Hydroponic tomatoes are grown using a method known as the hydroponic system. This system ensures rapid tomato growth due to its favorable conditions. When grown well, these tomatoes become very juicy, healthy-looking, and big.
Hydroponic systems allow you to grow your tomatoes throughout the year so let us go straight into detail so that you know more about this type of tomato cultivation.
- What Are Hydroponic Tomatoes?
- Hydroponic Tomatoes Care
- Common Problems
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Hydroponic Tomatoes?
Hydroponic tomatoes are fast-growing, good quality, and high-yielding tomatoes which are produced using customized hydroponic conditions which are best for their development. The best tomatoes for hydroponics are beefsteak, tomatoes-on-the-vine, grape, and hydroponic cherry tomatoes.
Hydroponic Tomatoes Care
Growing tomatoes hydroponically can be quite hard for starters, but you will not go wrong with the steps and guidelines that are outlined in this section. Hydroponics growing is manageable because the environments can be adjusted to suit the best growing conditions that are required by the plants.
– Water Requirements
The amount and quality of water that you should apply is the most important factor when growing hydroponic tomatoes. The rule of thumb when irrigating your tomato plants is that you should apply 10 to 15 percent excess water than the container’s holding capacity.
Additionally, consider the Dutch bucket system where two or more tomato growing containers will be connected to the same water input and drainage line to minimize water and nutrient loss.
The tomato’s plant size and temperature, determine the relevant frequency of watering. Considering the above-mentioned factors, you can water your plants once or twice a day just after transplanting. You can apply water to the tomato plants several times each day on high-temperature days during the harvest period.
The quality of water that is used for irrigating the tomato plants also determines their health. Use clean water to avoid stunted growth and mineral buildup in plant tissues, which may hinder fruit production.
Consider purifying the water first using methods like reverse osmosis technology to minimize the effects of contaminants found in water sauces like the tap. Bear in mind that underwatered tomato plants may end up wilting and eventually producing small, unhealthy fruits.
– Light Requirements
Considering that you will be growing your tomatoes indoors, we recommend the use of grow lights. Selecting these lights depends on the hydroponic system size, budget, and the yield size that you want.
The most powerful and efficient form of lighting for the indoor cultivation of tomatoes is LED grow lights, which consume less electricity. Apart from these LED lights, you can use fluorescent lights which are also efficient and cost-effective since they use low power.
Metal Halide and High-Pressure Sodium (MH/HPS) lights are also a very good alternative to fluorescent lights, considering that they are also cheap and efficient. Your tomatoes need at least 12-18 hours of light every day.
Tomato plants can bear fruit even in less light conditions though they will be less productive. Also, the tomato plants start to grow tall in search of light but in this case, they will not produce any fruit.
Too much light in dry conditions makes the plants thirsty as more water will be lost through transpiration without replacement. This will slow down the production of fruits.
Given that the fruits have already appeared, too much light can damage them so always try to strike a balance between light and water requirements for maximum fruit production.
– Soil Requirements
Hydroponic tomato plants’ roots grow directly in water rather than using soil as a medium through a method known as deep water culture, reservoir method, or direct water culture. Consider adding mineral nutrient solutions to the water to aid plant development.
The fact that no soil is needed makes your tomatoes much cleaner and the growth rate, as well as fruit production, are high. Since there is no need for soil, a growing medium between the plant and the water is needed.
Remember that When using hydroponic systems, you can use the wick method in which the roots of the plant grow through a medium whereas an absorbent wick is responsible for drawing water and nutrients up from the reservoir to the root roots. The medium allows oxygen to get to the root with ease.
Furthermore, you can also consider the air gap method where the roots of the tomato plant partially hang in nutrient-filled water whereas the upper half of the plant is exposed to air.
Another form of deep water culture that you can choose is the raft method in which you place your plants on a floating surface with the roots dipped in nutrified water and oxygen is pumped into the water using an aquarium type of pump.
Additionally, there is the ebb and elbow method in which the roots also grow through a medium, and nutrient-filled water is pumped once in about 30 minutes to the roots using a specified water pump and can drain back to the reservoir.
The deep water culture also includes the top feeder method where the plant roots also grow through a medium that allows oxygen from the air to reach the roots. In this method, nutrient-filled water is pumped to the top of this medium, percolates down into the root zone, and returns to the reservoir.
– Temperature Requirements
Temperature is very vital in the growth and fruit production of hydroponic tomatoes. The optimum temperatures at night should be maintained between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperature ranges are best for fruit growth and ripening.
During the day, maintain temperatures between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid artificial heating in the greenhouse to temperatures above the recommended night temperatures.
Growing hydroponic tomatoes indoors entails that you need to be vigilant in detecting temperature changes so when the temperatures inside the greenhouse exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, consider applying the most effective cooling measures possible.
Increased air circulation helps you in maintaining the greenhouse temperatures. Higher temperatures above 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit will lead to several problems, for instance, stunted growth, fruit abortion, and plant death. Lower temperatures also hurt the tomato plants and have the same effects.
