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First Tomato Setup


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  #1  
Old 01-15-2015, 12:03 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Default First Tomato Setup

Hey guys! Im pretty new around here but just wanted to post some progress on my tomato setup. I've pieced it together for the last 4-5 weeks and finally got it up and running about 2 weeks ago.

It's kind of like a dutch bucket system I guess. I tried to use things that were cheap and available where I could and I could reuse somehow if I change the setup. The buckets are actually kitty litter containers (they are food grade plastic, weird I know) that my brother always recycles. I had him save them for me and I cut the tops off. They hold just a hair under 2.5 gal and are completely free for me. For the elbows at the bottom, I drilled a hole (7/8" maybe) and used some grommets I got from Grainger. The elbows are actually sprinkler irrigation barbed fittings with some tubing connecting the two through the grommet. Not perfect, but leaves about and inch or less water in the bottom of the containers when the pump turns off. The containers have paint strainer bags and hold clay pebbles. I've tried perlite but I like the recyclability of the pebbles. I still have to wrap the containers in a light blocking film, probably foil as it's pretty accessible and cheap.

The tomatoes are actually 5 different varieties. I'm not even sure what they are. I think theres a Black Zebra variety, Indian Moon variety, and maybe something called Sausage. If I get one tomato, I'll be happy. I'm more so trying this just to have plants in the garage (heated right now) for greenery and to show myself I can do it. I'm expecting tomatoes however... All plants that have been moved here are from suckers from other plants. I just stuck them in rock wool, gave them some water, and they started rooting. Then they got moved into the kitty litter containers.

Fertilizer is Masterblend Tomato fertilizer. I also use the Calcium stuff and Epsom salts. nutrients are mixed a little under half strength right now because all of my plants are tiny.

lights are HID lamps. I got one off amazon a while ago and my parents gifted me another so I could move on with this setup. They came with two lamps each, a hps and a MH (2700K and 5000K or something like that). I installed one of each to see which tomatoes grow faster. Weird little experiment but curiosity draws me in. I plan on setting up Mylar around them to keep in heat and light. In the zoomed out pick, I attached a frame made of EMT to the ceiling. I normally use small magnets and just stick it to the EMT so I can reuse/repurpose if I need to.

Oh well, enough rambling. I know most people don't respond to a lot of threads (Im guilty of it too) so even if you look, enjoy! If you have any advice please let me know. Thanks for looking!

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  #2  
Old 01-28-2015, 02:20 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Just wanted to post a little update. I put some Mylar at the two ends but then ran out. Maybe I'll order more if I need it. I have also wrapped the containers in foil and haven't noticed any algae growth.

They are growing well so far. I think they are preferring the HPS lamp with a much warmer light. I have noticed some bud problems which I will get pictures for later. The first bud, about 6 inches up won't fully grow and starts to turn yellow and dry up. The second bud cluster, another 6 inches up or so will stay green but hasn't started growing out yet. Then the third cluster buds are starting to be a little more defined as flowers (the green part no yellow petals yet) and are starting to get a 'stem' for the cluster. Confusing, I know. I feel that when I transplanted them, they might have had the baby cluster on them which was stressed and decided not to make it. But the new clusters are able to be supported by the new environment and root growth. Maybe I'll actually get some fruit.

I'm also considering giving them a larger reservoir. I have an 18 gallon tote instead of the 10 gallon they are using. It might make life a little easier for me and consistent for the plants.

I've put most on a trellis wire (twine with a clip). They are about 10-18" tall now from 3-8" starts.

Thanks for looking!
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Old 01-28-2015, 07:18 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Just uploading some pics of the stages of Buds since transplanting.

First and lowest cluster: yellow and small. they fail and fall off.

Second cluster up: Green and hasn't failed yet. Still holding on, but not expanding.

Third cluster at top: Green and expanding with a stem.

