Newbie grow log, Tomatos under a 400w HPS

ozzz(5b AZ)January 3, 2009

Hi everyone!

Im new to the forum and am pretty excited about finding an actual gardening forum that has to do with growing, indoors, under lights. I have never grown anything green before in my life and am interested in setting up an indoor garden to produce fresh veggies year round for two people.

I purchased an HTG 400w HPS lamp. Its not any kind of special bulb, just the general hps bulb. Also, I have done a TON of reading on cannabis growing since it is reported to have such similar needs to tomatoes and until now I couldnt find much information at all on growing veggies under HID and the two plants are supposed to be so similar. Ive done my reading thoroughly and understand pollination, topping, scrog techniques, N-P-K ratios, etc, etc ... although I have no experience in any of it, just the knowledge gained from researching.

So here is what I have so far, I would really like some information and suggestions from you guys. At this point, I think I have made two mistakes. I believe my plants are suffering from nute burn (used a granular) and early on I think I severely overwatered them. To the point that a few plants are sufferring from stem rot, one of which I think Im going to toss since I could use the room.

Heres the pics of my grow, and then Ill ask some questions at the end. Currently I have three Totem Hybrid tomato plants and two bush early girl hybrids. They are both determinate varieties. Now that I know determinates will grow, flower, then die, I wish I would have went with indertimant so I could simply fertilize and manage the adult plants for a few years and get fruits the entire time, instead of having to start with new plants.

These pics are about a week old, They have all grown about 3" or so and most have flowered! Heres the deal though, the freaking totem hybrids are only about 11" tall! The seeds came from totally tomato and are quoted to mature at 18"-30" tall. The bush early girls are in the middle, and one has severe stem rot. Ill get new pics when I can.

The totem hybrids are in 3.7 gallon pots and the bush early girls are in 5.4 gallon pots. Lighting is on a 18/6 schedule. I used this potting soil which seems to be light and airy and has a good amount of verm and perilite in it:

.... and as per the package directions, I used 1/4 cup of this fertilizer PER POT, on each plant. The directions say for individual plants use 1/4 cup, but after the fact Im wondering if that means 1/4 cup for OUTDOOR plants, because I think they are burnt from to much nutes. Its all organic with blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, greensand, etc, etc.

I also included a handful or two of composted cow manure at .05-.05-.05 and a pinch (1/8 cup or so) of pelletized gypsum per pot.

So my questions are as follows:

1 - at this point, all the plants are small (although about 3" taller then you see here in the pics) and are flowering. I think Im going to just go ahead and fruit them out. Since I used granular ferts I dont know if flushing will even help anything.

2- Preferrably, and nevermind the grow I have going on now, I would like some medium sized slicer tomatoes (4" or so) some plum or cherry tomatoes, green peppers, maybe some hot peppers, and some lettuce/spinach. I need a supply for two people. Is this single 400w hps large enough to produce this amount? I can construct a PVC grow area if need be, rather then using this spare bathroom as you see here as I cant add anymore pots. I do have a spare bedroom that I could construct a 3x3 or 4x4 area (to put the lettuce containers in the outskirts of the area to receive ambient lighting) out of PVC or something similar and line with mylar.

3- Since you now know my goals in question #2 ... I was thinking that I should use indeterminate tomato plants so they will produce continually over a long period of time. I was thinking I should get two 4" slicer type tomato plants, two plum/cherry type tomato plants, two green pepper plants, one jalapeno plant, one other hot pepper plant, and maybe a few containers each of lettuce and spinach (or one of each if necessary). Does this sound adequate and possible?

4 - Last but not least. I do have some lettuce going now and it just sprouted but seems very lanky and stretchy. The temps are in the 68-75 range, is this to high and they are "bolting" as I have read, or does it sound more like they are simply stretching for more light (the container is quite aways away from the light source). I guess Im just curious if growing lettuce/spinach is even possible with this type of set up since the temps will be higher because of the heat the lights produce in the first place??