In greenhouses, you can use a minimum or maximum thermometer, you may place several thermometers randomly in the greenhouse and make sure to calibrate them against each other.
Computer-controlled thermometers can be very helpful when running large commercial projects since they provide relevant control of the temperature, humidity, light, irrigation, carbon dioxide, and many other factors that may affect the growth of your tomatoes.
– Humidity Requirements
To grow hydroponic tomato plants with success, create conditions that allow the plants to transpire with ease as they photosynthesize. This happens when there is sufficient water, good circulation of air, and low to moderate humidity.
Humidity plays a role in the tomato plants’ calcium uptake and the distribution of hormones as it determines the opening and closing of the stomata. Note that high humidity together with the low movement of air around the plant can cause heat overload as transpiration will be reduced.
Humidity levels that are more than 90 percent are considered very high and cause symptoms of nutrient deficiency like blossom end rot which results from a lack of calcium. The latter will not allow the plant to properly transpires, thereby reducing or even stopping water- and nutrient-uptake through the roots.
Humidity levels that are less than 50 percent also cause similar symptoms. In this case, the plant will transpire more, thereby increasing water and nutrient intake to excessive levels. Low humidity levels cause ions to be deposited in the plant leaves, thereby denying them to reach the fruit.
Use a sling psychrometer or a humidistat to measure the relative humidity with around four percent accuracy. Tomatoes do best in humidity levels between 65 percent to 75 percent during the night period and 80 percent to 90 percent during the day.
– Fertilizing Requirements
A hydroponic tomato plant requires the correct nutrient solution for its development and fruit production.
Young tomato plants need a lower concentration of nutrients than mature ones. When your tomato plants enter the fruiting stage, be sure to provide them with more nitrogen, potassium, and calcium to aid the development of the fruits.
Nutrients like potassium and calcium are not needed in excess during the early stages of the tomato plant’s growth. However, you have to increase the concentration of these nutrients as the plants grow bigger to curb abnormal fruit development.
Young plants need lower concentrations of nitrogen as compared to mature plants. Excessive nitrogen causes the plants to be too vegetative which leads to thick stems, curled leaves, reduced flowering, and poor fruit quality.
When the tomato plants have become mature and have a large fruit load, apply the maximum recommended concentration of nutrients. To create a custom nutrient solution, you need to mix 12 to 13 fertilizer salts that are different, if you don’t get custom mix fertilizers from some companies that supply them.
Hydroponic tomato solutions are prepared in high concentrations that are 100 times stronger than the actual dilution needed by the plants.
Under normal circumstances, you have to harvest your tomatoes three times a week. We recommend that you harvest your tomatoes as they approach the stage of bringing out their full red color.
As the tomatoes approach full ripening on the mother plant, they become heavier and more flavorful. When left to ripen on the vine, the fruit increases its weight by 20 percent from the time you notice the first signs of ripening.
If exposed to hot temperatures for a prolonged period, the tomatoes will turn yellowish-orange and they lose their flavor. In such conditions, it is wise to harvest your tomatoes in their pink stages and ripen them in cooler temperatures elsewhere.
– How To Harvest Tomatoes
You need a sharp pair of scissors and a basket, bag, or even a harvest apron. Cut the tomato from the mother plant and avoid pulling the green stalk off the fruit. The stalk helps to aid proper fruit ripening and longer preservation. Consider cutting the stalk one to two inches back from the tomato fruit.
Ripe tomatoes are easy to remove from the mother plant by simply twisting them. When harvesting, be gentle with the plant to avoid disturbing the flowers and small fruits, which may fall off.
Remember, hydroponically growing tomatoes helps your plants to be active throughout the year and you may need to continuously harvest fruits so do not disturb them. Harvest your tomatoes before they lose their waxy smoothness.
Green tomatoes that are three to four months old can also ripen off the tomato plant.
– How To Store Tomatoes
Given that you have harvested your tomatoes in their green state, store them in a paper bag that contains a banana or an apple at room temperature and avoid direct sunlight.
The fruits produce ethylene gas, which speeds up tomato ripening. Consider storing your tomatoes in a shady place or at room temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The tomatoes can stay for about four to seven days at room temperature without going bad.
Avoid storing or refrigerating your tomatoes at temperatures under 55 degrees Fahrenheit as this causes the compounds that are responsible for flavor to break down. Furthermore, avoid refrigerating partially ripened tomatoes because the ripening process will be slowed down.
Refrigeration of ripe tomatoes is not recommended because it does away with their flavor. However, when the need to refrigerate them arises, put the tomatoes in perforated plastic papers and utilize the crisper section of the fridge to protect them from drying.
For future use, you can freeze, dry, or can your tomatoes. As for the freezing process, wash the tomatoes, remove the bad spots, and put them on a tray in the freezer.
Once they are frozen, store them in plastic bags in the freezer for future use. Regularly check your stored tomatoes and remove the ones that will be showing signs of decay.
Hydroponic tomatoes are usually affected by problems that result from factors like insufficient light, nutrient deficiencies, and unfavorable temperatures.