Weird side note, some clusters of buds have leaves that grow on the end...
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  #4  
Old 01-28-2015, 07:22 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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These are just shots to show the overall growth. I'm please with the new growth. I'm losing the baby leaves and have more sturdy new growth coming.
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  #5  
Old 02-04-2015, 06:20 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Just posting an update. I'm having a ton of bud failure. The buds are not developing into flowers. They turn yellow and brown and die. About 1/4 of the clusters have done this so far. But growth has been okay and some plants are filling out nicely while some are curling up. I ordered some new tomato seeds so hopefully the ones that don't appreciate my setup for them will be replaced with another plant who will.

Background for bud failure:
Temperatures: 75F during the day and 63F at night.
Humidity: around 35-45%
Water: Now set for 15 minute run time every two hours. It was constant 18hrs on.
Lights: HPS and MH, 16/8hrs.
Nutrients: Nutrients that MHP gardener recommended. Strength about 75%.
https://www.morgancountyseeds.com/st...&productId=487
https://www.morgancountyseeds.com/st...&productId=475
Epsom Salt picked up from Target.

Not the prettiest tomatoes, but it's a learning experience for me. Thanks for looking!
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  #6  
Old 02-04-2015, 10:39 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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How have you been doing to try and pollinate the flowers?
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:34 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Hey GPS! Thank you for replying to the thread

The buds haven't turned in to flowers yet. There have been zero flowers just a bunch of buds. The buds are failing before they reach flower-hood. It makes me suppose night time temperatures or nutrients are to blame.

I also forgot to mention that my reservoir is heated to 71F.
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  #8  
Old 02-05-2015, 09:11 PM
finewoodstudio finewoodstudio is offline
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Default Bud failure

Have been growing tomatoes indoors hydo now for 5 years. lot of what you have is correct but one glaring error. Here is what I shot for, and my tomatoes were planted 12/1/14 and are now flowering. I pollenate them with a electric tooth brush.

PH 5.8 - 6.2
EC 2.5
PPM 1600-2000
temp night 65, day 75
humidty 55-75%
lights on 6am - 9pm.
I do provide CO2 for more growth. not an issue for you.
lighting 2700K and 6500-7000K (red and blue spectrum).
water temp 70. (heat in winter, cooling in summer).

Your humidity is too low. also how much light in lumens are the plants getting? Need a meter, or lower the lighting which will increase the lumens. Are you pruning the plants? I do not know how large they are but lower leaves should always be removed upto the first fruit, but not a issue for you! Also a larger reservoir will buffer the swings in PH, EC, and temp.
Cheers, RS
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  #9  
Old 02-06-2015, 12:06 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Thanks for the response finewood!

The lighting each 4x3 area has a HID lamp that hovers about 15" above the tallest plant. One section has a MH lamp thats about 6500K and the other has a HPS sodium lamp thats about 2700K. They are both rated at 400W I believe. I can probably look up the lumen ratings in a little bit but I believe for how big they are, they should have ample lighting.

Yesterday my humidity ranged from 30%-58%. I got my new Mylar roll in the mail yesterday so I will finish enclosing them today to trap in humidity.

I noticed your EC is run a lot higher than mine. My EC is normally around 1.6 with its highest around 1.95. I'm going to assume I need to bump it up? More food for all the buds?

As for the CO2, I have a small gas heater in the garage that only gets vented when the garage door goes up (don't worry, it's not poisoning me ) Do you think this would add CO2 or is it just CO? Does it matter?

I am pruning the plants. Suckers are removed and any leaves (i call them branches) that have dried up or dying get removed.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:29 PM
finewoodstudio finewoodstudio is offline
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The lighting should be OK, but the plants need both lighting. Should be good for now and it might be challenge when the plants get larger. Idea range of EC is 2.0 to 3.5. EC measure total dissolved solutes and the more solutes the better plant growth. Last year I had my EC 1.5 and it was hard getting the buds to flower. Then when they did the fruit would be small and not grow. I increased the EC and they took off as you are starving the plant.

