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Stan 03-04-2019 07:18 PM

Lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid will bring ph down.

I wouldn’t worry so much with water temps i’ve grown mine with reservoir temps at a steady 85 degrees. When water starts going above 90 drop frozen gallon to get it back down between 80-85. If you go way down to 60 you’ll be shocking the plant. Last summer we had so many consecutive days in the 90’s I kept nutrient temps at 85 didnt cause any damage to the plants at all.

gdgdad 03-04-2019 10:37 PM

Update, problem discovered & fixed,temps to plunge!
Plants are thriving – I think you caught the “chemical mishap” in time.. Checked plants at end of day yesterday and the first plant hand some branches (with flowers) badly drooping. I took off the lid and the perlite was bone dry 5 / 6 in. down. Pulled up hoses, ran pump, and discovered roots had completely blocked the tubes. Replaced hoses, watered manually, and the next day the limp branches had sprang back! Concern now – a “freak” cold snap – Wednesday could drop to upper 30’s overnight. Moving them into garage is no longer an option. I have a small heater working it’s butt off, and so far I’m able to maintain low 60’s. I’ll probably plug in the water heater, warm water may help. Pump is still running 30 min off 5min on, 24/7. My temporary greenhouse is being put to the test. I may add old blankets around the bottom tomorrow, possibly some on top. I’ve been here over 12 years, never seen a cold snap this late. Fingers crossed - will keep you posted.

Stan 03-05-2019 08:17 AM

I’ve also had that happen. The plants will droop almost looking like it’s over for them. When they receive a couple hours of water they spring up back to life but might find a branch or 2 or 3 that might need to be clipped off. The rest of the plant thrives.

Tomorrow we will be getting temps in single digits crazy for this time of year for us. As long as the plants themselves are not exposed to 32 degrees or below they should be fine.

gdgdad 03-06-2019 04:11 PM

Another “harvest”,green house worked,1 more cold night…
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Stan, pulled 2 tomatoes today – nice and red with barely discernible yellow at top (see pics). I was going to wait until they were 100% red and slightly soft, but my farmer neighbor said they should be picked now. One was 7.69 oz. 3-1/8” tall, 2 ¼” wide, and the other 5.4 oz., 2 ¾ tall, 2” high. I’m keeping a “harvest log”. I purchased another (albeit small) heater for the green house. I could not find a decent size space heater – stores down here stopped carrying them a month ago. BUT… though we went to 31 f, the lowest the green house got was 51 f. The digital thermometer I have saves minimum / maximum temps between resets. I tried to keep temp above 55, I read blossom drop occurs at 55, but I didn't see any obvious changes to the blossoms (and there are many). The PH I ordered is scheduled to be here today so I’ll bring that down to around 6.5. Since the “chemical mishap” I’ve only been adding straight water (from well) to top off the tank. I think I may start adding nutrients at 50% in a day or two – your thoughts? Thanks again for all your help! GDG

Stan 03-06-2019 07:05 PM

If you have temps in low 50’s in the greenhouse that’s fine. Even the upper 40’s won’t kill the plants. Blossom end rot will only form on the newest of tomato blossoms or in other words the infant tomatoes but won’t be noticeable until they get a little larger. So if you get maybe 4 tomatoes with blossom rot you’ll still have 30-50 that won’t.

I usually wait until the tomatoes are red and a little soft before I pick them off in the beginning. When I have a ton of tomatoes starting to change all at the same time I will pick them when they are ripe and ready to eat. Most times I’m giving a lot away to the neighbors so they don’t go bad. If you know how to do canning this would be perfect for that.

Do you know what type of variety plants you are currently growing?

Did you cut the tomato open and try it out? Should be really really good.

I forgot to ask you what brand of PH down did you buy?

gdgdad 03-07-2019 10:00 AM

Still cold, tomato types and PH chemicals
Stan, temperature in my “greenhouse” went to 49 f briefly, early this morning. Little heaters simply couldn’t keep up. I’m definitely upgrading when I build the more permanent greenhouse. Plus the next greenhouse will be much better sealed. But - now we're in the warm up phase, into 80's by Saturday and the foreseeable future.

I agree on waiting until tomatoes are fully bright red and soft before picking, I’ll wait it out next time (should be soon). On my varieties – I know one is a Florida 91 (plant is obviously smaller than the rest) , the other 3 are either Big Boys, or Heatmasters (both Beef Steaks). During the aeroponic “stage”, I lost track, moving them around and replacing ones that didn’t make it. I’m getting tags for the next batch. I haven’t cut the 2 tomatoes open yet, I wanted them to get a little riper.

As for PH down, the first brand I used was Root Farm®, the most recent (1 quart size) is Hydro Crunch General Hydroponics® which just came yesterday. Not sure of the differences in brands, I usually went with whom ever could ship it the fastest. If there’s reasons to change or use another, let me know…

So… I’ll let you know when I slice into the two recent tomato picks and take pics, describe taste. Thanks again GDG

Stan 03-18-2019 03:00 PM

Sorry I’m posting late.

