Tomato – Black Cherry

black-cherry-tomato-webBlack Cherry is an indeterminate tomato variety, with fruits that are about the size of ping pong balls.  I last grew this variety 3 summers ago, and the tomatoes were delicious.  I will be growing this plant outside in a 32 gallon bucket, and I will definitely need to watch the fluid level and add more as needed.  I expect this plant will get huge (6-8 feet tall) and will consume more than 60 gallons of fluid over the course of the season.

Mar 17 = Day 0.  Plant started from seed (Baker Creek).  Seeds (3) sowed into one 1.5 inch rockwool cube in 2 inch net-pot.  Moistened with Seedling Blend, a dilute blend of fertilizers.  N-P-K (in ppm): 22-29-16.

Mar 21 = Day 4.  The seeds have germinated, and are placed directly under a fluorescent light (spiral bulb, 23W, 6500k) for 18 hours per day.  The bulb is positioned 3-4 inches above the plants.

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Mar 24 = Day 7

Mar 28 = Day 11.  Plant is now being put into a sunny window for 3 hours per day, then back under the fluorescent light for an additional 15 hours.

Mar 31 = Day 14.  Plant transferred to a small plastic jar containing 3 cups of Regular-Strength Blend.  N-P-K (in ppm): 103-95-202.

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Mar 31 = Day 14

Apr 10 = Day 24.  Installed the plant outside in a 32 gallon bucket.  The fertilizer solution is the Masterblend-based Regular-Strength Blend.  N-P-K (in ppm): 103-95-202.  The plant is currently getting about 4-5 hours of direct sunlight per day.

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Apr 10 = Day 24
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Apr 25 = Day 39
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May 14 = Day 58.  Plant is over 3 feet tall.
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May 14 = Day 59.  Healthy root system.  Fluid level has dropped about 6 inches so far.

Jun 4 = Day 80.  Bucket seems to be about 1/3 full, so I added 8 gallons of fresh Regular-Strength Blend.

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Jun 4 = Day 80.  Plant is 5 feet tall, with lots of flowers and several tomatoes developing.

Jun 13 = Day 89.  Added 8 gallons of nutrient solution: Regular-Strength Blend.

Jun 19 = Day 95.  Added 9 gallons of nutrient solution: Regular-Strength Blend.

Jun 25 = Day 101.  Added 12 gallons of nutrient solution: Regular-Strength Blend.

Jul 6 = Day 112.  Added 8 gallons of nutrient solution: Regular-Strength Blend.  Began harvesting ripe tomatoes at this time.  Total = 20 tomatoes.

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Jul 6 = Day 112.  Harvested 20 tomatoes.
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Jul 10 = Day 116.  Plant has exceeded the height of the support structure.  I have begun trimming to prevent further upward growth.

Jul 13 = Day 119.  Harvested 48 tomatoes.  Total = 68.

Jul 17 = Day 123.  Harvested 65 tomatoes.  Total = 133.  Added 9 gallons of nutrient solution: Regular-Strength Blend.  Plant is losing a lot of its lower foliage due to powdery mildew.

Jul 20 = Day 126.  Harvested 104 tomatoes.  Total = 237.

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Tomatoes are being harvested faster than I can eat them.  Time to make a big batch of salsa!

Jul 22 = Day 128.  Harvested 112 tomatoes.  Total = 349.

Jul 25 = Day 131.  Harvested 80 tomatoes.  Total = 429.

Jul 28 = Day 134.  Harvested 152 tomatoes.  Total = 581.

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Jul 28 = Day 134.  A big harvest today, 152 tomatoes!
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Jul 28 = Day 134.  The foliage looks terrible, but the plant continues to provide lots of ripe tomatoes.

Jul 31 = Day 137.  Harvested 102 tomatoes.  Total = 683.

Aug 3 = Day 140.  Harvested 29 tomatoes.  GRAND TOTAL = 712.

At this point, many tomatoes are cracking on the vine, and the plant foliage is mostly dead.  Plant was taken down at this point.  This plant started with 32 gallons of fluid, and I added 54 gallons during the season.  There was still 11.5 gallons left when I took the plant down.  Total fluid used =  74.5 gallons.

Tomato – Orange Paruche

05439-pk-p1_1In the past, I have grown indeterminate cherry tomatoes such as Sun Gold and Supersweet 100, but these plants can get huge and require lots of water (approximately 50-75 gallons over the growing season).  This year, I’m going to try growing smaller determinate tomato plants (Fantastico and Orange Paruche), and we’ll see how they do in my 32-gallon buckets.

