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Which Tomatoes for Hydroponics !

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Which Tomatoes for Hydroponics !

Which Tomatoes for Hydroponics !

I must confess that tomatoes are probably the best and most rewarding things that you can grow. Also they are a great choice for hydronic gardeners as well as conventional growers. Consequently, many growers feel that they are ideally suited for growing in an hydroponic environment. Compared with in a greenhouse or out doors. I have tried all methods! This year I grew in my usual greenhouse and have had mixed results.

I use two plastic water tanks to supply the pots filled with a mixture of clay pebbles and Coco peat made by Canna. So, you can buy this at your local Hydrostore. However I have discovered that it is now obtainable ready mixed and ready to go. I will probably get this for the next growing season.

One important thing to remember is when choosing the type of tomatoes to grow using the hydroponics method.

Then, you should only choose the “indeterminate” varieties of tomatoes. These grow like vines and can be trained to grow up a cane. The flowers that produce the tomatoes will sprout in-between the leaf axils. This can be best seen on this excellent video-

Apart from tying them to the canes as the grow. Then the only thing to do is to pinch out any growth that appears to be sprouting on the joints of the branches and main stem. These tomatoes are said to be “truss varieties” because they grow on trusses.

As the plant grows upwards then you will be rewarded with bunces of green and then red tomatoes. As the plant reaches the top of the growing area then nip out the growing tip. Thus, allowing the plant to stop growing and put all its energy into producing a good tomato crop on the lower stems.

Just a mention that the determinate tomato varieties grow as a bush and are more suited to other types of growing methods.

Which varieties!

Cluster (Truss) Tomatoes

Because of my age then these are the first choice tomato varieties for me (now very old). These are the type that look like you regular tomatoes or vine tomatoes. As I have said they grow in trusses and attain the regular looking sized tomatoes. Of course most gardeners recognise the names of these varieties because of their regular good performance and dependability. Old favourites such as Alicante, Ailsa Craig and Moneymaker are still very popular varieties. Also I grow a few F1 hybrid varieties such as “Shirley” and “Cristal”.

However if you like to save the seeds for your next year crop then F1 hybrid seeds will not come true to variety. Finally I find that the truss tomatoes have an excellent taste and perfect for the salad bowl. I also like to cook them for breakfast with some egg an bacon, they taste delicious.

Beefsteak Tomatoes-

So, these are my second preferred variety to grow. These can grow very large and I must admit to showing off their size when we have any visitors to the house! I first saw this type of tomato when I was a young man and went to Spain for my summer holidays. back then they were not available here in the UK and were some sort of exotics at the time. They looked great sliced on a lovely Spanish salad.

Later when I visited France I bought some “Marmande” seeds in a local garden centre. These were not the giants but came very close to the beefsteak tomatoes in Spain. Beefsteaks can also come in F1 varieties so beware of saving the seeds as they wont come true. This year I tried a variety called “Pink Brandywine“. So, when sliced they just fitted into a slice of bread. The flavour is good and are excellent sliced with a pinch of salt and some good “virgin olive oil” sprinkled on top.

I would try your one choice though. Sometimes it is worth buying a couple of different plants from your local garden centre to find your one preference. Beleive me it is well worth the effort and their is nothing tastier than your own home grown tomatoes.

Plum Tomatoes gaining popularity-Which Tomatoes for Hydroponics

Italy is becoming a very popular tourists attraction and I believe is the true home of the “plum tomatoes. Again these would only be seen in your canned tomatoes and were not available to UK gardeners. However they are now widely available and are worth a try. Growing then just the same way as a vine they re popular because of their great flavour and the plum shape of the fruit. I love to grown plum tomatoes and have been successful by growing the varieties “Roma” and ” San Marzano”.

So, both these varieties have grown very well next to my regular crops and the flavours are very tasty. I love these cooked with a little oil and two fried eggs on top for my breakfast. Fresh from my greenhouse then life could not be better!

Now there are many different colours!-Which Tomatoes for Hydroponics

During the past few years then “cherry tomatoes” have become a popular choice for salads and also mixing with mainly Italian dishes. Because they can be kept whole and have remain in shape when cooked. However I am not a fan of these and so far have not grown any. There are types that can be grown in a hanging basket and cascade from the basket called “Tumbler” . I may try these but so far have give them a miss.

Anyhow, to make the salad bowl more interesting it is possible to buy tomatoes that have many different colours. Hence orange coloured varieties are now popular including, “Orange Santa” and “orange wellington“. Dark coloured tomatoes dont look right to me ! Although not quiet black they are very dark skinned. Varieties such as ” Black Opal” are available but these are not for me.

A very nice looking striped tomato is available called “tigerella“. hence with a red back ground and yellow stripes. I have grown these but my family thought they looked ill! Not for everyone but very different.

Finally all your growing mediums and plant care materials are available online from all over the UK via the “Hydrostore” website.

peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hi here is my second Hydrostore blog for the month of April 2021. Once again there are many things that I am learning on my into the world of growing without soil, hydroponics!

