SFloridaGardener
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Hydroponic Tomato Help

I recently started hydroponics and really don't know a whole lot about it so I was hoping someone could help with my tomato plant problem.

I have a 12 gal container that I am doing the Kratky method with. Basically deep water culture without an air stone. I am also growing some lettuce varieties and two small peppers in the same system. I know the tomato (and probably the peppers) will eventually have to give them a dedicated system with an air stone but I thought that wouldn't be for a while.

Anyways, the problem I am having is that the tomato plant is starting to curl..not so much the individual leaf edges like I've seen in soil plants but the actually branches are curling inwards. I've also attached a picture of the roots. They look okay except slightly brown. I did have a few hydroton pellets fall in the water a few days ago when I was checking it so I'm not sure if that's the cause.

Any advice would be appreciated as I'm completely lost right now. Thanks!

https://i.imgur.com/UoY3VT5.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/D6TCsWb.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/yzU7APi.jpg

Kangaroo1943
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

keep in mind that many plants have different nutrition requirements with EC and PH requirements.
For instance tomatoes and lettuce are not a good match to grow together as tomatoes are gross feeders needing a heavy nutrient supply between 2.4 up to 4.5 EC and a PH of about 6 to 6.2.
Lettuce on the other hand are light feeders with a weak nutrient solution between .8 and 1.2 EC and a PH of about 6.
So as you can see to grow companion plants get a chart online for PH and EC for many vegetables so then you can have success with growing different plants with similar requirements.

imafan26
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

To add to what kangaroo says tomatoes will have some different requirements at different stages of growth
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv216

I work with an aquaponic system, not a hydroponic one so it is different. The tomatoes are planted in the media cinder or hyroton. the water is constantly flowing through the pot and collected in a tray that is recycled bank to the tank which is underground. We also supplement with organic fish meal and bone meal. pH is kept in the tank around 6.0 and tested daily. We use 60 liter (15.8 gallon) pots.

In any hydroponic system, some roots are always submerged but some of the roots are always allowed to grow in the air and are only kept moist but not sumerged. We use the net pots and 2 inch thick styrofoam for the raft in the raft sytem.
We still have hydroponic rail and aeroponic systems, but all of the raft tables have been converted to cinder beds.
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SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Thanks for the input. I just bought an EC meter from Amazon so that I can adjust that if needed. I am using GH MaxiGro at just over half the recommendations on the bag (that's what the guy at the hydro shop recommended).

I plan to move the peppers and tomato to separate 5 gal buckets when the get just a little bigger (maybe in a week or so) so then I'll be able to adjust everything individually. When I set up the buckets I will probably move them outside...do you think I need to harden them off like other transplants? They're under LED light now but there's no UV so I worry they have transplant shock.

Imafan thanks for the information, probably above my head for right now but maybe someday I can be that particular! I read something you posted before about the rafts...what are the cede boxes you're talking about? How are they working out compared to the rafts? I couldn't find any quality styrofoam in small scale so I choose to go with the tote systems instead. Also they seem more durable and reusable than the sytrofoam.

imafan26
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

The styrofoam comes in large sheets about an inch thick. Holes were cut in them with a hole saw for the net pots and they float on the water. They actually last a long time.

Cinder beds are filled with medium grade cinder (lava rock) which is easy to get here. There is an ebb and flow system for the lettuce but the tomatoes are in individual 60 liter buckets filled with cinder. Water is pumped in from a tank through a pvc system. The pvc pipe sits over the pots and there are small holes drilled in the pipe that flows into the pots. The water exits from the pot's drain holes and into a tray. The tray has a drain that returns the water to the tank by gravity. So the the tank has to be below the tomato buckets. The tanks at work are underground. It is also better for the fish since it helps to keep the water from heating up as much during the day. We fertilize the tomatoes with organic fish and bone meal.