The ph you bought is fine.

Yes pic those tomatoes when they are red and soft to the touch they will be juicy and amazing tasting due to epsom salt. When you have a load of tomatoes that’ll ripen at the same time pick some offbefore they are ripe so you can have them later or if you know canning then pick them when they are all ripen.

I wish I could grow in my area in the winter months but it gets way to cold up here.

2Easy 03-25-2019 12:34 AM

Thanks, my plants are looking good and healthy. :)

gdgdad 03-26-2019 11:22 AM

Possible bug / parasite issue? and status…
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Stan, Plants are MASSIVE and super thick, they require thinning and trellising regularly (good problem to have). There are MANY tomatoes – some easily a pound or more, though very few turning red as yet. Problem: I’ve notice yellow spots and even “snake like” yellow trails on some leaves (see pics) so I sprayed plants with Neem today. The spots and lines look more like the pics on post 11/20/18, rather than the pics posted on 1/5/19 (nutrient deficiency). The bushes are so thick it’s difficult to spray with my “windex type” sprayer, so I’m picking up a small pump sprayer today. I’m still running nutrients at about 50%, and I add about 5 grams of Epsom Salt to the 55 gallon drum once a week – Question: is it time to back off on nutrients? You would not believe the nutrient mix they’re consuming – from 3/15 through 3/23 I’ve added 55 gallons to keep the barrel topped off!!! I’m keeping PH at about 6.5, reservoir temp varies between 69 and 70, and I add a frozen jug when it goes over 70. Appreciate your assessment of the yellow spotting and lines. Also – I’m battling Lubbers (https://www.tampabay.com/features/ho...hopper/1223224) - they’re small grass hoppers that eventually turn into Locust – the largest grasshopper in North America, and they’ll decimate a garden. They’re in their “larve” stage now and I seem to be keeping up with them. They cluster in groups and Spectricide is effective at this stage. I’ve not seen any on my plants as yet. I’ll keep you posted and thanks again. GDG

Stan 03-26-2019 05:33 PM

The trails on the leaves might be caused by slugs. They are not easy to see just really look around that area and pluck’em off. The spots I’m not sure what it could be. Possibly water that was on the leaf getting baked and burned by hot sun? I would clip those leaves off.

Yes it’s incredible how fast and full of fruit these get when growing this way and the amount of water they drink is unbelievable. You can start to gradually cutting back on nutrients. Start with the 50% you currently use per week and make it last 2 weeks with only that 1 dose. If plants look fine drop down to a 40% dose that will last for 2 weeks. Again if plants look fine just keep on reducing by 10% and have it last 2 weeks until you’ve gone to 10% or if you feel the plants have reached their limit just give water till the end.

gdgdad 04-11-2019 03:51 PM

TOMATOES GALORE!!! and update(s)
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Stan, the Neems® seemed to do the trick on what was ever ailing the leaves and the spotted leaves I removed. They seem healthy and WOW are they producing – I’ve attached many pics. I’ve already started handing out tomatoes to neighbors. I never imagined this outcome! I keep a log (spreadsheet) on adding water/nutrients, salts, PH levels and anything I do - and since putting in the 55 gallon reservoir on February 27th. The plants have gone through 260 gallons! I let them ripen until slightly soft and man are they juicy! (again see pics). I’m still running nutrients at about 50%, watering is every 20 minutes for 5 minutes (24/7). Temps here are starting stay high, with sunny clear days, so it’s been a challenge keeping water temp under 73 ° f. I’ll likely be adding water/nutrient tomorrow (typically 20 to 25 gallons) and I’m dropping nutrients to 40%. My neighbor is helping “train” the vines horizontal, and I’ve run so many trellis strings (and clips) to hold up weighty tomato groups that it looks like a puppet show. I’m not sure where the “limit” is – the top vines a still flowering. Gonna’ keep this going as long as I can! Wish I could share some tomatoes with you! I’ll keep you posted as we head into the really hot periods….

Stan 04-11-2019 04:54 PM

Your plants and tomatoes look beautiful!!! I told you, you would have so many tomatoes you would have to start giving them away. Each plant must weigh a lot with all the tomatoes growing all over. You did an amazing job with your first successful grow, congrats!!!

I wouldn’t worry so much with temp of the nutrient water. if you are able to keep it in low 70’s upper 60’s great. I’ve had my reservoir in the mid 80’s and tomatoes were still doing fine.

Make sure you save the seeds from some tomatoes. Scrape them out of 2-3 tomatoes into a window screen type colander, rinse them off with fresh water until you get that gel off of them. Let them sit and dry on a cutting board for a couple hours. Use a butter knife to get the seeds that are sticking to the board all piled up and place them in a paper envelop for a few months and they’ll be ready to be used for a future grow.

