for hanging lights so figured that would be the easiest thing to do would be to support them from the ceiling of the tent. Took some tie-wire and bent it into a sorta hook then slipped a piece of air line tubing over that to protect the plant. Adjustable as the plants grow by just moving the hook around. Gotta love those Yo-Yo's. Anyways, pics show it much better than I can describe.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0328110753-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0328110809-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0328110809-01.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

hydroguy
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Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 11:02 am
Location: Midwest, USA

These plants are beginning to show their appetite. At 13 days I had to do a total resv. change. Leaves had begun to curl and small spots appearing on the lower leaves, signs to me that they were hungry for something. The PPM level in the resv. was holding fairly steady but they had consumed 20 gals of a 40 gal. resv. and were missing some nutrient.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0401111805-01.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0401111806-01.jpg[/img]

First groups of blooms are fading while the second set is open wide and the 3rd and now the 4th are forming at the tops. will be interesting to see if any fruit sets. Continueing to snip of the suckers even those regrowing from the lowest parts of the plants.

hydroguy

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applestar
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If you secure the bottom of that support wire to something, you can just wind the main stem around it as the plant grows. Not sure if you might need want a thicker wire/twine in that case considering the weight involved.

The plants look really healthy. :)

What will happen when they fill the space and overlapping leaves block the lower leaves? Maybe side- or up-lights?

hydroguy
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Location: Midwest, USA

applestar wrote:If you secure the bottom of that support wire to something, you can just wind the main stem around it as the plant grows. Not sure if you might need want a thicker wire/twine in that case considering the weight involved.

The plants look really healthy. :)

What will happen when they fill the space and overlapping leaves block the lower leaves? Maybe side- or up-lights?
The hangers are rated at 12lbs which is probably not enough, your right about that one but it's what I had laying around the grow room. The idea is to be able to lower the plants as they get older while support the new growth at the top. Image searched around some and I see the lower branches removed and the vine wrapped at the base. This idea probably isn't possible considering the limited space I have for growing.

Thanks for stopping by the thread. I looked close today and there are 2 little bitty maters I can see on the first set of flowers. Had a couple flowers fall off so polination is possible but not complete in the tent. That's one hurdle down many more to come LOL.

hydroguy

hydroguy
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day 32 of this project and theres fruit. Maybe a dozen or so most being on the Heritage which seems to pollinate better in this enviroment. The better boys are just no setting fruit after the first set of flowers fell off. Stems are way too thick which means to me the Nitrogen is too high. Could be part of the reason the branches are stiff and curling inward.

Temps are steady at 80 but since it's a bare bulb grow the leaves close to the bulb are getting scorched. Probably why vertical growth has slowed so much in the past week. Will have to builb a cool-tube if/when I run this again in the fall.

Things to fix on the next run would be ventilation, nutrient mix and a better variety for these conditions. It's not a failure yet but far from an ideal grow. One thing it is though is alot of fun learning.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0417111532-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0417111531-00.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0417111530-01.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

hydroguy
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Posts: 221
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 11:02 am
Location: Midwest, USA

Well it's been a lot of fun and more importantly a very educational grow for me but the grow is over. I said 60 days but it only lasted 45 days total. The electric bill was the determing factor that pushed this project to completion.

After tweaking the ventilation some the blooms had begun to set fruit on the majority of flowers. I got behind in the last couple of weaks removing the suckers so the plants had begun to bush out on top. Even if they had been pruned on schedule the plants were touching the ceiling with ease.

Some things I learned is that the plants aren't as heavy a feeder as i had predicted. maxing out at 1100ppm but once again I didn't add in all the supplemental nutrients such as carb boosters and PK additives the nutrient uptake could have been higher. I do need to add a cool tube to protect the plants when they reach the bulb heigth. I think the most important thing to consider when I do this project again is to change the variety of plants. I think a determinant variety would preform better in this particular enviroment.

The yo-yo's preformed well as plant supports but then again I didn't let the plants get completely loaded with fruit. All in all it was a fun grow, the one thing I want to try is a LED system in this tent sometime in the future. The hydroponic components worked flawlessly, the tent seals well enough to allow for a good comparison between HID and LED.

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0501111444-00-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0501111444-03-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0501111445-00-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy130/hydroguy/Tomatos/0501111452-00-1.jpg[/img]

hydroguy

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pharmerhydroponics
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For holding up the plants you might want to go with plant yoyo's or Nie-Co-Rol. They're like the yoyo's for the lights but a lot cheaper. It's only $1.50-$2 a piece.
[img]https://www.sunlightsupply.com/images/Product/medium/12391.jpg[/img]

wordwiz
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hydro,

Nice set of pics and descriptions. I've been playing with growing hydro maters but also toms in plastic pots. My goals were similar to yours - see how they grow, if fruit sets, if they taste decent.

One tip I picked up was to use MH instead of HPS. Noticed two things: had just as many blooms with the MH but not the legginess HPS tends to cause. I also came across a variety that I'm growing in the garden this year - Bush Goliath. It's a squat plant that is suppose to get only about 3.5' tall but produce 3-4" tomatoes. A couple of growers reported harvest 30+ pounds per plant.

Pollination is a snap - I have a small vibrator I hold against the stem of the plants. Usually try to do it between 9-11 am.

Another thing I started doing was trimming bottom leaves once they showed signs of yellowing.

Mike

hydroguy
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Appreciate the tips Mike. I'll definetly keep them in mind this fall/winter when I try another batch of tom's in the system. I've got a 400w MH I could throw in the tent which would be cheaper to operate than the 600w HPS I tried on this experiment. I'll do a search and see if I can find that variety of plant, sounds ideal for the space I'm dealing with.

Happy gardening,

hydroguy



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