Do you know a tomato is the most commonly grown hydroponic crop worldwide because of 40-50% faster growth with 10x more yield than the traditional method!
You can grow tomatoes hydroponically it isn’t that expensive and really easy and hassle-free to grow, trust me your tomatoes will pay off producing more fruits with better quality if you just follow the article- as this is the only article you need!
In this article, you will learn the steps and cultural practices with clear information so that you can grow tomatoes hydroponically at your home or commercially.
How long does it take to grow tomatoes hydroponically?
- It depends on the variety you picked and whether it’s transplanted or directly sown.
- You can expect 10 days for tomato seeds to germinate.
|Seedling Stage||4-6 weeks|
|Vegetative Stage||2-3 weeks|
|Early fruiting Srage||6-8 weeks|
|Mature Fruiting Stage||10-14 weeks|
- It takes 50 Days to bloom or flower, 100 days to mature.
Greenhouse tomato varieties have resistance to many of the diseases common to tomatoes so check out the link to choose the correct variety-
How to Grow Tomatoes Hydroponically-
Transplanting the seedling-
- You can use germination cubes/ trays, rockwool cubes, cocopeat for growing seedlings.
- Maintain the temperature of 22–24°C for the proper growth of seedlings.
Transplanting shortly after the first “true” leaves appear gives a push to initial plant growth and early setting of the first truss!
Cultural Practices to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Tomato plant needs support wire(trellising).
- Remove leaf axial suckers and vegetative stems from the fruiting truss is a good practice.
- Just remove small slow-developing fruit from the truss.
- You can also remove leaves just below the fruiting trusses.
- The tomato plant is thirsty while flowering and setting fruit so water uptake can vary (500 mL) to (1 L) a day.
- Prune out the side shoots until flowering occurs.
- Introduce bumblebees for pollination (depends on variety) or else you can use other methods like mechanical vibrators.
Note-Pruning-Pollination-lowering the developing plant should be daily cultural practice to grow tomatoes hydroponically.
Suitable medium to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Rockwool slabs-91 cm long, 15 cm wide, 7.6 cm deep (commonly used).
- Perlite & cocopeat slabs 111 cm long, 20 cm wide, 15 cm height.
- Dutch Buckets 130 × 15 × 7.5 cm.
- Grow bags with cocopeat.
- Clay balls.
To Construct an Ebb & Flow growing system check out the link.
Note- If you use perlite as a medium in the bag, presoak the bag with nutrient solution for one day before transplanting.
Do you know Kratky method of growing?
You can also grow tomatoes with Kratky method check out the link.
Temp & Humidity required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Just Maintain air and root temperatures at 30°C for the day & 25°C for the night.
- Tomatoes do well up to 32°C beyond that yield will be reduced because of drying of pollen.
- Relative atmospheric humidity should be 50%.
- Air movement through the plant canopy of 1 m/s is good as it keeps the plants actively transpiring.
- If the temperature exceeds 29°C in your polyhouse, you can use shade material that is pulled over the greenhouse.
- Choose an exhaust fan having the capacity to exchange the air within the growing area in half a minute, ambient temp can vary up to -15°C.
- Methods of cooling the growing area – evaporative cooling pad, misting, fogging etc. Misting is a cheaper alternative than other methods.
Optimum Light Required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- 1400 foot candle (1 lumen/sqft = 1 footcandle) is optimum, 12 to 18 hours of light each day is good but also depends on the variety you choose.
- When growing tomatoes indoors, you better locate the hydroponic system in an area having natural sunlight.
- Raise the lights as the plants grow you can attach the grow light units from the ceiling with jack chains and “S” hooks, but make sure you are keeping 8 to 10 inches above the growing tip of the plants.
In low light conditions, the rate of photosynthetic activity can be enhanced if you sustain the CO2 level of the air at 1000 ppm using CO2 cylinders.
Water supply required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Moderation is compulsory, at low water availability – fewer flowers per truss, low fruit set & blossom end rot (BER) occurs.
- Overwatering causes poor plant growth, late flowering, fewer flowers occur.
- Frequent changes in water availability increase the risk of fruit cracking.
- Water uptake by plants also depends on root temperature.
- Drip Irrigation with a submersible pump with a capacity of 300L per hour is enough for commercial setup.
- It’s best if you install a timer and airstone with an air pump.
- If you are a home grower water once a day with a complete nutrient solution, but in the summer days during full growth, you should water it several times a day & water the plant enough to get at least 20% drain out so that salt accumulation leaches out.
Note- If the plant wilts, it is not getting sufficient moisture.
The Nutrient Tank
- The size of the nutrient tank depends on the number of plants you are growing.
- Minimum 2 litres of nutrient solution per plant per day should be assumed.
- Tank Volume should be that much for 5 days. For eg. for 15 plants, tanks capacity should be 15x5x2=150L.
- The submersible pump should be capable of pumping about 1000L/hr at 1ft lift and pumping height capacity should be at least 10 to 12 ft.
- The pump can be connected to black drip irrigation pipes 1-2 inch dia. further connected with drip emitters located in each plant.
- Home growers can manually feed the nutrient solution without additional setup.Note- Change or monitor nutrient solution at least every 10-15 days for good results.
Irrigation cycles to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
You will have to adjust according to the plant stage of growth and environmental conditions.
- Young plants need 3 to 5 daily irrigations.
- Mature fruiting plant under full summer the frequency of irrigation cycles maybe every hour during daylight and 3-4 times during the night.
