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Stan 11-28-2018 09:57 PM

PM me your mailing address I’ll send some down to you along some other tomato plants that did well with Dutch bucket grows.

As for epsom salt I only add a maybe 3 tablespoons once a month when I see tomatoes starting to form. Just make sure it’s pure epsom salt and not the type that has other things added to it like boutique epsom salt.

gdgdad 12-03-2018 02:34 PM

Blooms?? And leaf discoloration concern
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Stan, The plants seem to be growing (height wise) fast (see pics). One plant (2nd. From left) appears to be starting blooms (you may have to zoom in, but there appears to be three – Epson salt time?) However, today I noticed some discoloration on the leaves on the plant with blooms. Not every leaf, but more than one (again, see pics). On all four plants, the tips or edges of the cotyledons appear brown or dried out. Should cotyledons be cut off? Nutrient timer still running 15 min off, 3 min on, 7/24 (any suggestions on timing?). The aerator and heater run 7/24 as well, and PH seems stabilized @ 6.0 (checked every other day). I try to get the plants as many hours of sunshine as possible, but between recent cloudy days and exceptionally high winds, I doubt its more than 8 or 9 hours a day, but I do leave lighting on through the night or whenever the garage door is closed. Appreciate your “prognoses” of what I’m seeing, and any advice you have. Thanks, Gary

ehsannp 12-03-2018 05:05 PM

try to use some grease and industrial oil on it.

Stan 12-03-2018 05:18 PM

When tomatoes start to form clip the leaves going up to that level. I can’t tell from the pic are those the bottom leaves? If yes clip them off. If not could be 2 possible things.
1. plant might be getting stressed from being moved in and out of the garage.
2. Plants not getting enough water of which I don’t think is the case here. You’re not using a drip feed right?

Are you using General Hydroponics drops ph tester or a battery operated 1? I find the GH easier and more accurate to deal with. Also what type of fertilizer are you using now with the plants?

The pics of the soon to be tomatoes looks like a great healthy plant.

You don’t need the air stone running 24hrs a day it only need 2 hours at the most.

gdgdad 12-03-2018 10:52 PM

Discoloration - answers to comments / questions
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Stan, thanks for the quick response. I’ve provided a (hopefully) better pic and circled the “discolored” leaves that shows their position. On your comments / questions:
-The plants aren’t moved in and out, and actually have never been moved since being put in the Dutch buckets, BUT…. They’re only inches from the garage door (to get the most full sun) that I open in the morning, close in the evening.
-Watering: still set at 15min off/ 3 min on 24/7 (reduced from 5 min on). I use an “open” (i.e. nothing on the end of the hose) dual ¼” drip line per bucket. See the pic with the “hoop”, I cut the hoop at center and left ends open, pushed down ~ 2” into perlite. Per my measurement on the return line, I believe each bucket gets about 10 gph. (if running continuously). Increase time on?
-My PH tester is a battery operated ATC – iMeshbean PH tester (https://www.amazon.com/iMeshbean-Dig.../dp/B00LE3MZ7S). I also bought Atlas Scientific calibration liquids and check the tester ~ once a month and it’s dead on.
-Fertilizer: still using Miracle Grow® for tomatoes (@1/4 strength) – open to your recommendations – type and strength….
-On the air stone(s), I’ll turn them on manually in the morning for ~ 2hrs. until I grab another timer from good ‘ol Harbor Freight.

Stan 12-04-2018 11:48 AM

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PH Tester - Ok I had 1 of those ph testers when I first started they were never very accurate and a PITA to adjust. I use General Hydroponics ph tester it's always accurate and easy to deal with and cheap 5 - 7 dollars that'll last for the year. The ph color in the pic is what you want.

Fertilizer - I tried once growing with Miracle Grow it works in the beginning stages but I never got it to grow to the end. Plants need more than what that fertilizer will give them. I've been using Verti-Gro for a long time now always had success with them. They have a sale going on now for the same fertilizer I've been buying from them.
They have instructions on the package of how much to dilute in 1 gallon bottles You need strong 1 gallon containers not the flimsy milk containers. Both fertilizes need to be in separate containers. Instructions also include how much of the nutrients should be added to the reservoir of which I never went full strength with. Now my growing season is from May thru October growing 11 tomato plants of which I only used a total of 1/2 gallon of each solution.

