T5 fluorescent tomato and california wonder pepper, need help

ballplayer10123February 26, 2009

Hello everyone. This is my first post on the forum, please forgive any mistakes in posting this thread. Anyhow I have been attempting to garden indoors under lights for about a year now. My success has been limited to say the least. I have a veg room measuring about 4x3 with a 4 foot 4 bulb Hydrofarm t5 fluorescent, puts out about 20,000 lumes. 250 cfm Dayton fan for ventilation and a large oscillating for circulation. The circulation fan is not pointed directly at seedlings. For a flowering space I use a 6.5x 3.5 space with 2 400 watt MH Sunmaster Warm Deluxe lamps housed in Hydrofarm Daystar Aircooled reflectors. 250 cfm Dayton exhausting this room and 449 vortex fan for the lights, along with 10" oscillating fan for circulation. However, lately I have not even gotten to the point of needing a flowering space as my tomatoes have been dead before getting there. I NEED HELP BAD.

I have tried germinating seeds in two different batches in the last two months. Both attempts ended with dead tomatoes within 3 weeks after germination. The plants would almost instantly take on a yellowish color from germination, purple leaf undersides, eventually leaves would turn yellow and dry, other symptoms included red leaf veins and exhibiting what looked like iron or manganese deficiency. Just completely disheartening.

Currently 6 tomato plants have just broken ground and two peppers are still attempting to germinate. My tomatoes are the determinate variety, as I am not ready for the labor intensity of an indeterminate variety. The tomatoes I have now are Ace 55 VF and red cherry from Lake Valley Seeds. My emerging tomatoes seem to have the same look to them as the past failed ones, I can post pictures should it be necessary. I have switched to reverse osmosis water because the water out of the tap tests consistently between 730-770 ppm. I tried my tap water with the last two batches, needless to say it did not work. My procedure has been to add cal mag plus at 5ml/Gallon, then General Hydroponics 3 part as per germianation/seedling dose (which I believe is 1/3 teaspoon of grow, micro, bloom per gallon) micro first as per directions. After letting the water/fertilizer mix stabilize for 24 hours I ph test with a Hannah pH grocheck (relatively accurate within .1 of a point, evidenced by the fact it measures the calibration solutions of 4.01 and 7.01 almost exactly), and I calibrate before every use. I test TDS with an Oakton Ultrabasic meter which seems to be relatively accurate. 2 of my tomatoes are in Fox Forest Light Warrior, and the other 4 are in Sunshine Mix #4. Seeds are planted in 2" and 4" square pots. Seedlings are about 12-14 inches below fluorescent fixture. Temperature is generally steady at 73-75 and humidity at 35-40%. I have two buckets filled with tap water with towels draped into the water and hanging over the side to wick water and increase humidity, otherwise the humidity can get quite low.

The peppers have yet to break ground so we will see about those, should only be a couple of days. I really need some expert advice as it is completely crushing to see my plants break ground only to die within weeks. especially with those experienced with reverse osmosis water. I am an experienced and realtively successful outdoor Organic container gardener using kiddie pools, but my indoor experience has been vastly different in a bad way. The fertilizers I have available to use are GH 3 part, cal mag plus, Pure Blend Pro Grow and Bloom, Liquid Karma (Botanicare), Sweet (Botanicare), and Silica Blast (Botanicare), and have the pH up and down adjusters.

Sorry about the book, but I figure the more info the better. So far to get the seeds to germinate( about 6-7 days) I have watered with Cal Mag Plus (230 ppm) and GH 3 part (375-400 ppm) once. Then Cal Mag plus to 200-240 ppm 3 times. Each of these waterings were just enough to keep the medium wet enough to get the seeds to germinate, not really any runoff to speak of because I did not want the seeds to rot. So now the seeds have popped their heads up for about 2 days now, but some are a little yellow. Please help me to understand where I may be going wrong, or any advice about RO water.

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underground(z5a IA)

Hello ballplayer,

I own a hydroponic store so I am familiar with all the products you have.

I germinate in rockwool, ready gro plugs or soil depending on the system the plants will be running in.

The suggestion I have for you would be to wet you medium you are unsing for seed germination with plain ro water and no additives, the seedlings have enough stored energy to last at least a week after popping out of the seed.
Make shure to have the seedlings as close to the T5's as possible without burning them, this will keep them short and stocky.

After about a week use seedling strenth nutrients every other watering. Do not use any other products you have at this time.

