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Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil using an artificially created environment that provides plants with the necessary mineral supplements as well as nutrients. Therefore, hydroponically grown tomatoes are in no way inferior in quality to their counterparts grown in the garden.
In winter, you have to be content with purchased tomatoes, the quality of which often leaves much to be desired. And sometimes you want to pamper yourself with a fresh fragrant tomato right from the bush. Hydroponics will be a salvation for all lovers of fresh vegetables. Due to the fact that the root system of tomatoes is located superficially, they are ideal for growing by this method. Hydroponics will allow you to grow tomatoes right at home, even when it's freezing outside.
What is needed for growing
Growing tomatoes using hydroponics is not an easy and painstaking task, but you can cope with it even without experience. It is important to purchase everything you need or build the system yourself using available tools.
- Tanks: external - larger and internal - smaller.
- The substrate for internal containers can be any: perlite, coconut, crushed stone, expanded clay, moss, coarse sand or mineral wool.
- It is desirable to equip internal containers with a liquid level indicator.
- The nutrient solution for external containers can be purchased ready-made or prepared by yourself.
- An indicator of electrical conductivity, with which it will be possible to measure the concentration of the nutrient content of the solution.
- Lighting: Tomatoes need a lot of light for normal development, so it is imperative to provide plants with additional light sources. Install UV or fluorescent lamps at home.
- The hydroponic system can be equipped with drip irrigation, gradual flooding, or nutrient bed technique.
How to make a system yourself
First of all, you need to prepare containers with a depth of 15 cm. You can make them by cutting off the top of plastic five-liter bottles. At the bottom of each "pot", it is necessary to drill holes for the outflow of excess moisture. The finished containers must be disinfected with a chlorine solution, rinsed well and dried. After all the manipulations, the substrate must be poured into plastic containers.
Now you need a pallet stand on which the containers will be placed. To simplify and facilitate plant care, the stand should be placed half a meter from the floor. It is important to keep some distance between the base and the bottoms of the containers. This will allow the root system to receive both nutrition and oxygen in the right amount.
Next, you need to set up irrigation. To do this, place an open container (for example, a bucket) under the pallet and fill it with nutrient solution, which will flow into plastic pots, and the excess returned to the container under the pallet. To build a complete irrigation system, you can use a special pump or an aquarium pump.
The system is ready, you can plant seedlings in improvised pots.
For tomatoes, the nutrient solution can be purchased ready-made or you can buy all the ingredients and prepare the mixture yourself using complex fertilizers. When preparing the mixture, it is necessary to observe the exact dosage up to the gram. Since a poor-quality solution can damage plants and even destroy them.
The nutrient composition for tomatoes must be constantly checked for acidity and conductivity.
- The acidity is determined by the pH, which should be between 6.0 and 6.3. To increase the acidity level, it is recommended to add potassium hydroxide to the solution, and to lower it - phosphoric acid.
- Also, the nutrient solution should contain an electrical conductivity of 1.5 to 3 mS. Over time, the level will begin to decrease and when the limits of the permissible norm are exceeded, the solution must be replaced or updated by adding the missing elements.
To make it easier to keep track of everything, you need to keep daily records. Hydroponics is a science, an exact science, difficult at first, but extremely exciting.
Which cultivar to choose mainly depends on taste preferences, as the hydroponic method makes no exceptions. But in order to get a larger yield, when choosing a variety, it is worth considering the recommendations for growing. Therefore, it will be easier to grow early maturing and thermophilic varieties of tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes is a step-by-step process and the hydroponic method also adheres to this rule.
- When growing tomatoes hydroponically, agronomists recommend sowing seeds in a special sponge plug for seedlings. Thanks to its excellent drainage capacity, the cork will provide the sprouts with sufficient oxygen. And in a week, when the sprouts begin to stretch, the plugs can be put on their side, which will allow the shoots to grow stronger and form a powerful root system. As a last resort, instead of a cork, you can use cotton wool soaked in a nutrient solution.
- After 7-10 days, when the first true leaves are formed in the grown seedlings, transplant into larger spongy cork cubes and grow in this way for another three weeks.
At the same time, every two days of planting, you need to water the nutrient mixture, and also monitor the lighting and temperature. Tomatoes are very light sensitive. Low light conditions can lead to stretching of the plant, thinning of the stem, and low yields. Therefore, at the initial stage of development, seedlings need additional lighting. And the air temperature should be + 20-22 degrees.
- After three weeks, the seedling cubes should be well moistened and staggered on a pallet. The pallet must be thoroughly rinsed in advance and treated with a chlorine solution.
- Further, the grown sprouts are transplanted directly into the hydroponic system, where their further cultivation will take place. In this case, the interval between plants should be observed, so not a single bush will experience a lack of light. It is optimal to allocate a plot of 0.9 to 1.2 square meters for each seedling. m.
- Growing in the absence of soil deprives tomatoes of support. Therefore, even undersized varieties, reaching 20 cm in height, need to be tied up.
- If tomatoes are grown at home, it is necessary to artificially pollinate the plants during the period of intense flowering. For this, it is convenient to use a soft brush or an electric toothbrush as a fan. If the hydroponic method is used for growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, you need to open access to insects.
- After moving to permanent residence, young bushes should extend the daylight hours to 15 hours a day, and during active flowering, increase to 20 hours. When the tomatoes begin to ripen, daylight hours can be reduced to 15-17 hours, but it is important to ensure that the temperature does not drop below + 28 degrees.
Advantages and disadvantages
The hydroponics method has both advantages and disadvantages. Among the qualitative advantages are:
- allows you to grow your favorite vegetables at home;
- saves space, time and fertilizers;
- provides full control over the development of plants;
- fast growth and high yield of tomatoes.
As for the cons:
- firstly, it is the high cost of consumables and equipment;
- you cannot do without theory, you need to carefully study the technology;
- a lot of time is spent on planting plants and daily monitoring of the state of the nutrient solution.
In addition, the risk of diseases and pests remains. But with the right approach, growing tomatoes using hydroponics can greatly facilitate the life of an avid vegetable grower.