Watering - I never used that ring does it drip out or flow out? If it drips out increase the time double it. I take my black tubing and push it down close to the stem of the tomato plant pics below. Those plants grew so fast they came over the top of the cages and grew down below the cages easily over 10ft tall. I also shot a very short video of my Black Cherry Tomato plants that was loaded with forming tomatoes. It was shot after an extreme heatwave that lasted about a week. You'll see my feed line running from PVC pipe into the perlite. The leaves aren't perfect but the tomatoes didn't suffer from the heatwave. I will remove the video in a couple days.


gdgdad 12-04-2018 06:34 PM

PM receieved and updates....
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Thanks so much Stan! I’m following your suggestions from your recent and previous post:
- I put the aerator on its own timer – 1hr. in morning, 1 hr. in evening
- I’ll order the fertilizer you suggested, though I may have to wait a week
- Ditto on the PH tester – though I don’t totally trust my ability to color match (per the wife)….
- Watering: I’ve attached an excerpt (pic) from my CAD drawing, and the ¼ inch lines are “open ended” (no ring), free flowing (good steady streams) buried ~2” down in the perlite on each side of plant(s). Also 2 pics of line leading into bucket(s) from ½ PVC line.
- Watched the video (thank you) – I’m envious…. But I’ll get there.
Got your PM on the seeds – thanks again! Lastly, I temporarily “decommissioned” the cloner today, sanitized and storing for when I get the new seeds. The remaining “back up” plant still in the cloner I put into a pot (standard dirt mix). It seemed to be wilting, I’m guessing it didn’t like the spray intervals – I only had that old timer and it was “feast or famine”…..

gdgdad 12-10-2018 12:55 PM

Update & fertilizer change question
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Stan, I’m getting ready to do the first “complete flush” of the Dutch bucket reservoir. I’ll be leaving to Michigan the 16th. For ~2 weeks, and I have a neighbor and a brother coming by to check on things and add pre-mixed / balanced water to the reservoir when necessary. Everything is on timers, i.e. pump, aerator, lights and automatic heater in reservoir is always on. The neighbor will open the garage door when sunny and warm enough (he says he was a farmer in Jamaica and is blown away by this “system”). My question: The plants are about 20” high now and I was thinking of increasing the fertilizer from 25% to 50% (yes, I’m still using the miracle grow). I plan on ordering the fertilizer you suggested just before I get back. One plant has a flower just starting (see pic) and I’m wondering if that’s an indicator they’re at a stage where I should increase nutrients. I know you said add Epsom salt when tomatoes actually start to form – and I’m guessing that’s weeks away. Thanks again for all your help – things seem to be going (growing?) good.

Stan 12-10-2018 02:34 PM

When you see flowers forming on all the plants up Fertilizer to 50%. The pic of the plant looks really good and healthy. It has plenty trichomes (hairs) which is excellent. It doesn’t look like it needs to go to 50% yet. It will when all the plants firm flowers then tomatoes.

What you should do is self pollinate any flowers you see that are open usually mid morning to midday. You can do it 2 ways either by slightly tapping on the stem the flower is forming on or by using a battery operated toothbrush and let it vibrate the stem. Here’s an amazing slo-mo video of the pollen that comes out of the flowers. That flower is pollinated.


I would start putting a little bit of pure epsom salt in with the nutrients. First mix the miracle grow ph the water let run thru the system wait 1 hour. Add small amount of pure epsom salt in a bottle of warm water let desolve add to reservoir ph the water. This will make plants bloom lots of flowers and as tomatoes grow add 1 time each month will make the tomatoes taste amazing!

Can your neighbor send you pics of the plants in case of any changes while you are gone? I would stay with same strength of nutrients but would make 1 batch of 50% just in case as these plants will skyrocket when you do and you want to be present for it or only be gone a week at most.

You’ve done an incredible job with your plants. It really is easy once you get that first grow out of the way and you’ve built confidence in yourself.