Feb 19, 2016 = Day 0.  Plant started from seed (Park Seed).  Seed sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot.  Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution: 1.2 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 0.8 mL pH Down per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 22, P 29, K 16, Ca 6, Mg 1.6, S 0.2, Fe 0.3, Mn 0.2, B 0.1, Zn 0.2, Cu 0.2, Mo 0.003, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.005.  pH = 6.0.

Feb 24 = Day 5.  Plant germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.

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Feb 28 = Day 9

Mar 2 = Day 12.  Transferred plant to a small 3 cup plastic container.  Hydroponic solution composed of 3 cups tap water, 1.125 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 111, P 143, K 79, Ca 32, Mg 8, S 0.8, Fe 1.6, Mn 0.8, B 0.3, Zn 0.8, Cu 0.8, Mo 0.01, Ni 0.002, Co 0.024.  pH = 6.0.  No pH adjustment required.  Began placing plant in an open window for several hours per day, to get seedling ready for the transition to the outdoors.

Mar 13 = Day 23.  Plant installed outside in 32-gallon bucket.  Hydroponic solution composed of 32 gal (121 L) tap water, 64 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 64 g calcium nitrate, 32 g magnesium sulfate, 6.4 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 35.2 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.0.

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Mar 13 = Day 23
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Mar 29 = Day 39

Apr 14 = Day 55.  Plant is looking great, starting to form flower clusters.

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Apr 14 = Day 55
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Apr 19 = Day 60.  Fluid level has dropped about 3 inches.
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May 2 = Day 73
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May 2 = Day 73.  Tomatoes are developing.

May 14 = Day 85.  Comparing the 2 tomato plants, it seems that Orange Paruche is much larger than the Fantastico plant.  However, Fantastico has many more blossoms than Orange Paruche.

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May 14 = Day 85.  Fantastico (left), Orange Paruche (right).

May 27 = Day 98.  Container starting to get low on fluid.  Added 7.5 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

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May 28 = Day 99

Jun 5 = Day 107.  Added 6 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

Jun 9 = Day 111.  Harvested 1 ripe tomato.  Very sweet and juicy!

Jun 16 = Day 118.  Added 6 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

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Jun 16 = Day 118.  Orange Paruche (left), Fantastico (right)
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Jun 16 = Day 118.  Orange Paruche tomatoes are ripening.
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Jun 18 = Day 120.  Harvested 22 tomatoes.  Total = 23.

Jun 22 = Day 124.  Harvested 30 tomatoes.  Total = 53.  I am finding that these tomatoes are very juicy and sweet when first picked, but they don’t last too long sitting on the counter.  They go bad quickly.  Also the skins are very thin and are prone to cracking.  These tomatoes are best when eaten fresh off the vine.  In contrast, the Fantastico red tomatoes that I am growing at the same time are not quite as juicy or sweet, but they still have a very good flavor, they are resistant to cracking, and they have a much better shelf life after being picked.  The Fantastico plant also yields many more tomatoes than the Orange Paruche, but the average size of the Fantastico tomato is smaller than the Orange Paruche.

Jun 27 = Day 129.  Harvested 85 tomatoes.  Total = 138.

Jun 30 = Day 132.  Harvested 76 tomatoes.  Total = 214.

Jul 1 = Day 133.  Added 6 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

Jul 2 = Day 134.  Harvested 92 tomatoes.  Total = 306.  At this point, the plant is not looking very good.  The lower leaves are turning yellow and wilting, and the growing meristems at the top of the plant are also starting to wither.  It is clear that this plant will not last too much longer.  There are still many tomatoes ripening on the plant though, so I’ll keep the plant around a bit longer.

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Jul 5 = Day 137

Jul 5 = Day 137.  Harvested 105 tomatoes.  Total = 411.

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Jul 5 = Day 137.  155 Fantastico tomatoes (left), 105 Orange Paruche tomatoes (right).  Note the slightly larger average size of the Orange Paruche.

Jul 7 = Day 139.  Harvested 68 tomatoes.  Total = 479.

Jul 9 = Day 141.  Harvested 121 tomatoes.  Total = 600.

Jul 11 = Day 143.  Harvested 47 tomatoes.  Total = 647.  Added 3 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

Jul 13 = Day 145.  Harvested 56 tomatoes.  Total = 703.

Jul 15 = Day 147.  Harvested 71 tomatoes.  Total = 774.

Jul 16 = Day 148.  Harvested 83 tomatoes.  GRAND TOTAL = 857.