The higher humidity will also help in the flowering. Adding CO2 will increase plant growth. I think you will see better results by increasing EC and humidity. You want CO2 not CO!
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Old 02-07-2015, 11:51 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Potential Causes of Blossom Drop
The primary causes of blossom drop in tomatoes are environmental (e.g., temperature and relative humidity [RH]) or cultural (e.g., lack or excess of nitrogen [N] fertility). Secondary causes can include lack of water, reduced or extended light exposure, excessive wind, insect damage, foliar disease, excessive pruning, or heavy fruit set.
Primary causes of blossom drop

Temperature: Tomato plants drop their flowers under extreme temperature regimes, such as high daytime temperatures (above 85°F), high nighttime temperatures (above 70°F), or low nighttime temperatures (below 55°F) (Table 1). Optimal growing conditions for tomatoes are daytime temperatures between 70°F and 85°F. While tomato plants can tolerate more extreme temperatures for short periods, several days or nights with temperatures outside the optimal range will cause the plant to abort flowers and fruit and focus on survival (Mills 1988). Temperatures over 104°F for only 4 hours can cause the flowers to abort. If nighttime temperatures fall below 55°F or rise above 70°F, or if daytime temperatures rise above 85°F, the pollen becomes tacky and nonviable, preventing pollination from occurring and causing the blossom to dry and drop (Chester 2004; Levy, Rabinowitch, and Kedar 1978; Mills 1988; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Low temperature: Low temperatures interfere with the growth of pollen tubes, preventing normal fertilization. The pollen may even become sterile, which causes blossoms to drop.Tomato fruit do not set until nighttime temperatures are above 55°F for at least two consecutive nights (Chester 2004; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

High temperature: Sustained high temperatures, especially at night, rapidly deplete the food reserves that are produced in the tomato during the day. The result is sticky pollen, altered viability, and poor or no pollination. Ultimately, the blossom dries and falls off. Female flower parts can also undergo morphological changes, such as drying of the stigma (Mills 1988; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Relative humidity: The ideal RH for tomato growth and development ranges between 40% and 70%. Relative humidity plays a major role in pollen transfer. If RH is lower than the optimal range, it interferes with pollen release because the pollen is dry and unable to stick to the stigma. If RH is higher than the optimal range, the pollen will not shed properly (Mills 1988; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Nitrogen: High or low application rates of N fertilizer can cause blossom drop. High rates of N encourage the plant to produce excessive vegetation at the expense of fruit set. Low N produces spindly vines with low food reserves that cannot support a tomato crop (Chester 2004; Levy, Rabinowitch, and Kedar 1978; Mills 1988; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Secondary potential causes of blossom drop

Low or high soil moisture: Tomatoes have deep roots that can penetrate up to 5 feet. Low soil moisture stresses and weakens the plants. The root zone should be kept uniformly moist throughout the growing season to develop a large root system and reduce plant stress (Chester 2004; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Heavy fruit set: When a tomato plant has produced a large number of blossoms, the resulting fruits compete for the limited food supplied by the plant. The plant will automatically abort some flowers. Once the initial crop is harvested, the problem should subside as the plant's nutritional status comes back into balance (Levy, Rabinowitch, and Kedar 1978; Mills 1988; Ozores-Hampton and McAvoy 2010).

Wind/pruning: Excessive wind can desiccate flowers and/or physically knock them off, reducing fruit set. Excessive pruning can reduce the amount of energy the plant produces and thus can reduce flower production and fruit set.

Light: Lack of sufficient light or extended exposure to light can reduce fruit set.

Insect damage or disease: Growers should use adequate cultural practices to control insects and diseases. Fungal diseases—such as botrytis, heavy bacterial spot, or bacterial speck pressure—have a negative effect on fruit set.

P.S.
What size reservoir/water volume are you using? How much water are the plants drinking daily? Are you replacing what they drink with fresh water daily?
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 02-07-2015 at 11:56 PM.
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  #12  
Old 02-08-2015, 06:04 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Hey GPS! The reservoir is an 18 gallon rubber maid tote, but only filled to 12.5 gallons. They normally go through about 2.5-3gallons a week. When I fill them up, I add fresh nutrient water to them. I mix up another 3 gallons and dump it in the reservoir. I do this because (I think) I watch the EC go down as well so when I put a new 3 gallon nutrient mixture in it gets bumped up.