Stan 12-10-2018 02:58 PM

I forgot to mention can you take the neoprene sleeves off the plants and make the openings larger than the actual stem? If you take a look at the stem on the pic I posted the stems are really large. I'm wondering if the sleeves will prevent those stems from getting larger. The larger the stem the stronger the plant will be. If those stems stay slim and lots of tomatoes form it might split the stem killing most of the tomatoes on the plants. Just something to think about.

gdgdad 12-11-2018 08:44 AM

Neoprene off, hydroton & Epsom salt question
Thanks Stan,
I’ll be flushing the system today and I’ll add in (separately per your instructions) some Epsom salts. You mentioned in a previous post “…maybe 3 tablespoons once a month”, is that per my ~ 16 gallon reservoir, or per gallon of water? I removed the last neoprene collar and added hydroton around the stems, do you think that will still constrict the plants? My intent is to block out sunlight to prevent algae, but I doubt that’ll be a problem this time of year. Just a note on the pump timing, it remains at 15 min off & 3 min on, 7/24, and the plants seem to be OK with that, so I’ll leave it be – though I do have an additional timer to run the Spartan® timer. I custom built a panel to house the four timers so it doesn’t look like the wiring in the Griswald Christmas vacation movie! I’ll post a pic when it’s complete. And... that video was awesome - I'll be the "bee" for now, though I have actually had a couple bees wander in when the garage door is open.

Stan 12-11-2018 01:07 PM

LMAO Griswald Christmas !!!

I use a palm full which is about 3 tablespoons in a 48 gallon reservoir. I would start with 1 tablespoon in an 18 gallon.

Hydroton won’t constrict it the stem will actually move the hydroton as it gets larger. I don’t even use a lid on my 5 gallon buckets and they sit in sunlight for 14 hours a day in the summer. When it rains they get fresh water. I usually keep reservoir 3/4 full when I know it’s going to rain.

Pump timing the plants will let you know if you need less or more time. As long as the plants look good keep the timing unless you want to adjust a little at a time either reducing watering by 30 second - 1 minute intervals. You could also play with the time the pump goes on from every 15 minutes try every 18 - 20 minutes see if plants look good after 24 hrs. Again these are things you will eventually dial in for your area and the time of the year.

gdgdad 12-29-2018 02:46 PM

Just an update / status
Stan, just thought I'd touch base and give an update. Hope you had a good Christmas. I'm still in Michigan but the neighbor "watching" my plants says they're growing like crazy. He's opening the garage during the day - we're having 70's to even 80's with lots of sunshine! He's only added 1 gal of my PH balanced nutrient solution. I'll be home in a couple days and will send pics. When I left - tallest plant was just over 2 feet. I'm remaining optimistic!

Stan 01-01-2019 07:54 PM

Glad to hear the good news!! Happy New Year to you and family!!

I’m 100% sure you will be very surprised of how fast those plants grew. :cool:

gdgdad 01-05-2019 11:21 AM

Update and (hopefully) minor issues
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Stan – Got back to Florida the 3rd. , settled back in and back I’m on the tomatoes. First off – WOW did they grow! The tallest is 40” ! There are two tomatoes – the larger 1 ½” and the smaller <1/2”, on 2 different plants. My concern is there’s yellowing on the center on many of the leaves, and brown curling on a few (see pics). I checked the PH, it was slightly low @ 5.5, but that’s still within range (I shoot for 6.0). I can’t attest to how much sunlight they’ve been getting – it was hit and miss with a neighbor opening the garage on sunny days, weather permitting and him being home – so some issues might be from sunlight deprivation? OK – some details: Fertilizer was at 25%, temps were low 80’s and now upper 60’s to mid 70’s but sunny. I contacted Verti Gro about the fertilizer you suggested – turns out they’re about an hour away so I’ll be picking that up in a day or so (confirmed they still have the 2 bag set). I’ll add Epsom salt to the mix in the dose you suggested. Next concern: suckers all over. My neighbor (the Jamaican farmer) had to fight every urge to cut them off! He also says I should be removing all “lower” leaves/branches. Your thoughts / suggestions. Again, thanks so much! Can’t believe I have 40” tomato plants in early January! Best “crop” since I’ve lived in Florida (>10 yrs. Now).

Stan 01-06-2019 08:55 PM

At 40” tall you should have lots of tomatoes forming and tons of flowers. The discolored leaves is a nutrient deficiency. Like I said in an earlier post I’ve never grown a tomato plant to fruit using miracle gro. When you start the new nutrients the plants should get better hopefully it’s not to late.