The cinder beds need to be refilled so they stay above the level of the water in the ebb and flow system. Since the cinder is also the biofilter for the fish tank it also collects a lot of silt and fish poop. About every year or year and a half the cinder needs to be changed or cleaned or the system will clog. The cinder though mimics plants grown in the ground so the root system gets better air and we can give the plants additional fertilizer provided it is fish friendly. On a raft system the lettuce only got what came out of the tank and some iron that was added to the fish water.

The hydroponic house uses a rail system and there are also aeroponic towers. The aeroponic towers grow fast but the lettuce does not have a lot of weight to them. The lettuce grown in the cinders are the heaviest and have the thickest leaves.

The hydroponic solutions have a controller to monitor adjust the nutrient and pH levels in the water.
Thick styrofoam sheets are usually from hobby shops or online.
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 42&t=65327

You will have to harden off the seedlings to go outside.

BTW the Kratky method only works with low nutrient requirement and short lived plants like lettuce. It does not work with heavy feeders and longer lived plants like tomatoes very well. You won't be able to get enough nutrients or space for the tomato root system. If you want to grow tomato, the self watering container is a better idea. You still need to add water but you can put your fertilizer in and you won't have the wide pH swings that tomatoes cause in an aquaponic system. There are other SIP systems that might work for tomatoes, but you would still have to add additional nutrients and water in a reservoir and you will need to have a pump to recycle the solution or manually collect the solution and pour it into the tank to let it gravity drain. SIPS are less work.
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SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Just wanted to share what the plant looks like now. I ended up moving it to a separate container and upping the ppms shortly after the discussion here. Still kept it indoors under a LED light until it got a little bigger. Now it has been outdoors for a couple weeks and really taken off. I even had to string up a second mainstem! Still no flowers but hopefully soon!

https://i.imgur.com/1tFrcjA.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/e5Ds9Wt.jpg

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

So that is just a bucket of water it is sitting in? No airstone? No connection to anything else? What keeps it from being just a bucket of stagnant water?
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Incidentally, I should have said in there, your plant is looking great, very healthy! :D
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SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Yes I'm using the Kratky method for now. No airstone. So the water is stagnant but I haven't had a problem with mosquitos or anything. I go out and stir the solution every few days and check on things. I noticed a little algae growing on the sides of the bucket so I will probably do a water change this weekend. If I had darker bucket this probably wouldn't be such a problem but I was more worried about the water getting too hot so I went with the lighter buckets.

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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

I also am doing the same for peppers. I recently transplanted these outdoors from my indoor setup and unfortunately they are not doing as well as the tomato. I don't know if it's the heat or change in water (I raised the ppms to the proper level). But since this picture a few days ago one plant has lost all the big leaves and only has small new leaves left and the other has discoloration on the leaves.

https://i.imgur.com/TCYcE8K.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/1uNDjxs.jpg


I am trialing two different methods to try and prevent rainwater from getting in the bucket...so far both seem to be working well but we haven't had heavy rain yet.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

The second picture with all the spots on the leaves looks like the damage left by some kind of sucking/piercing insect - could be thrips, aphids, spider mites, leafhoppers, or even stinkbugs.

Check your plant over very carefully, some of those like the mites and thrips are very small.
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pepperhead212
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

If you are using this method for your tomatoes and peppers due to problems in the soil, you might want to try SIPs, or self irrigated planters. As imafan noted, they are easier, and I second this - a lady in FL, who has to plant all of her tomatoes and many other things in Earthboxes, due to nematodes and many other pests, got me hooked on them last season when she posted a link to a sale. I bought 3, and the rest is history! LOL I also found a site from imafan, showing how to build them, large ones, as well as out of buckets. Here's my album, showing many of the things growing in them, and the early part of the album shows them being built,
https://s24.photobucket.com/user/pepperh ... 20homemade

And here's about the best photo of the buckets with tomatoes, after only 5 weeks after transplant:
Image

I grow herbs in hydroponics, but not flowering plants. As others have noted, they are much more difficult, due to having to change the nutrients for growth, blooms, and the fruit development, and they do suck up water! Like others, I can't imagine keeping a bucket of nutrients with no aeration, even though it obviously is done, otherwise there wouldn't be a name for the method! I keep a powerhead with a sponge filter (things I got from my aquariums) in my deepwater systems, as well as an airstone, but these are indoors, while yours are outside, which is why I figure you are using that method.