One of the hydroponic tomatoes problems that are common is a fungal attack, especially by grey mold or Botrytis. Grey mold and botrytis grow on the plant tissues and causes the fruits, flowers, and foliage to decay.
To deal with these types of fungi, first, remove the dead tomato plant material since they are too susceptible to infection. Reducing humidity around the plant is also vital in managing botrytis.
Another common fungal disease is powdery mildew. You will notice some whitish and powdery growth on the bottom sides or top of the foliage. As the pathogen spreads all over the tomato plant, the fruit size, and quality decline. You can also suppress powdery mildew by reducing the humidity around the plants.
Be on the lookout for pythium, which is also a fungal disease that adversely affects your tomato plants’ growth and development. When your plant is infected, you will notice its root tips turning brown.
Pythium rapidly spreads from one plant to another when recirculation irrigation is used. This problem can be combated by treating nutrient-rich solutions with UV light and sanitizing chemicals that reduce the population of pythium before it is transmitted to your plants.
Bacterial canker known as Clavibacter michiganensis is a very problematic bacterial disease in hydroponic tomato production. This bacteria can spread over the surface of your tomato plant.
When infected, you will notice the leaves of your tomato plants wilting, curling, and other infected parts turning brown. For further diagnosis, cut open a plant, and look for stained vascular tissues and the production of slime, as these are characteristics of infection.
Infected debris can keep the bacteria for a very long time so consider removing any infected parts of the tomato plants and taking them away from the growing premises.
Prioritize sanitizing your gardening tools since they also have the potential to harbor bacteria. This way, you minimize the risk of transmitting the disease to healthy plants.
The other forms of bacterial diseases that can affect your tomatoes are bacteria speck and bacterial spot, which are quite similar in the sense that both of them produce black necrotic lesions.
These diseases are easily diagnosed on fruits where you can distinguish the difference between a healthy and an infected fruit. Minimize humidity to suppress these bacterial diseases. Also, cut back on high-volume chemicals that are applied to the plants so that you reduce free water.
Hydroponic tomato plants are vulnerable to viruses like the tobacco mosaic virus. you’re your plant is infected by this virus, you will notice a mosaic pattern of dark and light colors on the leaves.
The tomato plant leaves will appear deformed and the plant growth will be stunted. The tomato fruits will also ripen unevenly with chlorotic rings on their skin.
The tobacco mosaic virus is mechanically transmitted from one plant to the other through pruning or the use of unsterilized tools.
After handling any form of tobacco-related items, wash your hands thoroughly before getting into contact with the tomato plants. These viruses can attack the tomato seeds before they are planted and cause problems later.
The other common virus is the tomato spotted wilt virus which causes concentric ring-shaped lesions on the plant. This type of virus reduces fruit growth and can be suppressed by practicing good sanitation around the plant throughout the growing season.
If your plant is already infected, pruning off damaged parts and destroying the infected plants must be considered to avoid further transmission to healthy plants.
The most common pests to look out for are whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, and thrips. The whitefly destroys plants using its piercing mouthpiece.
They also excrete honeydew, which encourages the development of sooty mold. Pests like the two-spotted spider mites destroy plants by feeding on them, thereby causing distorted growing patterns as well as leaf necrosis.
There are several aphid species that affect tomato plants and all of them feed on the plant tissues, thereby disturbing the growth of the plant’s new foliage. They give way to sooty mold through the excretion of honeydew.
Thrips are usually found in flowers and you will also see them when you unfold new leaves. These pests damage these parts of the plants by feeding on them and this negatively affects growth and fruit development.
To grow hydroponic tomatoes easily, consider pest and disease prevention first since it is the best way you can manage them. Proactive prevention is much more cost-effective as compared to fighting outbreaks.
Keep insects and pests away from your greenhouse to avoid future problems. Given that you opt for pesticides, go for biopesticides or biorational pesticides since they are a great choice for food crops and are safe for both humans and the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
– How Fast Do Hydroponic Tomatoes Grow?
You can harvest your tomatoes within sixty days of planting, as is the case with peas hydroponics. You can grow hydroponic tomatoes from seed and within the first five to ten days they will germinate.
Rapid growth will take place after four to six weeks and in two months, the tomatoes will be ready for harvesting. You can also consider the hydroponic tomatoes Kratky method which is also effective in quick tomato production.
Growing hydroponic tomatoes can be so much fun and more productive.
Here are the main points that you might need to keep at the tips of your fingers:
- Provide your tomatoes with at least 12 to 18 hours of light every day to enhance their growth.
- Tomatoes thrive in humidity levels between 65 percent to 75 percent in the night period and 80 percent to 90 percent during the day.
- For the best tomato storage consider a shady place or room temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Hydroponic tomatoes are vulnerable to pests and diseases just like any other hydroponic plant.
Hydroponic tomatoes do grow in environments that can be adjusted to suit the grower’s desired conditions, thereby improving the chances of producing healthy and juicy tomato fruits.
This complete guide will help you to grow tomatoes successfully and improve your experience with hydroponics!
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