You should cut the lower leaves up to the first set of tomatoes. Also cut discolored and brown leaves off. I usually pluck the suckers off up to the 3rd - 4th set of tomatoes for large tomatoes. For cherry tomatoes I’ll let the suckers grow above the second set of tomatoes.

gdgdad 01-07-2019 10:33 AM

Concerned but will persevere...
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Darn…. not what I wanted to hear but it is what it is, I just can’t throw in the towel yet. Verti-Gro is only open Wed thru Sat so this Wednesday’s the soonest I can get the new nutrients. I read the yellowing was likely a magnesium deficiency so days ago I added Epsom salt @ just over 1 gram per gallon. I’m also moving the plants into full sun every morning (pic) then back in in the evening (nights are still chilly). In addition to getting the right nutrients ASAP, here’s what I’ll do:
- I’ll remove discolored and brown leaves. Question: On the “yellowish” discolored leaves that (I believe) are the result of magnesium deficiency – cut those too? Will they not recover? They appear healthy except for the discoloration….?
- As for suckers, since there’s only two tomatoes, I’ll have to “guess” how high up to go.
- As for cutting “lower leaves”, I’ll cut off lower 3 branches.
- I'll flush the reservoir, boosting nutrient mix to 50% (albeit MiracleGro), maintain Epsom salts @ just over 1 gram per gallon, and do it all over again when I have the new nutrients.
I’ll be crushed if these plants fail, or fail to produce. I’ll take even a meager crop…. Thanks.

Stan 01-07-2019 11:16 AM

You should know within the first week when you give the plants the Verti nutrients if the plants will survive. You should see a drastic change if it works. I’ve used M Grow once and never successfully gone to a full cycle when plants showed signs of deficiency. MGrow works great in the seedling stage up to maybe 1 ft then but it doesn’t have what’s needed for massive fruiting. I start the Verti nutrients. Still keep your fingers crossed it should work since you don’t have a lot of fruit forming.

Keep some suckers on clip the browning leaves keep the yellowing leaves if they look healthy as they will let you know if the VG nutrients are working.

In case you see within the first week no change in plants when switching to VG you can still salvage some things. You can clip the longer suckers put the stem in rockwool cube and put them in the aeroponic seed starter you built with a little bit of nutrients. They will form roots quickly so you will save yourself 45 + days with work if starting from seed.

Stan 01-07-2019 04:01 PM


Originally Posted by gdgdad (Post 14746)
I’ll be crushed if these plants fail, or fail to produce. I’ll take even a meager crop…. Thanks.

Please don’t feel that way. Remember in my first attempt I tried MGro and it didn’t succeed. It didn’t stop me I bought good nutrients on my second attempt plus I was growing out of a 4X4 hollow fencing post which made it even harder and I succeeded. I got lots of tomatoes growing from the post but my plants could only grow about 7ft. I eventually switched to 5 gallon buckets. They made a world of difference. More tomatoes and they all grew over 10ft tall. My Black Cherry tomatoes grew over 14ft. So you see it’s all about trial and error. I don’t think you will find anyone that will say the first time they grew hydroponically was the best crop they ever had. You are doing amazingly well for the first time.

gdgdad 01-09-2019 10:30 PM

New nutrients, status and preparations
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Hey Stan, made the trip to VertiGro, got the plant nutrient and Calcium. Mixed the batches per instructions including their suggested Epsom Salts, placed into heavy duty containers (as you suggested) and flushed / refilled the reservoir with nutrients at the prescribed rate. Fingers crossed. Turns out VertiGro is also an actual hydroponics green house(s). They use the vertical method (hence the name) and had beautiful tomatoes going (see pic I took) – and it’s early January! I’m re-inspired, even if this crop doesn’t fruit out, like you said I have a head start with the suckers (can branches be used?). I also ordered an aerator and heater for the aeroponic cloner (used the originals in the Dutch bucket system) so I can “clone” simultaneously. With the help of my “Jamaican Farmer” neighbor, the plants have been trimmed substantially, and the majority of suckers removed. We’ve spotted more flowers, but not nearly what there should be. The largest tomato had blossom rot. Hopefully the new nutrients turn things around. Plants are being placed in full sun all day, every day since I’ve been back, and though it may be wishful thinking, I genuinely believe the yellowing is receding. I’ll keep you posted on progress (or otherwise) and thanks again for all your help! GDG

Stan 01-10-2019 12:58 AM

Yes Verti gro has been doing vertical hydro for a while. I’ve been buying the nutrients from them for a while cause it works real well. I’ve never had to go full strength with their nutrients I only go as high as 3/4.

