Just imagine the first bite of a fresh, sweet tomato picked from your own hydroponic garden. That warm juice rolling down your chin soothes like nothing else. So, how about growing hydroponic tomatoes at home? Well, hydroponic tomatoes unlike their soil-grown counterparts are superior and can be enjoyed all year long. Not only this, they have perfect appearance, firm flesh, tender skin and delightful flavor and aroma.
Growing tomatoes through hydroponics has gained popularity due to numerous advantages. Hydroponic systems allow plant production to occur in controlled environment – without insects, weeds or soil-borne diseases. Moreover these hydroponic tomato plants grow faster and have high yield. Read more to know how to grow tomatoes through hydroponic growing systems:
Growing Conditions for Tomatoes:
Light: Tomatoes require a lot of lighting but can thrive with at least 7 hours of sunlight/day. But make sure to safeguard plants from very strong rays of sun as it may cause heat stress. At maturity, plant requires 8 hour respiration period of darkness and 16 to 18 hours of photo-period for maximum fruit production.
Temperature: Ideal temperature for tomato plants ranges between 70 and 79 degree Fahrenheit during the day while for night it should be between 61 and 65 degree Fahrenheit. Moreover humidity should vary between 40% – 50%. Sometimes they can handle high temperatures also, but over 90 degrees can be harmful.
Nutrients: Most of the varieties of tomatoes require high level of nutrients like potassium and phosphorous. It also requires calcium supplement and other hydroponic nutrients for successful growth. Olivia’s Growing Solution is a great product, carrying all essential plant supplements. Moreover, tomato plant is grown well with pH level between 5.5 and 6.5. You can make use of Olivia’s Adjuster pH down and up to maintain required pH level.
Water and Aeration: Make arrangements for air systems like air pumps for the plant to thrive. Similarly water supplied to the crop must be pure. Deeply study how presence of certain minerals can effect plant growth before supplying water to it.
Recommended Varieties of Tomatoes for Hydroponics:
- Beefsteak- Quest, Trust, Match, Geronimo, Blitz
- Cherry- Conchita, Favorita
- Cocktail- Flavorino (plum), Picolino (red)
For hydroponic gardening of tomatoes, reservoir is required which is filled with nutrient solution. Nutrient pump and air pump supplies nutrients and air respectively to the plant roots. Another requirement is of growing media which holds roots, and channelize water and nutrients to them. If you are using soil-less mix such as perlite and peat, then there’s no need to supply nutrients during initial stages, and fresh water is just enough. However, while using inert medium such as Rockwool, make sure to feed nutrients in all stages.
Hydroponics is a clean cultivation technique. It’s recommended to plant tomatoes directly from seeds as plants brought from outside are easily susceptible to pests and diseases. Start the process by placing seeds in Rockwool starter cubes in a domed nursery tray. Before planting, these Rockwool cubes should be soaked in water (with pH of 4.5). Keep tray covered in moist and warm environment (20-25 degree Celsius) until the seeds begin to sprout. Once seeds start sprouting immediately remove the domes and place seedlings in light source for at least 12 hours a day. After roots appear at bottom of these starter cubes, transplant it to the hydroponic garden. There are many systems available, choose the right hydroponic system for tomato cultivation.
One of the common methods used for tomato plantation is Drip Irrigation Systems. In this, nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir through a pump and fed to plant roots through drip emitters and then drained back to reservoir. The starter cube is placed in a premade hole of a 3 or 4 inch Rockwool cube, which in turn is placed on Rockwool slabs in a trough. Plant roots will grow down into the slabs through those cubes.
Other appropriate hydroponics methods that can be used for tomato cultivation are Ebb and Flow System and Expando System. You can grab their proper knowledge and use any of these systems for amazing results.
Precautions and Caring:
Remember to take wider trough than the slabs; also there should be 4 plants per slab. Size of the pump and reservoir will depend upon the number of plants taken. Reservoir should be filled with fresh nutrient solution every week. Choose the pump with high gallons/hour rating so that plants farthest from the reservoir equally receive nutrient solution. Irrigation needs to be adjusted as plant grows. Mature plants will consume about 4 liters of nutrient solution every day, while seeds will need less water. As emitters can be clogged over time, so carefully clean them for proper functioning. Moreover, adjusting pH levels is necessary. pH of the solution indicates acidity and alkalinity of a nutrient solution. If appropriate pH balance is not maintained, plant may suffer from various nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. It can be easily adjusted using Olivia’s pH Adjusters “Up” and Olivia’s pH Adjusters “Down” respectively.
Although hydroponic gardening seems to trickier, but once it’s practiced using proper knowledge and tools it can yield great results. So, create a hydroponic kitchen garden and enjoy fresh, juicy ‘homegrown tomatoes’ all the year round.