At this point, there are not too many more tomatoes to harvest.  The plant was taken down.  This plant started with 32 gallons of fluid, and I added 28.5 gallons during the season, and there was still 6 gallons left when I took the plant down.  Total fluid used = 54.5 gallons.

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Jul 16 = Day 148
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Jul 16 = Day 148.  Massive root system of the Orange Paruche plant.

Tomato – Fantastico

52600-pk-p1In the past, I have grown indeterminate cherry tomatoes such as Sun Gold and Supersweet 100, but these plants can get huge and require lots of water (approximately 50-75 gallons over the growing season).  This year, I’m going to try growing smaller determinate tomato plants (Fantastico and Orange Paruche), and we’ll see how they do in my 32-gallon buckets.

Feb 19, 2016 = Day 0.  Plant started from seed (Park Seed).  Seed sowed in 1.5-inch rockwool cube in 2-inch net-pot.  Moistened with dilute fertilizer solution: 1.2 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, 0.8 mL pH Down per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 22, P 29, K 16, Ca 6, Mg 1.6, S 0.2, Fe 0.3, Mn 0.2, B 0.1, Zn 0.2, Cu 0.2, Mo 0.003, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.005.  pH = 6.0.

Feb 24 = Day 5.  Plant germinated, placed directly under a fluorescent light (2 ft. T8 bulb, 17W, 6500k) for 16 hours per day.

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Feb 28 = Day 9

Mar 2 = Day 12.  Transferred plant to a small 3 cup plastic container.  Hydroponic solution composed of 3 cups tap water, 1.125 mL Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm): N 111, P 143, K 79, Ca 32, Mg 8, S 0.8, Fe 1.6, Mn 0.8, B 0.3, Zn 0.8, Cu 0.8, Mo 0.01, Ni 0.002, Co 0.024.  pH = 6.0.  No pH adjustment required.  Began placing plant in an open window for several hours per day, to get seedling ready for the transition to the outdoors.

Mar 13 = Day 23.  Plant installed outside in 32-gallon bucket.  Hydroponic solution composed of 32 gal (121 L) tap water, 64 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 64 g calcium nitrate, 32 g magnesium sulfate, 6.4 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 35.2 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.0.

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Mar 13 = Day 23
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Mar 29 = Day 39

Apr 14 = Day 55.  Plant is looking great, starting to form flower clusters.

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Apr 14 = Day 55
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May 2 = Day 73
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May 2 = Day 73.  Tomatoes are developing.

May 14 = Day 85.  Comparing the 2 tomato plants, it seems that Orange Paruche is much larger than the Fantastico plant.  However, Fantastico has many more blossoms than Orange Paruche.

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May 14 = Day 85.  Fantastico (left), Orange Paruche (right).

May 27 = Day 98.  Container starting to get low on fluid.  Added 7.5 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

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May 28 = Day 99.  Lots of tomatoes developing.  Some yellowing of the lower leaves.

Jun 5 = Day 107.  Added 6 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.  Tomatoes are beginning to ripen.  7 tomatoes harvested.  These tomatoes have a decent flavor and a texture that is similar to paste tomato varieties such as Roma.

Jun 9 = Day 111.  Harvested 20 tomatoes.  Total = 27.

Jun 13 = Day 115.  Harvested 11 tomatoes.  Total = 38.

Jun 16 = Day 118.  Added 4.5 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

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Jun 16 = Day 118.  Lots of tomatoes ripening.
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Jun 18 = Day 120.  Harvested 91 tomatoes.  Total = 129.

Jun 22 = Day 124.  Harvested 102 tomatoes.  Total = 231.  These tomatoes have a very good flavor, they are resistant to cracking, and they have a good shelf life after being picked.  Compared to the Orange Paruche plant I am growing at the same time, the Fantastico plant yields many more tomatoes than the Orange Paruche, but the average size of the Fantastico tomato is smaller than the Orange Paruche.  I find the Orange Paruche tomato to be a bit juicier and sweeter when freshly picked off the vine, but if I had to choose only one of these 2 plants to grow again, I would grow the Fantastico.

Jun 27 = Day 129.  Harvested 188 tomatoes.  Total = 419.

Jun 30 = Day 132.  Harvested 121 tomatoes.  Total = 540.

Jul 1 = Day 133. Added 6 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

Jul 2 = Day 134.  Harvested 81 tomatoes.  Total = 621.

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Jul 5 = Day 137

Jul 5 = Day 137.  Harvested 155 tomatoes.  Total = 776.