The SIPs cost more to set up, but once they are going, they are easy to maintain, as long as you have something to water them! The water is wicked up into the growing chamber from a reservoir below, through a soil-less mix, such as Pro Mix, into which some dolomite is added, to hopefully prevent BER in tomatoes. A trench of fertilizer is added, and this is slowly released over the summer - I used some fertilizer "socks" so they could be easily removed at the end. On the Earthbox forum I learned some tricks, one of which is to add 1 tsp of calcium nitrate to each box (these are equivalent to three 5 gal buckets) once a week, as a "snack". I have also added some of my hydroponics supplements, which seemed to help, for sure.

The homemade boxes are actually better than the originals, because the reservoir can be made larger. Mine are about double, so they do not dry out quickly. Cucumbers were the only ones that drained the originals, so I'll use just the homemade ones for them. Earthbox sells an automatic watering system (AWS), but I just use a drip system on a timer, which I tweak, by adjusting the time, and using different emitters, depending on how "thirsty" the plants are.

The plants in these things produced so much this season that I have already decided to reduce the numbers of many of the plants, as well as spacing them farther apart - the cherry tomatoes, especially, were so compacted that I could hardly find many of them!

Though this will only be my 3rd year coming up, others out there say that the mix used in the containers can be used many times - some saying they are on their 8th year, with no problems!
Dave

SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

When I looked into SIPS it just didn't seem to be as controllable as hydroponics. Most of the setups I saw still used soil. If you are soiless media then it's practically hydroponics anyways. I tried a few self watering 5 gal buckets with soil and did not have much luck. It's so hot here that I was having to fill the reservoir daily and still encountered a lot of the problems I had in my raised beds. Obviously if I moved to a larger container the reservoir problem might be more management.

I have some seedlings in my indoor setup and when they get bigger I was planning to moved them outdoors and get a large multi line airstone at that point. The tomato seems to be doing fine without a stone for now.

There's another hydroponic system using dutch buckets and irrigation that I have seen amazing results with on YouTube. I'd like to try that, seems similar to the SIP principal.

Thanks rainbowgardener. I will look more carefully. But so far every time I've looked I haven't seen any pests at all. Not even the dreaded whitefly which has started to attack my soil raised bed peppers.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Try tapping some leaves over a sheet of white paper. Thrips or mites will show up as tiny threads or dots. They are pretty invisible otherwise.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Did you try this? What did you find?
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imafan26
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Actually the homemade earthboxes are even better in hotter, drier climates. The commercial earthboxes are expensive but have a small reservoir and people always try to put more plants in them than they should. I like to use the 18 gallon rubbermaid tubs for tomatoes. I have a 5 gallon reservoir. At full maturity in production, the tomato can drink up to 4 gallons of water a day. I have about 10 gallons of soil in the tub that the tomato is planted in. I did not like having so much fertilizer left over in the earthbox at the end of the season, so I changed to 1/2 cup of citrus food, no calcium, BER is not a problem for me, but it may be that I am selecting heat resistant tomatoes. I give additional tablespoon of citrus food at first bloom, midway through the first fruit set and once monthly thereafter. I do have drip irrigation lines running into the watering tubes and so they are filled every three days or so when the tomatoes are first planted, but daily when the tomatoes reach full size and are in production.