You can only use suckers not the branches to start new plants.

gdgdad 01-11-2019 03:05 PM

Post flush update & question
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The plants seem to continue to “recover”…. easily the top 1/3 of each plant is lush green, fuzzy, no yellowing on the leaves (see pics). I went through and counted all the flowers I could find (albeit some VERY small) and came up with 35 (again see pics). That’s across all the plants, one plant alone having 12, and 1 an actual tomato (no end rot either!). I know there should be more than twice that many flowers, but I’ll take whatever goes all the way to fruition. On cloning the suckers - what’s a good “length” range to place them into the cloner? I’m leaving all the suckers I see right now (only 3 or 4 since trimming, most not over an inch) until the parts I ordered to re-assemble the cloner come in. Cool nights are still forcing me to wheel them into the garage at night. The reservoir sprung a leak, so I replaced it with a much higher quality Tote, and mounted it on a “skid” plate for moving. I was concerned I might be over watering (some droopy leaves when I first got back) so 2 days ago I changed watering to off 30 / on 5 - your thoughts on that and what signs do you go by to tell you to little / too much water? Thanks!
PS - Whats the secret to getting pictures to rotate how you want them? I'll rotate them in a different app, save, and they still come in sideways!

Stan 01-12-2019 03:58 AM

Great you probably saved the plants right ontime.

Suckers can be 3 - 4 inch to put in rockwool cube.

Depending on the heat if it’s how 5 on 30 off if it’s cool 3 on 30 off.

Just look at the leaves of the plant they will tell you if it’s healthy or not.

Giuffre 01-24-2019 08:28 AM

How long does the recovery take in cases like this btw? Days? Weeks?

Stan 01-24-2019 09:26 AM


Originally Posted by Giuffre (Post 14884)
How long does the recovery take in cases like this btw? Days? Weeks?

With these plants you will notice a difference in the leaves within 1 - 3 days at the most. A complete full recovery will take a little longer. When the plants get adjusted to the new nutrients they will flourish but will be very top heavy with tomatoes due to starting these nutrients late. Still should be able to get plenty of tomatoes.

gdgdad 01-24-2019 05:13 PM

Ready to clone, questions and update...
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Stan, Let me apologize in advance for the long post. Parts finally arrived to “resurrect” the Aeropnoic Cloner. I’ve “identified” six suckers for cloning, just waiting until the smallest of the six get to the 3 to 4 inches you suggested. Question on cloning nutrients: Being these are suckers not seeds / seedlings, should I stay with the Vertigro formula at some decreased strength, or revert back to MiracleGro® - again at some decreased strength? I’ll also use whichever nutrient mix (PH balanced of course) to pre-soak the Rockwool cubes the suckers will go into.

Question on sucker to cloner “technique”: I see a method out there using the neoprene collars alone (would have to be in a net cup with bottom cut out), but you mentioned using Rockwool cubes. Do you drill a hole in the rockwool cube (roughly diameter of sucker)? My concern on the cube is possibly water spraying out the sides (square cube in round netcup). In both methods I assume an inch or two of the sucker “dangles” in the cloner spray area – is that correct? Any suggestions?

On the Dutch buckets, I’m adding Epsom salts @ a ratio of 1.06 gram per gallon of the nutrient, which I believe roughly equates to your suggested “3 tablespoons in a 48 gallon….”. Other info: I’m using the VertiGro nutrients at full strength, and everything seems A-OK, tops of plants seem lush, green and healthy (see pics). The 3 tomatoes I have are one plant, and seem OK. Other plants are starting flowers (again see pics).

Thanks again for all your help and advice! gdgdad

Stan 01-24-2019 06:39 PM

The plants are looking very good they have great color on top and lots trichomes which is a great indicator the plants are healthy.

With the suckers I will cut the rockwool from any side to the center split open with fingers insert sucker close rockwool insert into net cup and top off with hydroton. You can also do away with the rockwool just put the sucker in the net cup and fill with hydroton all around. You don’t need to extend the sucker deeper than the net pot. I prefer getting lots of uniform roots I find this is best way. I’ve had bad luck using neoprene collars so I trashed them.

As for nutrients for the suckers you can either go back to miracle grow at 1/8 strength or do the same with the Verti-gro again 1/8 strength. You want to water these’s a lot at first until you see multiple roots.