So if tomatoes are my favourite salad crop then peppers are certainly my second. Peppers provide a massive variety of colours and flavours. Of course from the red hot chili peppers such as “Scotch Bonnet” to the milder bell peppers that we use in regular salads. So some of the hotter peppers grown do in fact require hotter temperatures to grow them. Here in the North of England it depends on the type of summer that we are experiencing!

The spicy peppers are used mainly for cooking spicy dishes and are popular for spicy Indian dishes and West indian cooking. Of course we can buy a spicy pizza covered in spicy hot peppers if we like that kind of thing. However I generally stick to the mild flavoured bell peepers that come in many shapes and colours. Most peppers start off as green coloured fruit and later turn into the colour of choice. Hence, from bright red to yellow and even dark purple. Of course all these colours add brightness and colour to a great mixed summer salad! My mouths watering as I am writing this!

Try growing peppers the hydroponics method

Peppers are easy to grow and only suffer the usual pests. White fly and other aphid species are the general worst enemies. These can be controlled by the usual methods of spraying with soapy water or using a commercial brand such as “plant magic” bugicide from your local Hydrostore online, in different sized containers. So, a good way of determining the colour of bell peeper to grow is to buy one in your favourite colour. Say in this case yellow. The seeds can be removed and generally the plant will turn out to be the same colour as the parent plant, in this case yellow.

This year I am going to try germinate the seeds using the paper towel method. This is a popular way of germinating many plant species. Including peppers and tomatoes. The seeds are carefully wrapped between two lairs of tissue paper and placed in a saucer of water. The paper must be kept wet and not allowed to dry out!

The seeds will eventually germinate and small green shoots will appear. So, these small plants will then be placed singularly inside of a rockwool cube. Always try to handle the seedling with great care. The rockwool is then to be placed inside a 3ins net cup. It is important to buy net cups with a lip around the top so that it fits snug inside the plastic tanks lid. Incidentally, I will be growing four pepper plants inside my 18×15 ins black plastic tanks (Totes) .

The tote lids have four holes cut in to take the 3 ins plastic net cups. I will then add “nutrients” into the water and place the cups and pepper plants into the tank lid and therefore the tank of water. In my case it will be CX hydrobase. So, I will be trying this out for the first time and will keep my readers up to date with the results. I shall also be using a small aquarium pump to circulate oxygen to the plants via the tanks water supply.

My set up will be in my greenhouse once the weather warms up. There will be plenty of light at this time of year! Of course this method can be used indoors by adding a LED lighting unit to your growing kit.

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

So, this year has been a long cold winter. Especially for us growers who should be getting growing around this time of year. My own situation is that I have a heated greenhouse for my citrus trees. However it is too cold to move them outside onto a sheltered spot. Moving them gives me space to plant out my seedlings and prepare for the tomato plants into their final planting spot.

Accordingly, I have not yet planted my seeds and realise that I am running out of time. This year I have decided to try some different seed varieties. I love to grow the big size tomatoes that are generally very tasty and a good choice for summer salads (Thats if we get a summer this year?)

I am a great fan of watching “YouTube” videos and I think they offer some great advice. Especially the different choices of tomato seeds that I have never heard of before.

Kellogg’s Breakfast and F1 Super Mama

This year I will be trying five different varieties from Nickys Seeds. Consequently these will include the much raved about Kellogg’s breakfast and another heirloom variety the F1 Super Mama.

These seeds will be planted this time by using the soil-less method of “Rockwool Blocks” . These are only £7.50 for 150 blocks to sow your seeds into. Of course the seeds are then placed into the blocks singularly. Hence they are then covered with a small quantity of “vermiculite“. Vermiculite, can be bought in small or large quantities. However I prefer to buy the larger bags because this is something that is important when growing hydroponically.

The blocks are always to be pre-soaked before placing one seed in the centre hole. Some growers advise placing two seeds and then selecting the strongest seedling when they have germinated. However these seeds are very expensive any you only get ten seeds per packet. So to me you should just plant a single seed. The blocks are then placed into a tray of water until germination. I prefer to use a heated propagator unit for better results as long as the area where the seedlings will be grown on is also heated.

Dont forget the in this weather then rooms in houses can become very cold without any form of heating. I am sure that there will be growers pout their who have made this mistake in the past. Losing plants due to stress because of a drop in temperature in the middle of the night. When the seedlings have germinated they can be grown on to whatever system you prefer.

Auto Pot System

This year I am going to grow my larger crops using a flexi water tank that feeds an Autopot system . These systems come in many sizes but the nine pot system is ideal for my space in the greenhouse.

Once the system is set up it just a case of training your plants as they grow, (I prefer to use large canes). Water tank levels must be watched with the added A and B nutrients also added to the correct dose. This year I will try out CX Hydro base from Canada. So, when your plants start to grow you must remember to taking out any side shots, between the stem and the main branches.

Also remove any dead leaves and give the plants plenty of room to grow flowering buds for a good crop. All the products necessary to grow a good crop most plants are available online from “Hydrostore” in West Yorkshire.

rockwool germinating cubes

Hydrostore -Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Hydrostore -Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Hydrostore -Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

As I write this post we are at the back end of March 2021. The winter here in the North of England has been on the cool side with the odd milder day. Much different to last year when we had only a couple of frosts in the whole of winter! Even my outside “Basjoo Banana” plant survived with some of its leaves in tact.