I already have a couple seedlings growing won’t be able to get them in the 5 gallon buckets till mid May when there’s no chance of frost at night. We’ve had crazy fluctuations in temps the past 2 weeks up here.

gdgdad 05-01-2019 01:09 PM

Status, updates and ambitious endeavor…
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Hey Stan, hope all’s well. Tomatoes are doing great and to date we’ve picked well over 70 pounds! Canned 8 pints of Salsa, 8 pints whole tomatoes and still have people coming by and picking tomatoes! Plants seem to be slowing down a bit, still easily a hundred in the green stage, but not as large as in the beginning (early March). Is that normal? (see pics) I did back off nutrients to 50% on March 7th. – should I stay at that ratio? As for my ambitious endeavor… being the hydroponic/Dutch bucket tomatoes turned out so well, I’ve started on a four rail / 31 net cup NFT system (see pics). I just completed building a 21 net cup aeroponic cloner/ seed starter (with a varmit guard that will double as a humidity dome when covered with Saran wrap). I need to order an additional interval timer. Later in the summer, I’ll be building a permanent half-hoop green house (uncovered most of the year) to house the Dutch buckets and rail system. Again, an ambitious plan but I think I can pull it off. I’ll keep you (and the blog) posted.

Stan 05-01-2019 05:08 PM

OK you should start getting new plants ready to replace the ones you have. When these plants get over 10ft the size of the tomatoes gets smaller unless you are growing cherry tomatoes. Here's 2 different ways to do this.

1. The fast way pluck big suckers from your current plants put them in neoprene collars then into that cloner.

2. Start new plants from seeds in rockwool in net cups.

If you go with #1 run the cloner 24hrs a day until you see a good amount of roots forming. Then you can reduce the watering time. Use 10% nutrients in the cloner for the suckers.

With rockwool you want to run the water for 10 minutes or until the rockwool is completely saturated. Then again as you did the first time you don't want the sprayers off for long and let the rockwool dry out. So you might have to run it 24hrs a day until it spouts and roots start forming. Once roots start to show add a small amount of nutrients.

Once you start 1 or 2 or both and they have roots drastically cut down on the nutrients of your current plants down to maybe 10 percent since they are on the last stage.

With the rails I suggest putting the large plants on top and the smaller plants on the bottom. As for making it a NFT system I' am not a fan of doing it this way. I started with rails and found using the 360 degree sprayers with give you healthier plants. The root system will be gigantic with a aeroponic rail system. With a NFT system only those roots sitting in the water will thrive. With aeroponic spray system the root system will be like a bush coming out of the net pots. After a while you won't be able to lift those net pots to see the roots in an aeroponic rail. Thats just my opinion you could build it either way.

When you get the hole cutter for the net pots make sure you drill the holes with the drill in reverse for the rails. Yes in reverse otherwise it won't cut the net pot hole smooth using the drill the other way. The other way you will end up with big chips and will need to buy a new post.

As for the new cloner very nice work!! You are becoming a pro at this!

gdgdad 05-02-2019 11:27 AM

Rail system plan and questions..
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Stan, Thanks for all the great advice and tips. I can see your point about the NFT flow technique – although water height can be adjusted, it would rely on roots being the same length. That’s unlikely for different varieties of plants. How did you configure the sprayers in the 5X5 fence post? A single PVC line down the center with sprayers between net cups? I’ve attached a preliminary rail layout plan and if I went with sprayers, it looks like it would take about 27 sprayers. I’m not sure the pump I have could run that many (or I could upgrade to a bigger pump). Also, I may be way to “aggressive” in the number of net cups. Any recommendations on net cups per 4’ section? This is still in the planning stage, no 5X5 fence rails (and caps) purchased as yet, but I have enough sprayers and PVC. Your thoughts / advice?

Stan 05-06-2019 12:13 PM

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Why make 4 5X5 4ft sections when you can make 2 5X5 8ft sections? I did it this way a couple years back 1 8ft rail had tomato and pepper plants in 11 3/1/2 inch net pots. The other 8ft rail I had 17 2inch net pots mostly for strawberries. Both ran off the same reservoir I used a splitter to feed both rail sprayers at the same time. I place 1 sprayer between every 2 net pots. The below thread link has pic of both rails.


Pic 1 below shows how i get the PVC into the rail. I use a rubber grommet.

Pic 2 is look inside the rail for what I use as a drain back to the reservoir. I bought this piece at Lowes/Home Depot in the electrical section for less than $2 1 side has thread (male) and the outside piece is female. I drilled the openings so the water could drain.

The end covers for the rails I used "Food Grade Caulking" to seal them in place to prevent leaks. I also used the caulking for the inside drain again to seal so no leaks. Don't use any other caulking it's toxic except for food grade.

Last but not least yse you need a strong pump for the sprayers but you will be watering the plants less than you do with Dutch Buckets.

