Growing tomatoes hydroponically is a great way to get a good yield of juicy fruit without the need for soil. To get the most out of your plants, however, there are several errors you should stay away from. We will talk about eight examples of these errors in this post, along with some advice on how to prevent them.
Mistake 1: Not considering starting with seedlings
You might think that the only way to get seedlings ready for hydroponics is to start them from seed yourself. However, in just a few steps, you can prepare store-bought seedlings for hydroponics.
Here’s how you do it:
Choose a variety that suits your needs.
Wash the medium off the root system. Be gentle not to damage the roots.
Make a slice into a block of rock wool and tuck your seedlings into the cut.
Place your seedling and rock wool block into your system.
One of the biggest benefits of starting with seedlings is that your plants will start producing fruit much sooner than those started from seed. This is especially great if you have a short growing season.
Mistake 2: Choosing the wrong variety
You can cultivate an almost limitless variety of determinate and indeterminate kinds of tomatoes, which are all interchangeable. Indeterminate varieties have a more compact, bushy growth habit, while determinate varieties grow more like a vine. Both of these can be grown successfully in hydroponics.
Choose determinate varieties if you have more floor or horizontal growing space available. Indeterminate varieties will be better if you have more aerial or vertical growing space. You should also choose proven, reliable varieties. Commercial cultivars are a trusted option that will provide you with a heavy crop while offering resistance to many diseases. If you are a beginner, look for tried and tested varieties like the rotate tomato. Heirloom tomatoes, while often more attractive and tasty, can sometimes be a bit trickier to grow, so start off with the beginner-friendly options and then have fun experimenting with heirloom varieties.
Mistake 3: Choosing the wrong hydroponic system
This will very much depend on the type of tomato you choose to grow. Generally, determinate tomatoes make the most of the horizontal space offered by the ebb and flow system. The Dutch bucket and Kratky systems are great for indeterminate varieties. However, depending on your resources and creativity, it is up to you to decide which system you want to use to grow your tomatoes.
If there is one system that is avoided by most tomato growers, it’s the deep water culture system. This is because the moving trays and larger plants make trellising almost impossible. If you have experience in growing tomatoes and hydroponics, let us know what method you use in the comments.
Mistake 4: Improper pruning and staking methods
Due to their vining growth, indeterminate tomatoes require frequent pruning to keep the plants a manageable size. Not only will judicious pruning keep your plants from becoming unruly, but it will also improve the quality of the fruit. Due to their compact growth, determinate varieties require less pruning. Pruning should be avoided during the fruiting stage because determinate varieties generally don’t have a prolonged harvest season, and all flowering points must be conserved for optimum fruit production.
As they mature, tomatoes grow quite large and require staking to keep them upright. If your hydroponic system is movable, you should consider placing stakes into the system that can be moved with the plants if need be. If your system is a permanent structure, you can suspend support from the ceiling and lash the plants as they grow.
Mistake 5: Choosing the wrong growing position
However, when growing tomatoes indoors using hydroponics, pollination must be done manually. There are several methods of manual pollination, including using a small brush to transfer pollen from one flower to another or gently tapping the flowers to release pollen. If pollination is neglected, the tomato plants will produce fewer fruits, and the fruits may be misshapen or small.
Mistake 8: Overcrowding plants
Overcrowding is a common mistake made by many hydroponic growers, especially when growing indeterminate tomato varieties. While it may be tempting to plant as many tomato plants as possible to maximize yield, overcrowding can lead to poor air circulation, which can encourage fungal diseases and pest infestations.
Make sure to provide enough space between plants to allow for adequate air circulation and to prevent the shading of neighboring plants. This will help ensure that your tomato plants grow healthy and strong and produce a bountiful harvest.
To prevent the frequent errors that might limit the development and output of your plants, careful preparation and attention to detail are necessary when growing tomatoes hydroponically. By avoiding the eight mistakes we discussed, you can ensure that your hydroponic tomato plants thrive and produce delicious, juicy fruits.
Remember to start with seedlings, choose the right variety for your space and skill level, select the appropriate hydroponic system, prune and stake your plants properly, position your system in a sunny spot, use the right nutrient mix for each stage of growth, pollinate your plants manually, and avoid overcrowding your plants.