However as I have said this winter was to be much colder. As you probably know then I have been growing most things all my life. Including, my favourite fruit the tomato’s. Now in my later years then I am trying out more difficult plants to grow and perhaps survive the English winter. Including, pot grown figs, lemons and other types of citrus trees and pomegranates.

The secret is keeping them over wintered!

Introduction to Hydroponics

My son in law works for a local Hydrostore and since then I am becoming fascinated by the hydroponics method of growing things such as salads and herbs. This also includes tomatoes, of which I have successfully grown a full crop in the last growing year. So, this year will be my very first venture growing some different lettuce types starting of with rockwool cubes to germinate my seeds.

Rockwool is the stuff that is used in loft insulation to insulate our homes from the cold and is made out of highly heated molten rocks. This sounds strange but the rocks are heated until they melt and the resulting molten rock is spun to make the wool type threads. I suppose that it must look like molten volcanic rock when flowing down a volcano!

In fact it was first discovered around 1850 on the “Mauna Loa Volcano” on the island of “Hawaii”. Importantly, the use of rockwool for insulating buildings was first used in 1935.Followed by other uses including a great product for growing seedlings.

Rockwool stores water and oxygen

So, the rockwool cubes that we buy to start off our seedlings are perfect because they store enough water while providing oxygen to the newly planted seeds. Of course here in the UK we have just put our clocks forward for British summer time and the growing season “begins in earnest”. This week will bring our first daily temperature of over 20c. I cant wait to get started with my first ever planting of lettuce seed in the rockwool cubes. The ones I purchased were the SBS Grodan Cubes. So these cubes are 1.5 by 1.5 blocks in a 77 plug tray. Perfect for my requirements.

The cubes look a perfect size to me but you can cut them up smaller if you want t save money. I bought mine from the local “Hydrostore” in nearby Wakefield. Before the seeds are sewn I will soak the correct number of plugs in water for a few minutes, before draining them after the soaking for a further 15 minutes. This gets rid of any excess water there may be in the plugs (cubes).

Sowing the seeds is just the same as in any sort of growing medium! A little tricky depending on the size of the seed, especially tiny lettuce seeds. I would normally just scatter lettuce seeds onto a tray of compost and then prick out the newly grown seedlings. However by taking a little time once the seeds are placed in the centre of the plugs then there is no need for any pricking out the seedling and causing the plants to stress.

Using a cocktail stick

Tiny seeds such as lettuce can be spread out on a piece of tissue paper for better observation and easier handling. So, I am then going to use a tooth pick or cocktail stick (Same thing), to ease a seed into the hole in he centre of the rockwool plug. When the seeds are all positioned then I will spray with a little water to moisten the seeds. I will then place a little “vermiculite” on top of the plug hole to seal the seeds inside.

The next stage will be to place the seeds in a tray and in a propagator for germination and then onto the next stage which I will cover in the next blog. The propagators come in many shapes and sizes and are available online at your local Hydrostore here in Yorkshire UK.

Hydroponics from the Start

Hydroponics from the Start-Beginning with growing lettuce.

Hydroponics from the Start

Home » hydroponics

Hydroponics from the Start

Hi as an older gardener then I have to give some thought into starting off with hydroponics. So, its hard to get into my head that you dont need soil or indeed a garden to grow things. My first hydroponics venture came with growing tomatoes. However this was done by using “clay pebbles” and a Canna Coco Natural. Of course this is a well known grow media. A replacement for growing in peat moss and made from pure coco fibre. As a result I now use this product for all my plant growing needs. The product ensures a perfect air and water retention ratio. It’s is made by Canna from its high-performance grow media range. Ensuring rich root growth and accelerated plant development.

However, I am now going to try to use pure hydroponics to grow my first lettuce plants. So, my first thought was that I could control the actual lettuce plants that I need. I dont know about you but previously I am a victim of over growing my salad crops. Consequently I will feel more positive about only growing the amount of salad crops that will be required. I can plant out as many lettuces that I will need to last me a few weeks and then replant a second tray. Of course if it is required.

Herbs can also be a good crop to grow.

This method also looks good when growing certain herbs as well as different lettuce types. However I want to cover this in a separate blog post! lettuces grown in a plastic tray and a polystyrene sheet cut out to fit the young lettuce plants in side a mesh pot with a lip so that it fits into the hole perfectly. So the tray is then filled with water up to the root system of your lettuce plants.

Importantly, the you will have to add nutrients to the water to feed the fast developing plants. My local hydroponics store has recommended that I try “CX Hydro-base” mixing part A and part B to the correct quantities. of course I will be trying this in the second week of March in my slightly heated greenhouse. Light should be no problem! Of course you can also use some sort of solar lights for indoors growing.

Also I believe that I should also use a small air pump for oxygenating the you plants. I have seen in tests that this vastly improves the plants growing capabilities. Consequently, this is an extra expense but the pump can be used over and over again.

Asa visual person myself I have decides to add a good video about the early learning days for growing with this hydroponics method, please enjoy!