I top I it off like this for about 2 weeks but on the third week, they get all new 12.5 gallons changed out.
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Old 02-10-2015, 04:16 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello JHazzardB,
Well first I'm not familiar with using the nutrients you are using, and/or if your mixing them correctly. If I were you I would e-mail the company and ask them their mixing directions for growing tomatoes to be sure (unless it's listed on the container or online). I's possible their not designed (or mixed correctly) for continuously fruiting plants, and are unbalanced or contain too much nitrogen.

Also it looks like your growing 8 plants, and with 12.5 gallons of nutrient solution, that comes out to 1.5 gallons per plant. Your plants don't seem to be drinking to much right now, and that's probably mostly due to your low temperatures. Even so, as the plants get bigger and temps get warmer, they will continue to drink more. The minimum recommended water volume for large plants like tomatoes is 2.5 gallons per plant, and I would double that to 5 gallons per plant. That would be 40 gallons for tomato 8 plants. The larger water volume reduces stress from nutrient concentration fluctuations.

That leads me to another concern. First I wouldn't add full strength nutrient to the reservoir to replace the water the plants drink up. I would either just add fresh water, or if it has been at least a week or more, I would only add a diluted (25-50%) strength back.

Also While going three weeks between nutrient changes should be fine when the plants were half that size, I wouldn't let it go more than 2 weeks at that size, especially with such a small water volume (12.5 gallons). Even with a 40 gallon reservoir, I would probably still change it weekly when the plants get more than another couple of feet bigger.

For now I would probably assume the blossom drop (before they open) is either due to inefficient light, or stress from nutrient solution balance and/or concentrations. Your using HID lighting, and though what you have and how it's placed may be insufficient when the plants get bigger and the top foliage shades the leaves underneath (as long as each bulb is at least 150 watts, 300 total). So that leads me to suspect the nutrient solution first. As I mentioned I would contact the manufacture and verify you are mixing them correctly for continuously fruiting plants like tomato's. Then I would mix a fresh batch each week and fill your current reservoir to 18 gallons. Meanwhile making sure to get a larger reservoir before the plants get much bigger.

P.S.
If you can I would try and get the humidity up as well (into the 50-70% range), and supply some air movement with fans if your not already.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 02-10-2015 at 04:20 AM.
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Old 02-10-2015, 02:37 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Man I need to post some more pics of everything!

thanks for the detailed response again, GPS!

The nutrients are specifically formulated for tomatoes (I would assume continuously fruiting but I will email and check). I haven't noticed any of the buds towards the top of the plants (Ill call them the newer ones) turning yellow. I did bump up the nutrient strength to about 2.5-2.6. I think they are enjoying that. I've noticed at least one cluster of buds become "longer" and trying to form a stem.

I have automatic fill valves on all my other reservoirs that keep the water level topped off. I guess I'll put one on the tomatoes reservoir tonight. It's less than 5 minutes of trouble and might be beneficial.

On the lights, both the HPS and MH lamp are rated at 400W so I would think they would be able to get enough light.

Hopefully I'll get some pictures up later tonight!
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Old 02-11-2015, 03:31 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Hey GPS, i also forgot to mention that there are TWO plants per bucket... Highly crowded I know. I just want to see how far I can push the limits on space.

Pictures from last night. And I think I almost have a flower ready to open! It might just be my eyes, buy I see a little bit of yellow in there...
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:00 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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For when GPS looks again:

I was mildly freaking out last night. I went to check to reservoir and there was maybe one gallon left in the bottom. I started thinking to myself "GPS was totally right! The plants are drinking so much more water than I thought!" I scrambled and redid the reservoir and got it topped up to 17 gallons, turned the pump on because I had zero idea when the last time the plants had water last, and man were they thirsty! I thought I had left the faucet running somewhere cause I kept hearing water running. I then discovered that one of the drip lines came out of a bucket and was drenching the garage.

