Cost of hydro vs dirt tomato growing

gardenweb88(9)April 22, 2013

It seems like the cost of growing one tomato plant in a 5 gallon bucket using hydro nutrient solution is way more expensive than growing the tomato plant in the same 5 gallon bucket using a combination of potting mix, worm castings, worm tea, liquid fertilizer, etc. Has this been everyone's conclusions also?

I contacted Fox Farm about their nutrient triple pack, which costs ~$45 for the three stage nutrient solutions, and they said the three bottles is just enough for one growing cycle of a tomato plant in a 5 gallon bucket. That's quite alot of dough to grow one tomato plant one season.

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Well you know what they say:
There's a sucker born everyday
And, apparently, Fox Farm knows how to market to them.
I spent around $100 for enough nutrient to make something like 10000 gallons of nutrient. Or was it 1000?
Well lets say 1000. That is $0.10 per gallon. That isn't a whole lot of money.
But there is more to the hydro vs soil debate than just expense.
For one, your plant will likely grow twice as fast and large (or more) than the soil borne plant.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:34PM
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Well it's much more reassuring to know that a tomato plant isn't going to cost $45 a season.

What brand nutrient solution are you buying? I looked into manufacturing my own solutions but it seemed like some of the base nutrients were either hard to obtain in small quantities or had to be synthesized from other compounds.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:08AM
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General Hydroponics nutrients are about $30/gal. I apply a cup and a half to about 50 gallons of water. That costs a little over $2. That would give you ten reservoir changes for a 5-gallon bucket, which should get you through the life of a tomato plant.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:41AM
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Late blight always affects my soil toms about a month earlier than the hydro toms, it makes a big difference to the overall yield.
Full strength tom nutes cost me around $12.14 per1000 gallons, hydro stores dont get any of my hard earned cash :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:00AM
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I use SoutherAG's soluble hydroponic solution, calcium nitrate, and epsom salts. If I ever substantially increase the quantity of plants I grow, I would build my own nutrients. Here is a site with instructions how and a basic formula.
I suspect the cost would be a few hundred dollars up front though. If you're not that committed yet, I would recommend a more reasonably priced hydro solution such as the GH flora series. It won't take too many seasons to realize it is a lot less expensive to buy something in bulk than to buy hobby hydroponic marketed concentrates. but for a beginner, the upfront expense is less in case you decide it is not your cup of tea.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 8:25AM
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I actually would like to grow 3-6 tomato plants this season. The bulk purchase from Southern Ag seems a much better deal vs buying multiple orders of GH or Fox Farm. The only complication in buying from Southern Ag is delivery to my location and then identifying the appropriate nutrient balance through the different growing phases.

This post was edited by gardenweb88 on Tue, Apr 23, 13 at 13:25

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:11PM
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As I recall, you live in or about Charlotte. SoutherAg has a distribution center in Hendersonville. You can go pick it up or, if you don't have time available, find a local nursery or landscape supply company and have them order it for you. then pick it up there. That second route is how I went about doing it. On the front of the sol. hydro bag is directions for mixing it. Note: They also call for adding chelated iron. I don't do that as I use well water. There is also a good chance municipal water contains enough too. If you shoot me an email (see my profile for the addy), I will gladly send you my spreadsheet for calculating quantities.
As I mentioned before, the initial investment is more for the bulk material but a better buy over time, if you know you'll stick to it.

This is how I tend to grow them:

It's DWC using a rainbird sprayer head and a $15 submersible water pump to aerate the water. It also serves double duty by spraying the net pots until the root stretch down into the nutrients. If you go that route, don't forget to put a drain valve near the bottom to empty it out!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 2:29PM
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I actually live in Southern California in between Los Angeles and Riverside. Unfortunately, Southern Ag won't ship oxidizers to Califronia. I have to go another route, maybe find another brand soluble nutrient for the tomatoes. I'm hesitant to mix up my own batch from raw materials and would rather bulk buy and add to whats there to fine tune.

is that a full size trashcan? Why such a large vessel? Is it because you're growing indeterminates? Are you single tressing the plants?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:44PM
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It is a 32 gal trashcan. I was growing 6 plants in it. I'm sure it is bigger than required, but horizontal area is about right and the height is good too.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:25PM
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Hydrogardens ships nutrients to CA

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 11:49PM
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Southern Ag in Palmetto Fla. is my Fertilizer/pesticide supplier. But I am also a Certified Pesticide Operator who buys commercially.

Triple 20 Miracle Gro is actually a standard Green House blend. Peters, Jacks, K Gro and a number of other brands are the SAME THING or blends. Apples to Apples. Fertilizer is a Commodity not a Brand

I believe it was on the U of F site where I read Two Parts Triple 20 and one Part Episode salts was perfect for Tomatoes. I also add Calcium Nitrate to prevent Blossom End Rot. I use that same blend on Tomatoes Peppers and Cucumbers. It Works Great

Going back to basics the goal of Hydroponics is to control the plants Total environment. Water Temperature, Sunlight and Nutrients are the major factors. My point being E bay sells EC and pH meters Cheap. I just bought 2 pH meters for $ 9.95 each. Starting with (o) Zero water, 600 to 800PPM fertilizer and pH around the 6.5 is the recommended starting point. You can force grow with more but the economics aren't there.

My point is the Hydroponic Store is selling you Knowledge and throwing in some cheat fertilizer as a bonus. A few Hours on the Internet is a lot Cheaper than to keep paying High prices for a commodity that is a lot Cheaper than paying big buck for the same thing.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 11:01AM
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