Any suggestions at all would be greatly appreciated. Seriously a huge thanks in advance!

Right now I have the following seeds on hand:

Beefmaster hybrid tomato - indeterminant

Italian goliath hybrid tomato - indeterminate

Totem hybrid tomato (plum sized fruits) - determinate

Bush early girl hybrid (4" slicer) - determinate

Fat n sassy sweet pepper (green pepper)

Pretty purple hot pepper plant

Green ice lettuce

some mixed lettuce seed mixture (red and green types)

Thanks for any and all input!!!

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Welcome, Ozzz!

Easiest question first: The Pretty Purple hot pepper is more an ornamental than a great pepper to grow to eat. If you want a decent hot pepper, I would look at a Hungarian Hot Wax (not very hot but produces lots of long, banana type peppers), a habanero that is much hotter and gives you hundreds of smaller pods. If you want something hotter, look at a Red Savina - quite hot, bigger pods than a hab (it is a type of hab) or if ultra heat is your goal, grow a Bhut Jolokia.

A good slicer tomato that I have tried is a Red Zebra. Not big - they grow to the size of a cueball or maybe a baseball but very prolific. So you use two slices per hamburger instead on one? I harvested 8-10 of these things three times a week this summer. They are also a tad sweeter than normal toms.

If your lettuce is getting leggy, why not stick the plants on top of a coffee can or such? Also, I grew lettuce all summer long and the temps were often in the 90s.

I've got a couple of Black Seeded Simpson plants in a hydro chamber upstairs. The temps are in the mid 60s to mid 70s range and though they have been in water for less than a week, they seem to be doing good.

Good luck on your endeavor.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 4:57PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Thanks for the input!

Out of curiosity, what kind of soil mix are you using for your indoor grows?

Also, how many times are you transplanting? Just from seedling to final pot or are you using a middle sized container for awhile first before going up to a final pot size?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 5:23PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Heres some recent pics. This is a spare bathroom that Im using. While the shower is a great idea because of the white surfaces and reflectivity, it severely limits the amount of plants I can put directly under the light because of its shape.

As you can see, my lettuce has to sit on the floor in the ambient lighting. Heres pics of the lettuce sprouts ... do they look stretchy to you or is this normal growth, they have only been up for about a week if that.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 7:54PM
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I think your lettuce looks fine. That's how they look when they start. They shouldn't need too much light and you don't want them too close to your hps or they'll fry.

Your tomatoes look good, but kind of dry or droopy. Tomatoes love water, so as long as they have good drainage they can take a lot. For the fertilizer, usually the instructions will be clear about potted versus garden plants (if they don't say specifically I'd assume they mean in the garden). 1/4 cup seems high for a potted plant. But it's a low strength fertilizer, so it might be ok. I might try to flush them out or transplant them into fresh soil.

It looks like you have a nice set-up!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:12PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Man this forum is a lifesaver! Well thats great on the lettuce. Thanks for the input! The drooping I believe is from fert burn, as previously I was overwatering them and they were droopy as they are now.

I have a few more questions then.

1 - I have been just using a spray bottle to mist the surface of the dirt, to water the lettuce. Still, everytime I do this I end up knocking over the little seedlings. Will this hurt them? They are so delicate I cant hardly help it. I dont dare water any other way right now until they gain foothold (as with an actual watering).

2 - I need more room in my shower to be able to fit the plants I want. I think I could make it work if I could use 3.7 gallon pots for the 4" slicer tomato plants... would this size pot be OK??

If I could put the 4" slicer tomato plants in 3.7 gallon pots, and the cherry tomato plants in 3.7 gallon pots, and the green pepper plants in 3.7 gallon pots, then the pepper plants (Maybe smaller plants 14-18" tall) in 2 gallon pots I think I could fit them all in the shower.

What do you think on those pot sizes for those plants??

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:29PM
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I think they are too small. I grew my peppers and toms in 5-gallon pots and they were none too large. Think of it this way - plants don't quite grow roots as far as their leaves branch out, but at least 1/2 of the way. Toms and peppers typically get close to 2 feet wide, sometimes 3'. You wanna force those roots to grow in an 8" or 9" area?