I soon put it all together that the plants did not drink 12 gallons or so overnight and that the drip line instead sprayed all over in hopes I would have to mop the garage floor...

Live and learn. I need to find clips to secure the drip lines better.
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Old 02-15-2015, 08:35 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Well, blossom drop continues. Some of the buds looked like they were going to open to flowers but decided to fall off. I'm suspecting nutrient problems. Although, the plants look nice and healthy!

Background: I'm using Masterblend tomato fertilizer with CaNO3 and MgSO4.
By the directions and labeling online as well as the packaging, it says mix 1 ounce (fertilizer and 1 ounce CaNO3) per 3 gallons. My scale weighs in grams. 1 ounce is about 28.3 grams. I round up to 29. 29 grams per 3 gallons is approximately 9.66 grams a gallon.

I redid the reservoir tonight and filled only to 12.5 gallons (they aren't drinking that quick yet). For the 12.5 gallons, I added 120 grams (12.5 x 9.66) of fertilizer and 120 grams of CaNO3. The MgSO4 requirement is about 1/2 of the fertilizer so I added 60 grams. Everything dissolved perfectly with no residue floating around.

EC of my tap water is .6-.7 depending on the season. I know I should use RO water but at the rate I keep changing out these reservoirs, that would get kinda pricey. Any who, starting EC was .7 today and after I mixed all my fertilizers in the final EC was about 4.65 +/- .05. I've thought my meter was off but I've recalibrated and it's reading of everything else (RO water, tap water, etc) is just fine. This seems super high and I'm thinking that this is my bud killer.

Any thoughts? I'm tempted to dump some RO water (EC .02) into it just to dilute it. I think I can get 4.5 gallons of RO in the reservoir which would lower the EC to (theoretically) 3.38 EC.
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Old 02-18-2015, 12:41 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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So I've reduced the EC to around 3.2. I went ahead and tried to address the humidity issue. My meter has been saying 32-34% during the day. I thought if I enclose and seal them up that moisture would increase. I spent about and hour and a ton of mylar enclosing by tomatoes. Barely any light peaked out and I was proud. Sadly, I watched over the next hour the humidity drop from 33%-19%. I moved the humidity meter out of the 'cage' and the rest of the garage is at 49%. I think I created an oven to bake my tomatoes. So, next project---install an inline duct fan that will draw in the fresh garage air and exhaust the drier 'cage' air.

Seriously, this is becoming more intensive than I ever thought it would! Still anxiously waiting for that first flower...
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Old 02-24-2015, 02:49 PM
finewoodstudio finewoodstudio is offline
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Default Relax and wait

Looks like you are making change after change and expecting the see the result the next day. Sorry, it does not work that way. I usually make a change and expect to see a difference in a week or more. Never used a HID lamp because of their high heat output and high power consumption. you might need to have more air flow.
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Old 03-18-2015, 12:32 PM
JHazzardB JHazzardB is offline
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Thought I'd post a quick update!

4 of my buckets were not producing any buds and grew to be super leggy. They got yanked out with some new seedlings planted (that look healthy). Pics to come.

The other 4 buckets of tomatoes are flowering like crazy and have set the random fruits but have fallen ill to BER. I've been reading up on it and have some ideas to help myself. Because it's believed to be a calcium deficiency, I've entertained the idea of not having enough calcium. I add CaNO3 to my nutrients in equal weight to my fertilizer. My base water is .68EC and I add nutrients to get to 2.5EC. So my gain in fertilizer is a little less than 1.9EC. This may not be strong enough to support the fruit. I'm considering raising this up to the 3.0EC range. Also, I've read it could be the plant cannot transport the calcium allllllll the way to the very end of the fruit. So, yesterday, I've increased my watering frequency from every 2 hours to every hour. I'm hoping this might speed up the availability of Ca and its metabolism to eat more. I dunno, it's a learning experience.

Any thoughts or questions let me know! Thanks for looking!

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