- Place the drip irrigation line slightly away from the base of the plant so that moisture is not falling area where root and stem join because it can cause stem rot.
Note- Irrigation also depends on plant spacing closer the plant more water it needs!
Optimum plant spacing to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Maintain a space about 35 -40 cm apart within the rows & plant to plant.
- The channel should have a 3% slope towards the nutrient tank.
Note- Plant Spacing also depends on the light intensity, greater the light intensity closer the spacing.
The nutrition required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Blossom-end rot is due to mainly Ca-deficiency and high saline nutrients, nutrient element imbalance, high Magnesium / Ammonium / Potassium, high temperature and low transpiration.
- BER-affected fruits are also seen when visual leaf Mg-deficiency symptoms occur. The concentration of each element will change over a 40-day period while flowering and fruiting. So you need to give nutrients according to the instructions of nutrients manual or balance it out manually.
Visual nutrient element deficiency symptoms can be found at the link check out the link.
Do you know? plants under slight stress produce higher-flavoured fruit.
EC required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- The EC of the nutrient solution shouldn’t exceed 4.0 dS/m.
- Don’t totally rely on EC it is total ions calculated not individual ions.
- Add NaCl (salt) 35 ppm to the nutrient solution will enhance the flavour of the fruit just give it a try!
pH required to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- The optimum pH is between 6.3 and 6.5.
To increase the pH of the nutrient solution you can add any of these-Potassium hydroxide (KOH), Sodium hydroxide(NaOH), Bicarbonate of soda (NaHC03).
To decrease the pH of the nutrient solution you can add any of these-Phosphoric acid (H3P04), Sulfuric acid (H2S04), Nitric acid (HN03)
Flower Pollination to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- It depends on the variety you choose.
- Home growers can hand pollinate every other mid-day but for commercial electric hand pollinators or the introduction of bumblebees inside your greenhouse, this should be done wisely according to the greenhouse configuration and number of plants.
- You can expect fruit to mature from 40 to 75 days after pollination.
Note- It’s better to pollinate midday because of less humidity, pollen grains will not stick together.
Grafting to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- You can also do grafting with seedlings to create (two plants on one root system) or grafting onto a rootstock that has higher plant vigour.
- Grafting is done at the seedling stage on 17- to 18-day-old plants.
Training & pruning to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Just remove all side shoots or suckers early that grows between the main stem and each leaf stem.
- Train vertically let the single main stem grow.
- To support the plant use plastic twine & stem clips secured above a support wire.
- To wrap the plant follow one direction clockwise/Anticlockwise.
- Place stem clips every foot just under the leaf stem joining the main plant stem for best hold.
- You should leave extra 1ft of the string above the support wire so that the plants can be lowered once they reach the height of the wire.
- Don’t clip under the fruit cluster as it may break the cluster.
- Cut the less vigorous stem/fruit with clean sharp scissors/knife.
- Before plant removal, the cutting of the growing tip makes the remaining fruits develop faster.
When to harvest tomatoes-
- You can harvest them once the fruit turns green or firm and pink.
- The lower leaf turns yellow followed by a line between the yellow leaf stem and the green stem that line is the natural cutting point, use sharp objects to cut.
- Yellow leaves are prone to disease so maintain proper aeration.
Pests and Diseases management to grow tomatoes hydroponically-
- Sometimes hydroponic systems can also have pests or diseases.
- You should never transplant soil-grown into your hydroponic system.
- You should keep the growing channels and tank covered to prevent algae growth.
- Keep the base of the plants dry with proper aeration.
- Cleanliness, early observation & identification will protect you from a major loss.
- Sterilization of the beds, nutrients tank, equipment and irrigation lines with a 10% chlorine bleach solution can eliminate any major pest problems on your farm.
- High humidity causes fungal infections.
Post-harvest tips for tomotoes-
- After harvesting ripe tomato, the fruit should be stored at a temperature between 5 – 10°C with a relative humidity of 85 to 90% by doing this fruit can be maintained for 6 to 12 days.
- Avoid storing with ethylene-producing fruit, such as apple or banana near tomatoes.
To know about the average yield for tomatoes check-out this link
Why did tomato leaves and the whole plant get distorted and less vigour?
- It’s due to a virus known as tomato mosaic virus (TMV), you have to remove the infected plants immediately and plant shouldn’t brush other nearby plants & it’s a virus you need to wash your hands after removing.
What are greyish spots in plants?
- Scars after removal of leaf and sucker removal form grey growth at the scar site. Control it by reducing humidity when it is high and you can also use safe fungicides.
How to avoid leaf mold eliminate insects like whiteflies, aphids, leafminers etc?
- By reducing humidity.
- Using IPM techniques like sticky traps or safe insecticides like safer soap spray.
- Using biological control agents or natural predators.
What causes blossom end rot?
- Inadequate calcium in nutrients.
- Poor nutrient solution.
- The heating of nutrient solutions causes less uptake of calcium.
- Less oxygen is dissolved in nutrients.
Why my tomato plant is catfaced, thin stemmed, spindly and light coloured leaves?
- Poor light conditions & high relative humidity causes all of these.
Why fruits are showing green blotches and uneven ripening?
- It happens if the fruit is exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight you can also avoid this by not cutting many leaves above the ripening clusters of fruit.
Why leaves are turning yellow and later brown spots started appearing?
- It’s because of the wrong nutrient solution formulation.
- You shouldn’t rely on EC because EC can be correct with imbalanced individual ions.
Note – Don’t smoke near tomatoes tobacco virus can infect plants as well as you.
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