Hydroponic Tomato Growing Tips

A Overview for Growing the Best Tomatoes You've Ever Had!

Want to try being a hydroponic tomato grower? Do it right, and you'll grow some of the best tomatoes you've ever eaten in your life.

I guarantee it!

Anyone can grow tomatoes hydroponically. It doesn't matter where you live, or even if you have a yard.

I'm going to give you an overview of the process I use to grow tomatoes in a large greenhouse, on a commercial scale.

But the techniques I use to grow hundreds of tomato plants will work for you on a small scale, even if you just want to grow 1 or two plants.

You do need to have a sheltered environment.

You could grow hydroponic tomatoes outside, exposed to the wind and rain. But the results wouldn't be the best.

We grow our tomatoes in a big 3000 square foot greenhouse that's part of our commercial farming operation.

If you've got a little hobby greenhouse in your backyard, that will work perfectly for growing tomatoes hydroponically.

But if you don't even have a yard, you can still enjoy the fun and tasty benefits of hydroponic tomato growing.

There are many self-contained hydroponic units that you can buy and set up anywhere indoors - right in your living room if you want!

So let's get to it. This is how I grow my hydroponic tomatoes..

The Containers

We grow our tomatoes in plastic pots called Bato buckets. The Bato buckets are also sometimes called "Dutch Buckets" because they were developed by the hydroponic industry in Holland - arguably the world leaders in hydroponic technology.

Bato buckets are equipped with siphon elbows that automatically maintain a reservoir 1" deep in the bottom of the bucket. This helps to maintain a stable moisture level in the growing medium between irrigation cycles.

The Growing Medium

Each Bato bucket is filled with perlite - roughly 3 gallons per bucket.

Perlite - in case you don't know - is a volcanic rock widely used in horticulture.

The perlite ore is mined and then heated to a very high temperature. The heat causes water trapped within the perlite ore to expand, causing the perlite to 'pop' - almost like popcorn.

The result is an extremely light, foam-like material that contains lots of nooks and crannies that do an excellent job of storing a reserve of water.

And - very important for hydroponics - perlite is chemically inert. The plants don't derive any nutrients or minerals from the perlite.

That's critical, because when you're growing hydroponically, you want to deliver ALL of the plants' needs through the nutrient solution that you formulate for feeding the plants.

If the plants are able to intake nutrients through sources other than the nutrient solution, that will throw off the plants' balanced diet. They'll be getting too much of one or more nutrients.

That's one of the many reasons that you DON'T want to use soil in your hydroponic set-up.

The irregular shape of each perlite grain also prevents the perlite from becoming too tightly packed. That's important, because air must be able to infiltrate the growing medium.

Other types of growing medium are used for hydroponic growing, including rockwool, pine bark and coconut coir. But we've primarily used perlite, and with great success.

One additional great advantage of perlite is that it can be used over and over.

That's probably not a terribly important perk for a small-scale grower. But it's a huge advantage on a commercial scale, where thousands of gallons of growing medium are used. Having to replace it all every growing season can be very expensive.

We’ve used our perlite for more than 10 years, with no negative effects to the plants (more about that later).

I've also experimented on a small scale with coconut coir, and believe it would be a very good medium for hydroponic tomato production.

Continued in Part 2...

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