Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes

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YatesTomatoes grown in the Vertical Grow System:
* Will be harvested within 60-90 days after sowing
* Require full sun;  ie. min 4 to 8 hours direct sunlight daily
* Consistent moisture
* Regular feeding (Tomatoes are heavy feeders)
* Shelter from strong winds
* Support of a stake
* Regular pruning of ‘suckers’ & dead leaves (read below)
* Require inhibiting growth to a maximum of 2 to 3 feet tall.
 IMPORTANT NOTE: The plant’s mass above ground is approx the same as under ground (ie. the roots), so it’s very important to inhibit the plants growth to a stocky 2 to 3 foot max to ensure the roots do not clog the grow channel and cause the water to overflow.   To do this simply prune the top of the plant once it reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and change the nutrient mix to encourage the plant to produce flowers and fruits.

Set-up
* Sow between 2 to 5 seeds per jiffy peat pellet /rockwool cube.
* Once seedlings have emerged, transplant into the mesh pot and add the clayballs.
* Pinch off the weakest seedlings leaving 1 or maximum 2 seedlings per pot.  (1 plant is
normally plenty for tomoatos) 
* Utilize the top channel of your Vertical Grow System for your tomatoes.  (As you train them to grow up, they will not shade the other plants)
* Ensure the tomatoes receive maximum sunlight.  At least 4 hours p/day is optimal.
* Ensure the nutrient contains mostly nitrogen (‘Flora Gro’).  Read the nutrient guide
* Within 1 week, you should start to see roots shooting out through the bottom of the mesh pot (pictured right).  The plant should be approx 6-12 inches tall.

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Maintenance
* It’s imperative that you stake your tomatoes.   Construct a lattice using bamboo poles, dow or anything long and strong.  Do this while the plant is very young.  The lattice must be robust as the plants will grow large and the fruit heavy. 
* Tie the base of each tomato plant loosely to the stakes using soft cotton twine.  Allow enough room for the stem of the tomato plant to grow up to 30mm wide.
* As the plant grows, continue to tie the plant to the stakes at every 6 inches or so.
* Within about 1 month, flowers will be formed and bees will be attracted.  
The more flowers you see, the better.  By this stage you should be reducing the
grow nutrient and increasing the bloom.
* Pruning is also very important and will encourage higher yields.  The aim is
to have a single stem to ensure nutrients are directed to the fruit, instead of
unwanted growing tips.  Read this pruning guide in detail.
* Yellowing leaves?  As plants grow, the lower leaves go yellow and die (pictured left). That is normal, so simply snip off any yellow or dead leaves often.  The cleaner the plant the less susceptible it is to disease. However, if many leaves go yellow or the yellowing is accompanied by unhealthy looking blotches and spots, or if the plant wilts despite regular watering, the plant has probably contracted a bacterial,
fungal or virus disease. Spraying with a copper-based fungicide such as Kocide or Fungus Fighter may help in some cases but usually the plant is doomed and ought be pulled out and disposed of.
 
Harvesting
* Pictured right, is 4 tomato plants at 65 days old grown in a vertical grow system in full sun.  At this stage, your nutrient mix should be heavy with flora bloom and light on the flora grow.  You will be picking tomatoes every single day for at least 2-3 weeks…. This is what you’ve been waiting for!

*Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible. If any fall off before they appear ripe, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place

* Never place tomatoes on a sunny windowsill to ripen; they may rot before they are ripe!

*The perfect tomato for picking will be firm and very red in color, regardless of size, with perhaps some yellow remaining around the stem. A ripe tomato will be only slightly soft.

*To freeze, core fresh unblemished tomatoes and place them whole in freezer bags or containers. The skins will slip off when they defrost but they’re perfectly good for sauces etc

*After harvest, just pull the plant & mesh pot out of the whole and cut the root mass within the channel to remove all roots.  You will be surprised by the lenght and density of the roots…. 
  
*It’s a very good idea to flush the entire system, cleaning any debris along the inside of the channels and replacing the resevoir with fresh clean water. 


Troubleshooting

The beauty with growing hydroponically, is that it natually inhibits the following issues, but just in case, here are some things to watch for;

*The tomato hornworm—a large, white-striped, green caterpillar—is an easy-to-spot pest. Just hand pick and destroy or read this guide
*Aphids, flea beetles, and cutworms may also attack your tomato plants.

*Late Blight is a fungal disease that can strike during any part of the growing season. It will cause grey, moldy spots on leaves and fruit which later turn brown. The disease is spread and supported by persistent damp weather.  Infected plants should be destroyed. Avoid Blight With the Right Tomato.”

*Tobacco Mosaic Virus creates distorted leaves and causes young growth to be narrow and twisted, and the leaves become mottled with yellow. Unfortunately, infected plants should be destroyed (but don’t put them in your compost pile).

*Cracking: When fruit growth is too rapid, the skin will crack. This usually occurs in extreme humidity or rainy periods in conjunction with dry
periods.  Keep an eye on your ripening tomatoes and pick slightly early is this is a problem

*Blossom end rot creates Black, indented area on bottoms of fruit, most likely to affect your first picking. Keep moisture levels
constant and try using a calcium solution on leaves and fruit.

*Blossom Drop: Reduce by protecting the plant from too low or too high temperatures, high relative humidity, and excessive wind.
Misshapen fruit can occur due to poor pollination.

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