You don’t need to go full strength for long with the nutrients i usually go with 3/4 strength and only full strength if I see a lack of flowers but because of the set back remain at full until you think you have enough future tomatoes that will grow. In future grows only go up to 3/4 strength at the most.

You’ve done an amazing job!!! Can’t wait to see a pick of your first ripe tomato.

gdgdad 02-09-2019 11:38 AM

Update and progress report
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Stan, just an update and progress report. Plants are lush and full, and there’s 3 seemingly healthy tomatoes and many flowers. I regularly vibrate the flowers with the electric toothbrush in hopes of further pollinating the plants. We’ve been in low 80’s with LOTS of sun lately and I’ve had a hard time keeping the reservoir temp below 80. I’ve since added the foil (windshield sun blockers you suggested) to the buckets and reservoir, and have been dropping in a frozen quart container (of water) into the reservoir daily. Reservoir temps holding in mid to upper 70’s now. Going to be a challenge in just a few weeks! The plants seem to have been sucking up the water big time – I swear they drank 3 gallons in 3 days, but I’ll bet some was lost via evaporation. I have to check water level daily. As you can see from the pics, this setup looks like it’s ready for space or lunar surface! I’m still bringing them in at night, then out again in the morning when we’re 60 degrees or above. Can’t wait to move these into the backyard in a “semi-permanent” location. Thanks again for all your help. GDG

gdgdad 02-18-2019 01:51 PM

The big move!!!
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FINALLY – the tomatoes have been moved from the garage into a “semi-permanent” location in the back yard (see picks). Temps down here have been in the low 80’s during the day with plenty of sunshine, and low 60’s at night. It’s expected to stay that way for easily the next 10 days, with nighttime lows going into the 50’s briefly after that. I’ll be making (again temporary) a green house before then for future dips below 55. I cannot believe the nutrient solution being consumed – I’m adding 5 gallons every-other-day. I have plenty of flowers and about a week ago I reduced nutrients to ¾ strength, and have been adding ~ 1 gram of Epsom Salts per gallon, and maintaining PH at 6.5 (PH seems to holding steady – very little adjustment). A neighbor, who was an actual farmer in Jamaica, has been teaching me pruning and thinning techniques. The plants are so lush and full they’re suffocating themselves! 6 tomatoes so far, one starting to turn red. We’re training the plants to grow sideways – some are more than 5 feet long – trellising has been a challenge. As I expected, maintaining reservoir temp has been difficult, I’ve gone from a quart container of ice to 1 gallon (daily) – and can barely maintain temps under 72 during the day. I’ll re-post following the green house construction. gdgdad

Stan 02-21-2019 01:58 PM

I’m surprised I didn’t get a notification about your post like I usually do. Luckily I came here to take a look.

The plants look great!! As I mentioned in an earlier post you will need a bigger reservoir as tomatoes will suck up a lot of water. If you can bury a little 100 gallon water tank (pic below) or have it above ground in the shade or wrapped with reflective material or aluminum foil you wouldn’t have to constantly add water. It could be used this time of the year till it starts to get cold again.

Those plants will start to get very heavy when tomatoes start growing all over like crazy. I use heavy gauge cattle fencing in order to make round tomato cages for each plant. You can see them in my pics with the Dutch buckets. You will also need to separate the plants more for your next outdoor grow then go back to this during the colder months.

Once you see the plants are completely full with tomatoes cut down the nutes between 1/4 and 1/2. This is the time to add an extension with more 5 gallon buckets with new plants in them being fed the nutes. By the time you’ve picked your last tomato from this group you should already have plenty of tomatoes forming in the next group.

See I told you it’s easy. When using the right nutes the plants take care of themselves. Great work with this being your first attempt. You will get better and better after each grow. Keep a log book of the temps amount of plants and how much nutes you use and how much approximately each plant takes in of water. You will eventually know How much nutes you need during the full grow cycle.

Now I want to see pucks of some of the tomatoes you get. Cut them open and see how juicy they are and since you’ve been adding the epsom salt they will taste amazing!