Stan 05-06-2019 12:20 PM

I forgot to mention you'll nee to insert 2 screens 1 on the bottom of the drain piece in the 5X5 and 1 right where the water drains back into the reservoir. This will prevent the sprayers from becoming clogged by root mater during the grow season.

gdgdad 05-13-2019 03:31 PM

Ambitious endeavor update…
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Stan, thanks for the great advice and tips. I placed one 360 sprayer between “pairs” of net cups, not in between each – that GREATLY reduced the number of sprayers. I’m down to 12 – 360 and 3 180 sprayers. I too used grommets to get the feed line into the rail. For the drain line, I cut PVC couplers and made ~ ¼” high “rings”, then I fed ½” PVC pipe through the rail and glued to either straight or angled coupler (see pics). Water level in the rails should not exceed about ¼”. I did find the food grade caulk you suggested. As for the pump, I just happened to have a ¼ hp. 1,800 GPH Submersible pump from years ago. Now it’s clean and test, check for leaks and make repairs where necessary. I do have to order another interval timer – then I should be good to go. As for my next “crop”, I’m anxious to use those seeds you sent me, so I’m staying with 4 Dutch buckets: 2 with the “3 lb. tomatoes”, 1 with the other seeds you sent and one cherry. I’ll be “firing up” the cloner soon for tomatoes and veggie seeds. Lastly, tomatoes still going strong, whole new "batch" up high. Had to wrap hoop house in bird netting - wood peckers were ruining tomatoes.


Stan 05-28-2019 10:25 AM

Those plants will grow 14+ft if you let them but the size of the tomatoes will start to get smaller if you let them grow that long. Always better to start up new plants and as they start to get almost to flowering stage clip the tops off the old plants and disconnect them from the reservoir. Just pour regular water with a little bit of dissolved epsom salt into the bucket twice daily early am and at sundown so the tomatoes still on the plant can ripen until the last plant. As you do this start feeding the new plants the reservoir nutrients. By the time the last tomato is pluck from old plants the new plants will already have tomatoes forming. Try to keep a log of how long the plants disconnected from reservoir lasts for and how long it takes new plant to start forming tomatoes so you can adjust the timing for both so tomato production never stops.

Very nice setup with the rails. Let me know how it works out for you since you will have 1/4 inch of still water at the bottom of each rail. My rails completely drain so the roots get plenty air in between watering.

gdgdad 06-27-2019 02:59 PM

Seedling issues again……..
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Stan, I “fired up” the cloner again but…. as in the post from October of 2018 “This is where / when I seem to have the most problems…..” . I started 6 Rockwool cubes 5/29/19 from the seeds you sent - 3 of the 3 lb. seeds and 3 of the Cherry. By 6/15, 3 did germinate and 3 did not. So I re-seeded 3 cubes – all with the 3 lb. seeds (I am obviously anxious for those!). On the 3 seeds that did germinate, one exhibited the same issues I had in October, it got tall and fell over. I carefully, delicately propped up all 3 of the 1” to 2” seedlings with hydroton. Days later, 1 just fell over. I have 2 ~ 1-1/2” seedlings still hangin’ in there as of 6/22/19, though I noticed the tips of the cotyledons on one seedling had yellowed. (see pics). NONE of the new seeds placed 6/22 have germinated.
So…. Cloner setup and environmental conditions:
- 5/29 Rockwool cubes were pre-soaked (overnight) in 1/8th strength Miracle grow adjusted to 6.0 PH post nutrient
- 5/30: Placed 3 to 4 seeds per cube Rockwool cube (in 2” net cups), then placed cloner
- Timer set to 5 seconds on 15 minutes off per your October post. Note- every time I pull up a net cup, it is dripping – too much water? Top of cubes seems slightly dry, water from top occasionally?
- Same as last time, the cloner is on my covered Lanai, though is does get some direct sunlight after ~ 6:30 PM.
- Temps and humidity are HIGH. Low to mid 90’s and humidity 85% +
I’m wondering if I should cover the cloner dome with some type of cloth to minimize sunlight - would that encourage root growth? As of 6/25 I simply removed the cover, I can’t imagine a humidity dome necessary in this climate….
The reservoir water temp is running 79 degrees. I could make a batch of nutrient/PH balance ice cubes to lower the temp if we suspect that’s a problem.
If heat and humidity is stifling seedling start, what about moving cloner indoors until seedlings get to a certain point? This is frustrating – I have the greenhouse 90% done (see pic) and was hoping to have seedlings ready to move into Dutch buckets in a couple months. I'm ready to start from scratch…..

Stan 06-29-2019 10:23 AM

With the high temps and humidity you’re now in I would run the sprayer all day 24hrs a day until you have a couple roots an inch or 2 long coming out of the net pots.

With it being so hot I would start the seeds indoors as 90degrees is way to hot to start seeds. You can put the rockwool cubes in a tray that holds water and have a light a couple inches away.

When they germinate set up a fan blow on them slow speed this will strengthen the stem. When you can surround them with hydroton put them in the cloner still indoors until roots are exposed then move them outdoors.