The 18 gallon tubs on sale cost $3-$5 each
PVC pipe 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch a couple of dollars for 10 ft
Potting soil $13 here for 2 cu ft ( it is probably a lot cheaper elsewhere. You don't have to pay for shipping)
Patio drip tubing system $10
Faucet timer $35
Other parts you may need $20
There is an investment in time especially when it takes you half a day like me to build something that should only take an hour. You need to drill the holes in the lid or the tub if you are using the two tub system. You need to cut the supports. (4 inch pvc pipes or thicker nursery pots to keep the soil above the reservoir. The overflow drain, cut the pvc watering tubes at 45 degree angle on the lower end. Put together and install the drip system. I have been working with drip systems for a long time so that is the easy part for me. The tubs are not uv resistent but they last about 3 years for me before the tubs have to be replaced, the watering tubes and drip lines can be salvaged.

I have less wilting at midday, so no BER from uneven watering. The drip system makes it pretty much self maintaining and one less place to have to water every day. 5 gallon bucket systems work o.k. for peppers but most of my tomatoes are too big for them. I can also plant herbs in the rubbermaid tubs instead.

We tried to grow lettuce in a gallon bottle using a similar method to kratky. It worked but the lettuce was not as good as it would have been if it had been grown in soil and we had problems with the water evaporating too fast so we ended up changing the solution weekly.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Yeah did find anything but a few tomato hornworms (thanks again for the help on the other post). I think it was the nutrients because after I did a water change it seemed to resolve. All my new leaves look great and there are only a few old leaves that have the spots, which haven't seem to change at all.

Kangaroo1943
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

I see so many posts with those people living in cooler climates and have to depend on artificial lighting and heating growing in basements and other parts of the home.
I see from some of the posts that some like myself live in warmer climates and can grow outdoors all year long.
I have been growing with hydroponics for over 40 years and for the last 30 years growing outdoors , with the assistance of growing under my deck and roof eaves still open to some wind and rain but still protected from major storms, but getting full sun . My results have been very good and would like to know if any others are growing under similar conditions.

imafan26
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

I grow outdoors in full sun in Hawaii, year round. I work with hydroponic and aquaponic systems at work but I grow in soil and pots at home. I have used self-watering containers. For the most part I do not get so much sun that I have to shade.
At the farm, when we grow manoa lettuce and in summer, 90% of the lettuce is tipburned or bolted. If we keep the shade cloth on, the lettuce will not have many leaves or weight but have much less tipburn. The tipburn stays pretty bad until the day length gets around 12 hours. This year we have had record high temperatures and it is still in the high 80's in the day time, so we are still having some problems with bolting and a little bit of tipburn. The best time for lettuce is in the early time of the year. It is cool enough then and the lengthening days allow the lettuce to mature in as little as three weeks. As the days get shorter and cooler, the lettuce and the fish will both be growing slower and can take up to 8 weeks to mature.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are grown inside the covered shade houses. They are grown aquaponically in cinder and 15 gallon buckets with a flow by system that constantly puts water in the buckets and the buckets are in a tray that drains back to the fish tanks. Another greenhouse is partially finished and the cucumbers have moved to that house alone. Now the tomatoes will get the whole greenhouse again. The biggest problems with the cukes and tomatoes in greenhouses is that when pests get in they are very difficult to control. The tomatoes right now look good because we have only planted about 60 of them and so their is a lot of space left in the green house. When the house is full of tomatoes, the air circulation becomes a problem in the middle and the aphids start to become an issue. I have been capturing and releasing lady bugs into the tomato house. They don't live long but it helps. Right now, the tomatoes look good, but the cucumbers are badly damaged by aphids.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Any ideas about this leaf discoloration on the same hydroponic tomato from earlier in this post...it seems to be only on the lower leaves. The plant is still putting out new growth and flowers. I had one early tomato lost to blossom end rot but the cluster on the other mainstem seems to be doing fine. I started adding calmag so I don't think it's that...