You can do it, but you will need a near perfect watering regimen to make sure they get the water they need without drowning.

I would seriously look into a hydroponics system. In 3 sq. ft. you could grow four plants, in 12 sq. ft. a lot more.

If you look at buying systems via on-line or at a store, they are going to be quite expensive. But if you build them yourself, they are quite affordable. I'm getting ready to set up a display in the window of my office (just to pull attention to it) and have maybe $20 invested - $15 of that is in the air pump.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 9:01PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Ive been considering that for sure, simply because of the space limitations. Either that, or as mentioned just build some sort of 4'x4' frame in my spare bedroom, line it with mylar, and set the whole thing up in there instead of the bathroom.

Of course, if I went hydro then Ild have to have seperate resevoirs for each type of plant since they all have different nute requirements.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 9:27PM
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Wow ozzz, aggressive grow plan, my son and I started a similar project just a few weeks ago. There is a link below to the tomato forum here at Gardenweb. I keep wondering if we should move it over here to the indoor lighting area, but you can take a look at what we are doing. We found very few grow diaries in the tomato realm, so that is why we started one. Here is our basic set-up a month ago.

Zach has lots of detailed soil information listed. We did start with indeterminate, just to keep them going for a long period as you stated.

As far as that many plants under one 400w HPS, you are probably fine for now, but as plants get bigger you may be stretching it a bit. It will tend to slow things down. Think about your support, trellis, cages etc as this appears to be a major problem with indoor grows. We are using a full blown ScrOG for support and are just getting ready to start the weaving process. Supercropping may help any leggy growth you are getting with pure HPS lighting on tomatoes. We started with MH and will add HPS to help flowering in a week or two. We are also lucky to have 4-6 hours of sun in the porch location we are using. How old are your plants? Never grew lettuce, so can't comment there. We are also growing spinach, basil peppers as well. Great job, and we will keep in touch.

Here is a link that might be useful: GardenWeb

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 4:27AM
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Reading back through your questions on pots and potential hydro, the bubbler system we are using is a hydro hybrid without a lot of the PH measurement and nutes specific to the plant rather then the whole system. The tubs started as clear plastic bins with a dark paint to keep the light out and drains and overflow pluming. Kind of hydro with a simple soil section as well.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 8:29AM
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ozzz(5b AZ)


Yes I saw that thread of yours. It will be very interesting to see how the tomatoes take to the scrog. I think it will do well especially with the indeteriminant variety. When you say "weave" you dont literally mean weave the branches through the screen do you? With a scrog the idea is to simply allow the plant to grow horizontally, and then just poke the flower sites up through the screen. The goal is to get as many flower sites into each square on your screen as possible.

Im sure you already know this, but the word weave through me off a bit.

Really appreciate the input. I believe your right, 8 plants under a 400 might be pushing it, but I think it will be fine if I could simply conserve the space.

After all, if I can get tomato plants that fruit at 3-4' (4 plants 2 slicers and 2 cherry) in 5 gal pots, then 2 green pepper plants in 3 gal pots (24" tall), then the hot pepper plants Ive looked at are only 14-18" tall so they could go in 2 gal. pots Im hoping. I think I could squeeze that all under the 400. The problem is ... I simply cant squeeze that into the shower, so it pretty much leaves me with building a tent or cage of some kind to line with mylar, which I can do I suppose.

I dont know, Maybe Ill have to cut down to one green pepper plant and one hot pepper plant.