Put them in an area where they will only get 2 - 3 hours of either early morning or late evening sun. This will get them accustomed to the heat. When roots are 4 inches long put them in an area where they will get more hours of sun have the sprayers on more time than off. After a week of this transplant into buckets.

Stan 06-29-2019 10:26 AM

I forgot to mention don’t start the seeds in any type of nutrients until they have germinated and you have the first 2 leaves opened.

gdgdad 11-05-2019 05:05 PM

Back at it in the “permanent” greenhouse
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Hello Stan, hope you’re doing OK! We haven’t talked in a while but I’ve been busy. I have my “permanent” greenhouse done except for the visqueen (which can wait a little longer), and burying a second reservoir for the aeroponic rail system. Anyway – after SEVERAL failed attempts to get seedlings going, I finally have 5 plants from the “3lb. seeds” you sent me (see pics). I’ve found that the minute a seedling sprouted in the rockwool cube (in shaded seedling tray) I transferred it to the aeroponic cloner placed in direct sunlight - intermittently shaded by trees. It worked - they started growing true leaves at about an inch tall – and all survived. I have 3 of the plants in Dutch buckets now. I’ll be ordering seeds for the aeroponic rail system soon and I’ll put that 21 net cup “super cloner” I built into service. One thing I’ll be doing for certain this time is cutting suckers for cloning – I’m just not successful with starting from seed – less than half the rockwool cubes I started even sprouted. I go back through this blog frequently to remember timer settings, nutrient ratios etc at the various growth stages. Thanks again for all your help and advice! I’ll keep you posted and – likely – ask for more advice and direction.

gdgdad 11-05-2019 05:14 PM

PS - forgot to ad....
In the dutch buckets I'm running the VertiGro nutrients @ 30%, I'm almost out of those and their site lists that 2 pack as "out of stock". I may have to seek an alternative until they replenish their stock. The aeroponic cloner (bucket) I'm running at about 20% MiracleGro (for tomatoes).

Stan 11-06-2019 10:54 PM

I believe they are selling 6 - 4lb bags of the 6-12-28 and 6 - 4lb bags of the 15-0-0 for a total of $150. That will last you more than 10 years depending on how much you expand.

This year was a bad one for me. I only got 1/2 of the tomatoes I would usually get. We had a very bad heat wave in early July 3 weeks of almost 100 degree heat which burnt the top of all my plants. The top didn’t start to grow again until Late August So basically I didn’t get any new tomatoes until that time and my season ended last week.

1 thing I learned you might want to try. The tomatoes that started forming late August up till the First week in September

gdgdad 11-13-2019 04:08 PM

Update on permanent green house
Stan, sorry took so long to respond. I had issues with a replacement timer showing up DOA, then the return exchange process, and the replacement interval timer’s “On Time” dial was WAY off – had to use the stop watch on phone to set that (and mark the dial). Anyway, I’ve transferred 4 of the 5 plants into Dutch buckets, I’ll move the last one likely in a week or so. All seem healthy, 1 is easily a foot tall now. I did have some minor bug activity (small hole in a couple leaves) so I sprayed with Neems and haven’t seen any new indications of insect activity. In the Dutch buckets I’m running nutrients at ~ 30%, and ~20% Miracle grow in the cloner. I’ve started prepping for the visqueen, made clips, spacers, etc. My challenge is going to be night time heating on those rare occasions we have a frost. During the day, even on cold days, the visqueen green house I had last year would stay in upper 70s to mid 80’s just from the sun. So….. I’m looking at different heating techniques – most likely propane or electric, though I did actually entertain a wood burner. Again, I’m not looking to heat it full time, just through the night / early – morning, maintaining temp at least mid 40’s. The reservoirs have heaters and keep water in low 70’s, so during regular pump cycle timing warm water flows through buckets. Any suggestions / ideas on heating? Again, thanks for all your assistance – and stay warm up there

Stan 11-14-2019 09:16 AM

I just noticed my last post got cut off at the bottom.

I wanted to say I cut off all nutrients on those last forming tomato plants early September and still got a good amount of good tasting tomatoes in late October. So when your plants are forming the last tomatoes for those plants you can also cut all nutrients off.

As for heating I personally worry about propane. A very small wood burning stove with Smoke exhaust going directly outside the greenhouse might be a very good option. They hold heat for a long time and are very cost efficient. Electric heaters do a great job but isn’t cost efficient if the cold lasts a long time your electric bill would shoot up. Either of the 2 you would have to weigh the options but stay away from the propane.