Stan 02-21-2019 02:07 PM

You can usually find those food grade water tanks used for less than $50 and as low as $25.

gdgdad 02-22-2019 10:53 AM

Update, modifications and future plans
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Good to hear from you Stan, I was worried you’d left the forum! I did pick my first tomato, albeit rather small (2.29 oz.), it was bright red, the other tomatoes (still green) are much larger. On the reservoir, I’m looking into one of those plastic 55 gallon drums (the blue ones you’ve seen). My neighbor works for the county and got me a steel one years ago for a fire pit, I’m certain he can get plastic ones. I would plan on burying that but will have to make sure the pump cord is long enough and the pump has the strength for the additional height. On the trellis – I’ve added framework overhead (see pics) to allow trellising out further while maintaining “mobility”. I still have concerns about a bad storm. Also, I have to maintain a balance of visual esthetics and functionality – the wife doesn’t want anything looking “junk yard”. I’ve learned a LOT from this and my next bucket design will be radically different, and I intended to incorporate cattle fencing. As for the next batch, I wanted to use the seeds you sent me in a 5 bucket system, I’m looking around for 3 gallon containers this time (any suggestions?). I’ve not started your seeds in the cloner yet but will do soon. I’m not sure how long I can expect these plants to produce and I was afraid of getting too many going at once. I need to make a timeline predicting harvest backwards (accounting for hydroponics being faster). On the log book, I keep an Excel spreadsheet recording nutes (water) usage, % of nutes, PH and reservoir temp. Since I’ve moved them outside, I notice I have to lower PH – opposite of having to raise it constantly. One thing I have to get better at is the pruning and thinning out. Fortunately I have my neighbor – formerly a farmer in Jamaica – helping. I knew they were WAY to full and bushy, literally choking themselves, he thinned them out (and removed suckers) filling two grocery bags with “clippings”. It was hard to watch, but I've learned a lot. The new trellising allows us to train branches outward instead of only between the buckets. I’ll keep you posted on progress and new batch.

Stan 02-23-2019 01:38 AM

Yes when you went to full strength nutes the plants starts taking off producing tons of suckers that become almost uncontrollable. Mine last year got out of control as the grew to tall for me to reach. This year my plants will be more separated and I will go with less plants.

Be careful with the blue 55 gallon plastic barrels most of them were not good grade and were used to transport some type of liquid cleaning solution. Try to get the brick red 55 gallon they are food grade and were used for transporting olives or some other type food.

gdgdad 02-26-2019 06:57 PM

Reservoir upgrade, weather and status
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Stan, I went with a white 55 gal drum from Rural King, listed as “….for use as rain barrel…”. It did have an acrid odor to it so as a safety measure, I filled it with water and 3 gallons of vinegar to soak overnight (on line said that would take care of most chemicals) then the next day emptied and refilled adding a gallon of bleach to again soak overnight. Smells like plastic now. I made an access lid, mounted the pump, heater and air stones on a piece of tile and it’s ready to go (see pics). We had a cool front move in so I had to scramble to make a temporary “hoop style” greenhouse (parts of which will be used for a permanent one late summer). Temps did drop to upper 40’s overnight, but the small heater I used actually kept it too warm – it was 90 when I checked first thing in the morning – I’ll set it correctly next time. My timing was lucky however – ironically after many days of upper 80’s, they’re predicting a VERY COLD front coming, in 8 or 9 days – temps possibly into upper 30’s!! The weather’s been a roller coaster – we’ll be in 80’s before then! But barrel will be in ground, heated and operational - well before then. I have a remote thermometer scheduled to arrive tomorrow so I can monitor temp inside the “sealed” greenhouse. As of yesterday, every plant has tomatoes, ranging in size from just a little larger than a pea, to the size of an apple – all shiny green. I’m really optimistic I’m going to get a half decent production despite the setback late December / early January. Thanks again for all the help! GDG

Stan 02-26-2019 10:14 PM

If you’re going to bury the 55 gallon barrel in the ground I don’t believe you would need a heater for the water. You could paint the top of the barrel black so during cold months the sun should keep the water warm enough. During hot summer months you would want to put reflective sheet or same as you used for 5 gallon buckets to reflect the sun so it doesn’t get hot.