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Jul 5 = Day 137.  155 Fantastico tomatoes (left), 105 Orange Paruche tomatoes (right).  Note the slightly smaller average size of the Fantastico.

Jul 7 = Day 139.  Harvested 93 tomatoes.  Total = 869.

Jul 8 = Day 140.  Found the first hornworm of the season munching on my plant. These guys are difficult to spot on the plant, since they blend in so well, but I was alerted to his presence by the pile of droppings on the ground directly beneath his location on the plant.  I cut off the branch he was hanging on, and tossed him over the fence.  I doubt he’ll find his way back to my plant.

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Hornworm on the Fantastico tomato plant.

Jul 9 = Day 141.  Harvested 201 tomatoes.  Total = 1070.

Jul 11 = Day 143.  Harvested 132 tomatoes.  Total = 1202.  Added 7 gallons fresh hydroponic fluid.

Jul 13 = Day 145.  Harvested 110 tomatoes.  Total = 1312.

Jul 15 = Day 147.  Harvested 25 tomatoes.  Total = 1337.

Jul 16 = Day 148.  Harvested 3 tomatoes.  GRAND TOTAL = 1340.

At this point, there are not too many more tomatoes to harvest.  The plant was taken down.  This plant started with 32 gallons of fluid, and I added 31 gallons during the season, and there was still 7 gallons left when I took the plant down.  Total fluid used = 56 gallons.

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Jul 16 = Day 148
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Jul 16 = Day 148.  Massive root system of the Fantastico plant.

Tomatoes, Peppers, Mint – GUEST POST

In this post, I will be sharing some photos from Matt G., a gardener who has had great success growing hydroponically using a variety of methods.  His photos are very instructional for anyone looking to get started with growing.

In this first set of photos, a tomato plant is shown growing inside an office, using an 18-gallon plastic tote.  The tomato variety is Patio Princess from Burpee, which is a great variety for growing inside since the plants stay small (about 2 feet tall).  Imagine how great it would be to impress your co-workers with freshly grown tomatoes all year long!  To see a timeline of the tomato plants’ growth, click here.

2015-03-30 17.27.582015-05-20 17.40.462015-03-30 12.42.23 HDR-2

 

The next set of photos shows a connected bucket system in a greenhouse.  This system may seem complicated, but it is very simple.  There is a large outdoor reservoir, connected to a smaller ‘control bucket’ which contains a float valve, just like in a toilet tank.  When the fluid level in the control bucket gets low, the float valve opens and fluid flows in from the reservoir.  Using plastic tubing, the control bucket is connected to a series of other ‘grow buckets’ inside the greenhouse.  Since the buckets are connected, the fluid level in the grow buckets is then always kept at the same level as the control bucket.  The beauty of this system is that it requires no electricity, and it is much more convenient than having to monitor the fluid levels in each of the grow buckets individually.  Peppers and tomatoes are shown successfully growing in this system:

Kratky Connected Buckets ReservoirsKratky Bucket Reservoir and FloatKratky Connected BucketsKratky Bucket Tomatoes

 

Here are a few examples of simple, self-contained Kratky hydroponics.  A Ghost pepper plant grown in a large plastic trash container:

Kratky Ghost PepperKratky Ghost Pepper Roots

 

Peppermint plant grown in a large plastic trash container:

Kratky PeppermintKratky Peppermint Roots

 

Lettuce grown in a plastic tote:

Kratky LettuceKratky Lettuce Roots

 

In the final set of photos, we can see the effects of adding an air pump to the system.  Using an air pump means getting away from the ultra-simple Kratky method, and approaching the more complex Deep Water Culture (DWC) system.  Although electricity is now required, oxygenating the water with an air pump does seem to result in plants that are more productive.  This is in agreement with what Bobby Smith (mhpgardener on YouTube) has described in this video.  These Garden Salsa pepper plants are grown in 5-gallon buckets, with aeration (left) or without aeration (right):

DWC Garden Salsa Hot PepperKratky Bucket Garden Salsa Peppers

Thanks to Matt G. for supplying these excellent photos of hydroponics in action!

Tomato – Sun Sugar, Supersweet 100

Sun Sugar is an orange cherry variety similar to Sun Gold, but is reported to have less splitting of the fruit.  Supersweet 100 is a classic red cherry variety.

March 26, 2015 = Day 0.  Plants started from seed.  Sun Sugar (Urban Farmer), Supersweet 100 (Botanical Interests).  Moistened with dilute fertilizer:  Dyna-Gro Liquid Grow, diluted 1 mL (1/5 tsp) per gallon of tap water.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 18, P 24, K 13, Ca 5, Mg 1, S 0.13, Fe 0.26, Mn 0.13, B 0.05, Zn 0.13, Cu 0.13, Mo 0.002, Ni 0.0003, Co 0.004.  pH = 7.0.