gdgdad 12-04-2019 05:29 PM

Updates on greenhouse and tomatoes
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Well, I think I’ve completed the green house, and just in time (see pics). We’ve already had a night go down to 39F – very unusual for this area this time of year. Luckily the greenhouse was completely enclosed and the undersized heater I had was able to keep temp just barely above 50F. I have a new heater coming Thursday that’s actually listed as “suitable for agriculture”. Ideally, it should only run at night, so hopefully it won’t kill my electric bill. It has a thermostat so I was thinking keep it at 55 – your thoughts???
Even when we have a rare 55 or so degree day (for the high), the sun takes that greenhouse well into the 80’s by 9 or 10 am. You can see from the pics the plants appear to be doing well, there’s some flowering and I’ve “pollinated” via the electric tooth brush method. All these plants are from the seeds you sent me, so you’d know better how they’re doing. I’ve removed suckers and placed them in the rockwool cubes per the method you described and into the aeroponic cloner. Can’t believe they already produced roots – not sure what I’m going to do with them, keeping them as “back up” for now. I’ll be making my annual Christmas pilgrimage to Michigan ~ the 17th., and my neighbor (the farmer from Jamaica) is going to keep an eye on things. Pumps are on timers, heater is automatic, and the 55 gal reservoir level has barely moved so I think I’ll be alright. Still running nutrients at ~ 30% - think it’s time to increase that? Thanks again for all your help, hopefully I’ll be able to send you some winter tomatoes!!

Stan 12-08-2019 10:10 PM

50 - 55 degrees on those cold nights will be fine. 80 degrees during daylight hours is optimum temps for those plants. They will thrive in those night and daytime temps.

I wouldn't go higher than 50% nutrients for these winter plants. I don't think you'll be able to have them grow more than 10+ feet in the greenhouse. Just see how it goes with 50% if plants look healthy during that time keep it at 50%. If you see signs of the plant nutrient deficiency then go up to 75%.

The suckers in the aeroponic cloner will develop roots real fast. I would start the suckers after you have plucked your first tomatoes off the plants you currently have. If you keep them in the cloner they will catch up to the current plants you have growing in the buckets in no time. I would start the suckers in the cloner after you have plucked off your first ripe tomatoes.

Have a safe trip and a wonderful Christmas!!!

gdgdad 12-09-2019 01:16 PM

Reply, plant training plan and question
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Stan, thanks for the response! I’ll “up” the nutrients to 50%, per your suggestion, plus there’s a lot more flowering going on, and I’ll monitor them closely. On the plant height issue, I added wires the width of the greenhouse to the vertical frames (about 2” down from top), then ran strings across from center to over the Dutch buckets. From those I should be able to drop lines for the clips to train them on a “slow curve” (see pic with my arrows). And I can always add more lines up top to form more or less a matrix. That gave me ~ 8 ½ feet to the top of the Dutch bucket, and I can probably go out another 2’ via the PVC frame. I’ll try curving them early while they’re “soft”, and I’ve already started with the first plant (again see pic). We’ll see how that goes….

Question: I noticed a couple of the flowers have a real pronounced “bend” (see pics), making the flower face down. Is that normal for this variety or is something causing it? should I be concerned?

Lastly, the heater came and it seemed to do a great job. It’s first night the temps went to low 40’s, and it kept it at 60. I’ve since dialed it back hoping for the 55 range to hopefully lessen the hit on the electric bill.

As for the “clones”, I knew I was way too early, but it was a combination of seeing if I could get it to work, and for them to serve as back up’s should I lose one of the plants. Thanks for the tip on cloning when tomatoes start showing up, my goal is a continuous production. Also, I was thinking when I do replace one of the plants (with a clone) that I’d cut the bucket down to ~ 3 gallon size. That would add about 6” of height. Much of what I read says 5 gallon buckets are an over kill. Your thoughts?
Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted.

Stan 12-09-2019 07:03 PM

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Don't worry about the flowers facing down those are the big heirloom I sent you. The stems are thick and needed to hold those tomatoes. Picks below 1 of the big heirloom with tomato forming and the other of the flowers on top of the same plant. You will see some of that downturn.

The last pic is of the heirloom black cherry tomato flowers with tomatoes. You'll get lots of these tomatoes sometimes between 8-12 tomatoes oo every flowering stem.

Now the decision between 5 or 3 gallon buckets. With the 5 gallon buckets I have sometimes found roots growing into the drain pipe back to the reservoir. Not a lot of roots just some. If I had 3 gallon buckets I would expect lots of roots in the drain pipe. It could possibly clog up the draining of the buckets themselves during water cycles something that has never happened with 5 gallon. Maybe try 1 or 2 of the 3 gallon buckets and see what happens but don't go full 3 gallon until you have had the chance of growing some plants full cycle.

Now if you plan on growing plants with short roots that'll work fine tomato plants have some really long roots.

gdgdad 01-06-2020 12:40 PM

Greetings and update(s)
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Hello Stan – first off happy New Year and I hope you had a great Christmas! I returned from my annual Michigan Christmas excursion, I was gone from Dec 17th. Until Jan 4th., and as was the case last year, my neighbor kept an eye on things. Most everything is automatic, so the only real upkeep is training the vines. The heater I put in seems to be doing a good job, and we were blessed with mild weather in Florida while I was gone. At this time the heater’s on a timer from 8pm to 8am, utilizing the thermostat on the heater itself. I have an actual “wall type” thermostat coming that will run the heater regardless of time. I included a pic of my “not so sophisticated” heating system. The fan rotates blowing warm air left to right and so far so good. We’ll see what the electric bill looks like shortly…. It looks like we’ve got 4 or 5 days of low 80’s coming soon (lows never below 60) so I’ll be able to leave them uncovered all day and night - they love that sunshine!!.

