great tasting fruit
I grow tomatoes every year in my homemade NFT hydroponic system utilising Panda Film for the channel. I generally grow one cherry tomato and one or two other larger varieties.
I have a small glass house to protect the tomatoes from the weather and they normally will produce fruit from late autumn to the middle of winter. In ideal conditions tomato plants will fruit for an entire year.
I prefer to purchase tomato plants that are 15 – 20cm tall, this is because this extends the growing period and the requirement of larger plants when using NFT. The plants need to be talk enough to have their roots dangling into the nutrient solution and have the leaves above the top of the channel.
If you want to sow seeds one of the best ways is to sow seeds directly into Jiffy-7 pellets. Ensure that you soak the pellets before planting one seed in each pellet. This is a very commonly used propagation method in commercial hydroponic systems. When the plants are 15 – 20cm they can be planted into the NFT system
Preparing the Tomato seedling for planting
Carefully remove the plant from the pot and very gently shake as much soil as possible from the roots of the Tomato plant. Use your hose on low with a soft spray nozzle to wash more soil away from the plants roots.
The plant roots have very fine hairs on them which can very easily be damaged, please take your time and be very gentle with them.
Planting Tomatoes when using Panda Film is very easy. The Panda Film is folded into a triangle with clothes pegs to hold it at the top. Put the plants into the gap at the top and place a clothes peg either side of the plant close enough to hold the Tomato plant without actually applying any pressure onto the plant (2 – 4 cm away from the plant). Leave plenty of room between the plants, they are going to grow much larger than when grown in soil.
Tip – Place some open weave multi cloth in the base of the channel to ensure even flow of nutrients over the width of the channel.
Training the plants
I have twine hanging down from the root of my glass house which I tie the Tomatoes to as they grow, I am not able to use stakes because the glasshouse has paved flooring.
I tend to leave the first suckers (side shoots) above the first fruit cluster on each side of the plant and will train them up adjacent twines. It is best to remove all other suckers and let the three remaining stems produce all of the crop. It is important for the leaves of the Tomato to have space around them to decrease the risk of disease. Every leaf on the plant should be able to get full sunlight every day.
Tomatoes should be grown with a nutrient strength between 22 and 28 CF, young plants should be started at 22 CF. Tomatoes will become very big feeders, I recommend that you use a 40 litre or larger reservoir to avoid having to dose nutrients too frequently.
Fertilising the flowers
There are several spays available which will set the flowers, I have not found it necessary to use these. The easiest method is simply to gently tap the flower stems with a small stick which will shake the pollen onto the pistil.
I have found that my tomato plants will easily grow 30cm per day during summer.
Have fun and enjoy you Tomato crop in your own Homemade Hydroponic System
For other methods of growing Tomatoes and many ways to eat and drink them check out http://www.TomatoGuru.net