Plant Pollination

Tomato Flower

Plants grown in a Hydroponic System need to be pollinated in the same way as if growing the plants in soil.

Plants that are growing outside will need minimal pollinating, while if they are inside or in a glasshouse the plants will need some assistance in pollinating.

Pollinating the flowers will ensure that you have the highest flower setting rate possible and in turn the largest possible quantity of fruit on your plants.

Hand Pollination

I prefer to use hand pollination and you would be forgiven for thinking that hand pollination sounds like a very painful slow process it really doesn’t have to be.

Paint BrushShaking or Tapping

I currently have a lovely crop of Tomatoes growing in my Hydroponic System.  I pollinate my tomatoes by tapping the flower stem with a artists paint brush a couple of times, this is all that is needed to set the flowers.

Brushing

The paint brush can also be used to gently brush the pollen from the flowers stamen onto the pistil.  This method can be time consuming and is better for plants that have a few larger flowers.

Hair DryerBlowing

Strawberries can easily be pollinated by using a hair dryer on COLD and blowing air onto the flowers.

Spraying

Another method to pollinate flowers is to spray the flowers with water.  It is best to do this first thing in the morning before the plant has any sun on it, spraying at night is also another option only this can put the plant at risk of getting mold on it as the humidity level around the plant over night will be a lot higher.

Setting Agents

There are a number of Setting Agents that can be purchased from your local garden centre.

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How to grow Tomatoes in NFT

Hydroponic TomatoesTomatoes are very easy to grow in hydroponics and produce an amazing quantity of

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

Cleaned Tomato PlantCarefully 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 Method

Close up of Tomato plantPlanting 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.

Nutrient Requirements

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

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