Anyway, from the pics you can see they’re doing well. There’s still a lot of flowering going on. I upped the nutrients to about 75% (and I’ve run out - I’ll be making a trip to Verti Gro this month). I’ve also introduced the Epsom Salts @ 1 gram p/gallon. It’s been a challenge training them to “curve” along the roof line, but via a “network” of strings and clips, it’s working. These tomatoes really are heavy!!! Had one tomato with blossom rot, but haven’t seen any more so I’ve held off on the pickling lime. They’re consuming nutrient pretty well too – I topped off the reservoir before I left and 19 days later when I got back it took 37 gallons! Reservoir temp maintains consistently around 68/69 degrees (F).

Lastly, I’m hoping to start the aeroponic rail system soon, and I’ll continue cloning tomatoes via suckers to – hopefully - keep a continuous supply. Thanks again for all your help!

Stan 01-06-2020 04:18 PM

Happy New Year!!! Looks like everything is running perfectly.

Very nice setup with the heater. The plants look great you already have nice forming tomatoes and a lot of flowering. The weather is working in your favor. If only 1 tomato had blossom end rot I wouldn't worry about it as long as the others show no signs of it.

Those plants will be sucking up a lot of water once those flowers start forming even more tomatoes. I don't think you need to increase the nutrients you have plenty of flowers forming the plants look really good with what they are getting at the moment. Only up the nutrients when the plants look like they need it and at the moment they don't. Yes give them the epsom salt that will make them taste really good.

Keep me updated on how everything turns out.

gdgdad 01-16-2020 04:11 PM

Aeroponic rail seed start, “learning curve” and update….
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I’ve received most of the seeds I ordered for the aeroponic rail system and have started the seeds in rockwool in netcups. I wrapped the “cage” in plastic wrap to create a “humidity dome”, seems to be working – was “foggy” when I came out this morning. So far I have a mix of vegetables, herbs and spices – 14 different types. We’ll see what happens. I have 27 “spots” on my rail system but only 21 openings in my “super cloner”, so some veggies will be started later.

Question on the Aeroponics –cloner and rail system – do I need to have an aerator in the reservoir? Given it’s “spraying” it seems that would accomplish the same thing. Your thoughts?

As for the tomatoes, they’re looking good – they’re being trained on a “learning curve” (pun intended) – as you can see in the pic. Last “top off” of the reservoir on the 12th. took 12 gallons, so they’re definitely drinking up the nutrients. I head out tomorrow to Verti-Gro for a new batch, the original batch lasted a year exactly. The tomato clones have been growing faster than I can give them away, I have a friend driving out from Sorrento to pick up the whole batch (5) and I’ll start over.

Weather has been unbelievable, 80’s and sunny for days, but it’s about to change. Long range prediction says we could hit 32F Tuesday the 21st., though a couple days later we’re back in the 70’s. I purchased a wall type thermostat to run the heater (and fan), hoping for more consistency. The “built in” thermostat didn’t seem to kick on when it should have, so this is a big test. Two of the reservoirs have aquarium heaters that seem to do a good job, and each reservoir has it own thermometer (w/ external LCD display).

That’s where I’m at – I’ll keep you posted on seedling progress – my most difficult part.

Stan 01-17-2020 04:23 PM

Wow everything is looking great!!! Keep a good eye on any of the larger tomatoes they can really expand during the last 4 weeks to the point where you might have to attach a hammock made out of cheesecloth or similar to hold them up as the stem might not be able to.

You might want to place heavy duty aluminum foil over the top of the cloner or paint the top black since it's out in direct sun. You don't want to get any algae build up in the water. If it's only in the sun for 3-5 hours leave it be but 10+ hours of direct sun you need to do 1 or the other.

You don't need an aerator for the cloner but you do need it for the rail system. Also put a screen like the screens on windows inside the drain pipe coming out of the rail system. This will prevent any dead roots from going back into the reservoir as the water pump will suck it in and will end up clogging a sprayer or 2. Especially when you start taking plants out from the rail system and replacing with new plants. You will know what I mean when you start growing plants from the rail the roots system growing out of the net pots are gigantic.

gdgdad 02-12-2020 06:44 PM

First tomatoes!! Status, cracking issue and aeroponics
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Hey Stan, hope this update finds you well. I see the weather’s still a little chilly up there. Today we picked our first tomatoes for 2020!! 5 total, the largest 32.7 oz., smallest 17.8 oz., total of 7.2 lbs. for all of them. VERY JUICY! DELICIOUS!! - however, the tomatoes we picked have very pronounced cracking, newer ones (still green) seem to have less cracking. Everything I’ve read says it’s a water issue (too much??). Here’s where I’m at on timer settings, nutrients, weather, etc…..