gdgdad 02-27-2019 08:01 PM

New tank in and concerns about a few tomatoes…..
5 Attachment(s)
Stan, the new “tank” is in the ground (see pics). Whew what a job! Forgive the temporary electrical arrangement, but it started raining and I had to scramble. I’m assuming (hoping) filling it near to the top is the 55 gallons. I’m going to look for some type of flow gauge for the end of the hose. I mixed nutrients (¾ strength) for 55 gallons, and 1 gram Epsom salt per gallon. I’m down to ¾ a gallon of each concentrate mix – looks like another drive to Vertigro® soon… Also, it took ¼ quart of PH UP to get the PH to 6.2 . Post "fill and PH adjust", water temp was 74, I’m debating adding a frozen gallon – your thoughts? It’s a whole new ball game working with this volume! I’ve covered the tank’s top in foil insulation, and the heater’s in there “just in case” (we will briefly see 30’s this time next week they’re saying!!!) I’m praying my heater in the sealed “greenhouse” can keep it at 60f or above. I’m pretty confident – the visqueen is a really heavy mill, and on a high 40’s morning it was 90 inside. My remote thermometer arrived and I can monitor the temp inside without opening the visqueen. On the tomatoes… one has a “powdery” black spot (sort of "smuggy"), and two others have what looks like “indention's” on the bottom (see pics). These are the only tomatoes I see with any anomalies – the rest look shiny and clear. Hopefully this is something I’ve spotted in time. Your thoughts / suggestions? Remove these tomatoes? I still have the Neem® oil. Thanks again for all your help! GDG

Stan 02-27-2019 10:15 PM

Almost out of nutrients? Something doesn’t seem right. I start growing in May and go all the way into late October and never used a gallon of nutrients that whole time using a reservoir that holds 45 gallons of water. You must be over feeding those plants you don’t need to do that cut down the amount of nutrients you use. You can also sometimes go more that a week depending what stage of growing you are in.

Great job on the 55 gallon reservoir!

gdgdad 02-28-2019 10:38 AM

Disaster recovery mode, possibly moot tomato question
Stan, I did indeed make a mistake on the nutrients. In my haste I used the per 5 gallon ratio (1.88 oz p/ gal for ¾ strength) to a per gallon mix in the drum. I discovered this after your post about 9 am this morning - THANK YOU - and scrambled to completely drain the tank, wet-vac out the bottom, and refill with straight water. I also have the pump running continuously to hopefully flush out or at least dilute the concentration. I salvaged what nutrient mix I could with every bucket and container I had that would hold water. Incredibly stupid mistake – hope I haven’t burned them out. This may be a moot point now, but last post I mentioned three tomatoes, one with a black “smug” on the bottom, and two with irregular shaped indention's. The pictures aren’t great (again rushing to beat the rain) but I can re-take closer and clearer if that would help. Any thoughts on those? pull them?

Stan 02-28-2019 02:04 PM

Luckily you saved most of the water otherwise this would be an expensive grow for you. Now you will need to calculate how much of that saved nutrient solution you’ll need to add every week or 2. Hopefully the mistake hasn’t caused any damage.

The brownish marks on the bottom of the tomatoes is called blossom end rot. My guess the tomatoes that have it were the ones that were already on the plant when you were still using miracle grow. Do you see any on newer tomatoes using the new nutrients? If yes you will need to add a little lime to the reservoir so any new tomato growth will not have blossom end rot. This video not the most exciting video but it explains why blossom end rot happens. It also shows you how to make a solution (wear a mask) to stop it from happening to other tomatoes. Add a gallon of the solution to the 55 gallon barrel just one time if you see those brown spots on other tomatoes.


The other tomato with what looks like a crater is called catfacing. It can be caused by temp changes also by excessive nitrogen levels. My guess in your case temp changes. Those tomatoes can still be grown and eaten. You will probably have to cut the bottoms off when they have ripened then eat the rest. I’ve had some of them on my plants I wouldn’t worry much about them. Just don’t over ripen them cause they might split.

gdgdad 02-28-2019 05:12 PM

Disaster recovery status
Stan, thanks for the quick reply. I watched the video and immediately following ran up to my local Rural Farm and picked up a bag. Mixed the ¼ cup to a gallon, and added it to the 55 gallon drum (though from what I could see, her reservoir looked much smaller). As she said, the PH shot up - It went to 9.2 ! I waited a while, re-checked then added every last drop of my PH down and brought it down to 6.7 (still too high). I’ve ordered a quart but that will take days. I’m trying to find it locally but never had luck before, everything around here is for pools and aquariums. There is a hydroponics supply just under an hour away, I may have to take the drive. I’ll check PH again in the morning. Lastly, water temp has been holding at 74, so I dropped in a frozen gallon jug, that brought it down to 72 in about an hour. If these tomatoes survive, controlling reservoir temp will be a challenge. Thanks again GDG

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