Mar 30, 2015 = Day 4.  Seeds germinated.  Transferred to grow room, receiving 14 hours LED grow-light per day.

April 10, 2015 = Day 14.  Plants installed outside in 32-gallon buckets.  Hydroponic solution composed of 32 gal tap water, 64 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 64 g calcium nitrate, 32 g magnesium sulfate, 6.4 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 25 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.5.

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Jun 8, 2015 = Day 73.  Sun Sugar

 

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Jun 8, 2015 = Day 73.  Supersweet 100

Jul 4, 2015 = Day 99.  Began harvesting tomatoes.

Big harvests continued until around mid-August (day 120-130), when production of tomatoes slowed down.  The buckets got light a few times, indicating low fluid level, so I had to add 5 gallons several times.  Plants were discarded at the end of August, due to lack of new tomatoes.  Total water usage per plant = 50 gallons.

Tomato – Sun Gold

Sun Gold is a cherry tomato variety, yielding a large harvest of orange, sweet tomatoes.  This plant was started as a cutting from another plant.  All but a few leaves were removed from the cutting, and the cutting was placed in a rockwool cube.  After about 2 weeks, roots were emerging from the rockwool, so the plant was installed in a small bucket outside.   The plant was later moved to a 32-gallon bucket.

July 24, 2014 = Day 0.  Cutting taken from another plant.

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August 11, 2014 = Day 18
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Sept 2, 2014 = Day 40
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Sept 2, 2014 = Day 40

Sept 26, 2014 = Day 62.  Started harvesting ripe tomatoes.  Amount of fluid in container was getting low, began adding 5 gallons of fresh fluid every week or 2.

Harvested lots of tomatoes throughout Oct 2014, and production began to drop in Nov.  Entire plant blew over in a wind storm in Dec 2014, so I placed bricks on the bottom part of the PVC support structure to keep it weighed down.  The plant lasted until Feb 2015, at which point it looked bad and was taken down.

Total water usage during lifetime of plant = 75 gallons.

 

Tomato – Sun Gold

Sun Gold is an indeterminate cherry tomato variety, yielding a large harvest of orange, sweet tomatoes.  In this example, the plant is grown in a 5-gallon bucket.  As I discovered, the plant will need much more than just 5 gallons of fluid, requiring me to add fluid to the bucket about every 2 days in the hot summer weather.  I would not recommend growing a large tomato plant this way, since it was too much work.  However, the plant did just fine, and yielded plenty of tasty tomatoes.  In the future, it would be better to either (1) grow the plant in a much larger container, or (2) connect the small 5-gallon bucket to a much larger reservoir, and use a float valve to automatically refill the bucket as the fluid gets low.

Jun 27, 2014 = Day 0.  Cutting taken from another Sun Gold plant.   All but a few leaves were removed from the cutting, and the cutting was placed in a rockwool cube, moistened with dilute fertilizer.

Jul 12 = Day 15.  Roots were emerging from the rockwool, so the plant was installed in a 5-gallon bucket outside.  Hydroponic solution composed of 5 gal tap water, 10 g MasterBlend 4-18-38, 10 g calcium nitrate, 5 g magnesium sulfate, 1 mL Dyna-Gro Pro-TeKt, 2.8 mL pH Down.  Nutrient concentrations (in ppm):  N 103, P 95, K 202, Ca 100, Mg 29, S 34, Fe 2.1, Mn 1.1, B 1.1, Zn 0.3, Cu 0.3, Mo 0.05, Si 4.  pH = 6.5.

Aug 11 = Day 45.  Plant is over 2-feet tall, and about 75% of the hydroponic fluid has been used.  Began adding 1 gallon of fresh hydroponic fluid every 2 days or so (never more than 1 gallon at a time, to avoid drowning the roots).

Sep 1 = Day 66.  Began harvesting ripe tomatoes.

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Sep 2 = Day 67

Throughout September, continued to harvest plenty of ripe tomatoes.  Around Oct. 1, production started to decrease.  At this point the plant was over 7-feet tall, and looked healthy, with lots of new growth.  There were many flowers present, but no fruit was setting.  Perhaps it was getting too cold at night, or the number of hours of sunlight was too little.  The plant was discarded in mid-Oct.

Total fluid usage = 24.5 gallons.