- Timer ON 4 min 30 seconds (verified via stop watch on phone). Timer is OFF for 10 minutes.
- Nutrients being run at ~ 50%, with Epsom Salt added @ 1 gram per gallon.
- Since November 1st. 2019, when all 5 plants placed in Dutch Buckets, plants have consumed 117 gallons.
- Temps (lately) have been in the low 80’s, humidity fairly low. During “cold spells”, I was able to maintain temp inside greenhouse at ~ 45F minimum (typically over 50F).
- Plants are easily 8 ft. or taller, new blooming (flowering) going on still, tomatoes from 1” to the 2lb. size.

I finished “repairing” the aeroponic system, all leaks repaired, sprayers verified operational, just need to put in-ground reservoir. The new seedlings, as usual, not going well. I’ve only had 5 sprout out of 21 in rockwool cubes. Restarted more and made a point to log the “days to germinate” for each type. These are in the typical seed starter tray with dome, kept in the garage which stays warm and has indirect light during day hours.

So…… any advice / direction appreciated. I’ve added pics and if you need to see something specific, let me know and I’ll take a pic. Thanks so much!

Stan 02-13-2020 03:30 PM

With the cracking cut down drastically for water on. First try for only 1 minute on 20 minutes off. If plants look good after a couple hours reduce on time to 30 seconds on. Again if all looks good then extent off time to 30 minutes.

The most important thing you want to reduce the water on time. The plants suck up so much water they over expand and start to crack so water intake needs to reduce and time between watering also needs to be reduced. This is something you need to keep track of especially keep track of air temps with on off times.

For me I don’t mind the cracks as long as they are small but when they are large that’s when I refuse watering to the bare minimum.

As for the seed starter the beast thing to have is a seed starter

gdgdad 04-24-2020 02:57 PM

Updates, status and checking in…
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Hey Stan, Haven’t talked in a while, hope everything’s OK in your area. I’m still going strong and have already “retired” two of the plants you sent me. So I have 3 of the large heirlooms (from seeds you sent me) still producing and I have a cherry and “tear drop” in 2 of the Dutch buckets. I also have a Big Boy and a Big Daddy in the cloner bucket. The rail system really took off (see pics). All the herbs/spices grew quickly into large bushes, the Bok Choy is fantastic, had some for dinner yesterday along with the first summer squash. The Dutch buckets have consumed 381 gallons of nutrient since November 1st. !

I have some butter crunch lettuce in the infant stage (seed starter) as well for the rail system. I tried Tom Thumb lettuce seeds but after 3 tries (and many rockwool cubes) not a one germinated. I still seem to be having an issue getting seeds to germinate. I’m using the standard 10X20 seedling tray with mat, but still some seed types never germinate.

I do wish now I would’ve laid the rails out as you suggested – flat 8’ lengths. I had to build a platform for the squash – one plant has 7 squashes! I’ve learned a number of lessons and may “re-do” the rail system at some time. I’m thinking 10’ X 6” diameter pvc with more spacing and access holes to sprayers. I envision a type of “tray” between pipes for things like small mellons, squash, cucumbers etc. Anyway – that’s an AutoCad project for another day.

Again, hope all is well, stay in touch!

Stan 05-05-2020 05:23 PM

Hi sorry got back to you so late just noticed your post today.

With any type of lettuce I always start them off in planter pots with very moist soil. A couple seeds in each they will sprout very quickly. Once they are say 1 inch tall you can transfer to rockwool cubes. I usually split the rockwool cubes on 1 side up to the center. I then take the small lettuce plant place the root down the center of the cube, close the cube, place cube in net pot, fill sides with hydroton then put in cloner. Keep in cloner until you see roots starting to show then place in the area you want to let grow till finish.

10' X 6" PVC are expensive. Are you having problems with clogging sprayers? If yes you should put screens at the pipes leading to the main pipe that empties into the reservoir. You should also place a screen right where the water enters the reservoir.

I have all my tomato plants in the cloner waiting to be put in the buckets either by the end of this week or next.

Stan 05-28-2020 06:20 PM

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This year I decided to do away with the perlite and just go low pressure aeroponic. Cleaned out all my 5 gallon buckets and made some changes to do 5 gallon aeroponic. I transferred my tomato plants from the aeroponic cloner to the 5 gallon buckets 5 days ago and already the roots are starting to get very bushy with this aeroponic system. I am thinking these buckets will be filled with roots by the time I have to end the grow in September or October. I put a small layer of hydroton in the bottom of the buckets so most of the nutriens will drain back into the reservoir.

I still have to set up my big tomato cages around all the buckets and will secure them to the wood boards the 5 gallon buckets are sitting on. Everything is set up right on time and hopefully things work out the way I have planned.

Posted 2 pictures 1 of the line of tomato plants and 1 of the roots getting watered after 5 days in the 5 gallon buckets.

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