Does anyone know how long bell pepper plants will produce under full lighting?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 10:55AM
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With another crop, poking the flowers up through the screen is probably right. We are thinking( guessing ) that the flowers go down so the tomatoes hang below the screen. Out of the light. I am not sure if you can sun scald a tomato with artificial light, but under the screen makes sense. Thoughts? Yes weave means going through the screen and back up again and literally weave the plant in the mesh. This is new to me and Zach is directing that part of the operation. Hopefully we are with in a day or two and we will pictorially walk through the process. I am worried about braking the top off the plant, but we will see. I do not know how long peppers will produce, but I have read about people overwintering favorite plants and then producing with them in year two, so I would assume it is possible. I currently have 3 jalapeno and 3 orange bell plants each group in a 3 gallon pot. I want to spread them out, but we are running out of medium. No more coconut coir in town right now. Who would be planting at this time anyway? Look forward to watching your progress and let's share as many ideas as possible.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 11:31AM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Interesting, and yes ... I guess it does make sense, especially since many tomatoes are produced within the "protection" of the foilage.

I have heard, and read a bunch about people growing cannabis in coco coir. You can buy bails online for $20 cheaply. I have in the past (I use it for growing shiitake mushrooms) and worked out great. I hear that coco coir is very much like a hydro setup, in which you need to water DAILY, and feed DAILY, or every other day minimum.

They say overwatering is impossible in coir because its so light that theres always enough oxygen present. Ive also seen large plants grown in small containers with coir. I think that this is DEFINATELY the solution to my problem.

Of course, I have ZERO experience growing green things so I dont think that Ive had enough experience to be able to tackle growing in coir. I know that yellowing on the lower leaves means a nitrogen definciency, and some of the other potassium, and magnesium deficiency signs ... but I dont have first hand experience with it.

Soil provides these nutrients to the plant on a continual basis as long as you follow certain watering and feeding regimins. With coir, Im concerned that having to add the nutrients on a daily basis in the precise amounts might prove more then I can handle right now. Then compound that with the fact Ill be growing different plants, which all have different needs ... and the learning curve gets exponentially LARGE. lol ...

Good luck on your project as well it looks super interesting. As for me .. I just want some freaking tomatos ... lol

Heres recent pics:

On a good note ... my orchid is doing great! lol ...

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 2:06PM
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I agree straight coir is real tough. We water weakly with a coir soil compost mix and the bubbler tubs. It works pretty well. Orchid looks awesome and our plants are not even flowering yet, so I have to wait even longer for tomatoes! :-( Keep posting and let's figure out what works best. I think we are going over to HPS today to promate a little flowering and some stretchy growth to get the plants started in the screen.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 3:10PM
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Coco coir is often used either by itself as a hyrdroponic medium like you describe (feeding/watering every day) or as a mulch on top of the soil for outdoor beds. It is much less often seen how we use it, as a soil additive. We use it in potting soil at a 25% rate by volume and in our bubbler tubs at a 50% rate by volume. If you are space restricted I think a bubbler tub system like ours could help you a lot. You wouldn't have to create multiple pump relay and reservoir systems for all of your different plants as the reservoir is located in the pot itself and most of the nutrients pre-loaded into the organic medium. We have been using them for over a month now on our tomatoes and have seen nothing but healthy unbelievably fast growth. They are outpacing our "control" plant which gets the same light and nutrients but is in an ordinary pot by an order of magnitude. I have used the system to grow other plants to completion and saw nothing but the same thing. The medium has yet to settle at all and shows no sign of wear. I believe that the technique yields nearly all of the desired benefits of hydroponics (space-efficient, aggressive growth rates) without any of the draw backs (high-maintenance, carefully watching the PH, expensive liquid ferts, inability to support aggressive beneficial bacteria or mycorrhizae fungus). So far we have only had to water our tubs once a week and have employed no fertilizers on top of what was pre-loaded into the medium other than two doses of some mild fish emulsion for an extra nitrogen kick. We do have the luxury of space, using 1.3 cubic foot square containers which comes out to 9.7 gallons. Very voluminous. I would recommend square containers in general as they are more space efficient, you would be amazed at how much volume exists in the triangular spaces between round pots that are stacked next to eachother. You could probobally get away with using containers half the size of ours on a full-sized tomato plant. On top of that, there is a trick to growing in something even smaller. A company called SePRO produces a special paint called spin-out. It is a chemical root pruner that contains copper hydroxide. If you have ever taken a large plant out of a small pot you will note all of the white tangled roots pressed up against the sides of where the pot was. If you paint the inside of the pot with spin-out this doesn't happen. It causes the root ends to make a u-turn upon meeting the edge of the pot and travel back into the medium. The results are astonishing, I have seen an experiment with it where a man grew a six foot tall cannabis plant which yielded nearly a pound out of a one gallon pot! Granted, towards the end he was watering them twice a day, sometimes more, but the plants didn't seem bothered by their impossibly small containers at all. With a spin-out coated square container and perhaps using our organic bubble tub method you could get away with some seriously tiny pots. Really small pots would be high maintenance as far as watering goes so you would want to get the largest containers you could fit, but other than that I believe it would do well for you. I will be posting a how-to on the organic bubble tub method in the growing under lights forum soon as it has been receiving much interest. Good luck to you and happy gardening.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 11:02PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Thats some good information there. Interesting.