Image

Image

stef_pen
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

hi; sfloridagardener; what type of nutrients are you using? at what ppm? what ph? I'm have tried dutch bucket tomatoes with 800 ppm pump running 24 hours a day;they were doing ok; but needsa lot of attention. i wanna try the kratky method; thanks

SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Hey there, I use a mix of GH grow and bloom. Adding cal mag now. Trying to maintain about 2200-2400 ec for peppers and 1600-1800 ec for tomatoes. They are just in 5 gal buckets with net pot lids that fit perfectly. Seem to be doing fine without airstone but might add one for my large tomato which seems to have slowed on growth and production.

Kangaroo1943
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Hey SFloridaGardener I grow outside all year long in Brisbane Australia which has a sub tropical climate which is now our summer and about 30/32C . My question as you are an outdoor gardener my problem is getting my timers set for this time of year.
In my ebb and flow where I grow 5 containers of tomatoes in hydroton, I have reset my time on an off to 3/4 hour off and 15 minutes on to flood, as I found that 1 1/2 hours between watering was too long and some of my tomatoes were getting Bottom end rot even though I added calcium nitrate to stop this.
I have also changed my drip system for chillie peppers with 1 hour on and 15 minutes off, these are all in hydroton and growing under eaves also but open to the elements as the ebb and flow. Have you any guidelines growing outdoors with a similar climate and hydroton as a medium.

SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Any ideas about these spots on my tomatoes? I had BER on other varieties but started added calmag and noticed good improvement. It has dropped down into the 60s at time and been cloudy/rainy. I tried looking through previous forums but it was inconclusive if it was catfacing, fungus or BER

https://i.imgur.com/VrwHqlW.jpg

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

@SFloridaGardener, re:

Image

none of the above, but you have a variety of things going on. The leaf in the bottom right corner shows clear leaf miner damage (the squiggles) and I think some of the other leaves as well. The leaves on the left edge and I think some others are showing spotting that is probably septoria, a fungal disease that is very common on tomatoes. Those leaves at the bottom with holes, curling, yellowing, etc are end results of the septoria, which usually does start at the bottom and work its way up. To start with remove (and destroy, don't compost) all the spotted and squiggled leaves.

Look up "leaf miners" and "septoria" in the search function, upper left corner of the page, you will find lots here about them.

Neither of those account for the holes in the tomato fruit. Those would be some kind of pest, most likely a tomato fruitworm, possibly tomato hornworm. Check your plant over very carefully. Both of them are pretty well camouflaged and can be hard to spot.
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Wow thanks for all the help! After looking it up I agree the holes are probably tomato worm. Unfortunately we have had heavy rains and winds so I haven't been able to hunt or treat yet. Do you think the plants with septoria are savable? Its pretty close to a healthy tomato plant, I'd rather sacrifice one so I can keep one good plant instead of losing both.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

In my experience, growing tomatoes in humid climates, septoria is very common, but plants can live with it pretty well. Keep removing spotted leaves. Practice good plant hygiene: mulch well to keep a barrier between soil and plants, remove all the lower branches so that nothing is touching the soil, water the soil not the leaves, keep enough space between plants and prune for good air circulation. All that minimizes chances of spreading the fungus.
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SFloridaGardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Thanks. They are in a hydroponic set up with 5 gal buckets so no soil splash but they probably too tightly grouped right now. Lost some plants due to a little neglect over the holidays so I'll spread them out a little more now.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Hydroponic Tomato Help

Oh right, sorry.... my only experience growing things is in the ground/ large pots. I keep forgetting hydroponic.

The hygiene you would need then is mainly about air circulation, not having leaves touching each other too much, and being careful with pruners. Some people dip pruners in bleach solution between each cut, to avoid spreading any fungus/ spores via the tools.

You can use organic fungicides preventatively (they work better that way). After you have taken off the spotted leaves, spray everything that is left, including your healthy plant, including undersides of leaves with: diluted milk (50:50 or less with water), OR aerated compost tea, OR chamomile tea, OR baking soda solution, OR hydrogen peroxide.
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