Good luck to you as well on your efforts.

My plants are really perking up today ... even though I abused them so much when they were younger they are coming through pretty well.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 12:48PM
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scarzi(z7 MD)


Have you tried super cropping hautions11 was talking about to keep the stems rigid? Your plants look pretty stocky.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 2:57PM
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Since ozzz's plants are bush variety, I believe they are naturally stocky especially with good light. The indeterminate varieties we are growing need a lot more effort to keep them stocky. They also say never prune an determinate variety, because it will not replace the vegetation.We are now cutting off all suckers to keep the plant smaller and concentrate on fruit production.If I remember my definitions of determinate plants, they kind of stop growing vegetation after they set fruit. Looking at Ozzz's plants they are close to this stage. They are looking great ozzz

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 7:47AM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Thanks guys, no I did not supercrop. In fact, I did prune off the suckers ... later I found out that I should NOT have done that. It will severely hurt your yield they say.

However, the plants are much bigger then the previous photos and are setting fruit quite nicely. Ill try to get some pics posted tonight. Also, my green pepper plants have sprouted, along with a pretty purple pepper plant, and a beefmaster indeterimante tomato plant.

My basil is growing great, and I have been topping the basil which is in turn responding nicely and starting to grow "tops". My lettuce is like a wildfire as well .. fun stuff!

Now that I got my newbie mistakes out of the way I think Im ready to rock on the next grow ;)

I need to take a few clones of these totem hybrids though, I really like them. I think my next grow however, will be an INDETERMINANT cherry type tomato plant, and an indeterminant slicer variety as well, along with a few green peppers, lettuce, and spinach. Then I want to try a blueberry bush and some strawberries.

I dont think the blueberries will be any problem but the strawberries are a different matter. In trying to find a continously producing line. The june bearers only fruit once a year, and then theres a seasonal variety that fruit twice a year.... neither will fit my requirements. I think I need to go with a day neutral variety to get a continous fuit production for the life of the plant??

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 4:03PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 4:59PM
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Wow Ozzz those look great! How old are your plants since germination. I am trying to gauge mine. Looks awesome!


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 6:59PM
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Wow Ozzz those look great! How old are your plants since germination. I am trying to gauge mine. Looks awesome!


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 7:01PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

I placed the seeds into styrofoam cups 11/17 ... so about 60 days is all!

Heres a pic of them taken 11/24

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 7:45PM
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Thanks for the input. I think our plants are roughly 2 weeks behind yours. You have some nice looking tomatoes starting. Our bigger indeterminate plants are also going to be inherently slower to produce then the determinate variety. I believe the seed package said 78 days from putting them in the garden and we will definitely beat that.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 5:28AM
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Hey Ozzz, are you still growing tomatoes indoors? I'm thinking of trying the HPS grow bulb set up that you're using, any advice?

I want to grow tomatoes and lettuce, but some basil and celery would be nice too. Maybe even an orange tree if I can get a second bulb in the future

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 6:27PM
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