I let the seedlings get fairly rootbound in 72 cell tray sized plugs before transplanting to a container the size of a small styrofoam cup, then let them get fairly root bound again. I then transplant into the final system I will be growing in. If using a hydroponic system I tend to use rockwool cubes in the same manner as above starting of with seed cubes then transplanting into 3x3 rockwool cubes then into the final system.

If you put a small seedling without a developed root system in a large pot of moist soil, the seedling will stuggle very slowly and look very ill for quite some time do to the plants lack of ability to use moisture quick enough to dry out the soil, hence the reason for potting up a couple times to ensure the roots do not stay wet for days at a time, tomatoes really hate wet roots and will turn purple and get narled up looking.

Indoor growing is alot different then outdoor,there isn't any nature to help you out so you have to control everything, hopefully you will get the hang of things and have a great harvest of tomatoes all year long!


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:37AM
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Thank you for the reply underground. I will start more seedlings in ready gro plugs and coco plugs. I do have a tendency to not let the soil dry out thoroughly between waterings. I have a couple more questions.

Do you have experience using the fluorescent fixture I have or similar ones. If so, how close would you estimate I could place my seedlings. My seedlings are currently about 12" below the fixture. I am testing two other seedlings about 5-6" below the lamp. The difficult part for me to figure out is how my light compares to using a HID. My fluorescent puts out 20,000 lumens, but it is spread out over a 4ft fixture. The fluorescent fixture would seem that the light would weaken more quickly than a single point source such as a HID. Like if I were using a 400 MH for my seedlings I would probably keep it 2.5 feet above my seedlings, maybe more if they were to show signs of burning.

Also, do you have experience with RO water? As far as I understand the pH of RO water is highly unstable. Thus the RO water could take on the acidic pH of the peat based mixes I am using right now. As I understand it the RO water becomes more stable when fertilizer is introduced to it. So do you think it would be acceptable for me to prepare a solution of RO water and Cal Mag Plus to 60-100 PPM while germinating seedlings? Hopefully not enough to burn them, but enough to stabilize my water. Because with my terrible tap water, I believe RO water is a must. My plan would be using the weak Cal Mag mix to get the seeds to germinate(6-8 days), then by myself a week using the same routine (as the tomatoes/peppers progress), then start introducing GH 3 part after a week of acceptable growth.

One more question. I have read that I should be using Cal Mag in my RO water on "plain watering days", ie., non feeding days in order to replicate the minerals present in most tap water supplies. So I would keep the ppm below say 150 on these days. The instability of RO water pH scares the daylights out of me.

Thank you for your time and knowledge.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:22PM
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I plan on container gardening the entire way in a soilless mix. Ideally planning on finishing in 5 gallon buckets for the tomatoes. Probably 2-3 gallon pots for peppers. No hydrosystem being used (although I do own a 3x3 ebb and flow table, but I'm scared of it.), just handwatering containers the entire way through.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:29PM
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underground(z5a IA)

I have grown out seedlings under pretty much all light systems, I currently have 4 mortgage lifter tomato seedlings which sprouted under and are about 18 inches from a 600 watt sodium. 5 to 6 inches away from T5's is no problem.

My room temperature is about 70.

RO water is easily shifted up or down the ph scale because it has no calcium to buffer nutrients and soil.

Let your seedlings sprout and just give them plain RO water for the first week, they will be fine, after the first week give them The GenHydro nutrient at seedling strength every third watering. Again let them get fairly dry between waterings.

Cal-mag is not needed with General Hydroponics flora series, It contains 5% calcium allready. It is made to be used with RO water. Thier hardwater formula has 1% calcium since you get the needed calcium from the tap water.

Seedlings will grow well for at least a week and half using the food reserves stored in the cotyledon leaves.

Do not let the buckets/container get too hot later on in the growing season, it is very stressfull on the plant,try to shade the containers. Hot root zones are not good.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 3:54PM
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Hi all. I really should have been better about updating this thread. Thanks to the advice I received from Underground I currently have two HUGE pepper plants in full bloom right now. These things have leaves much larger than my hands, and have 10-15 peppers of varous sizes set on each plant, with more flowers emerging daily. As the thread title indicates I am growing California Wonder peppers. The plants are approximately 15-18" tall and stout. They are currently under a 400W Sunmaster Warm Deluxe( which they are getting prime lighting from), and a 250W High Pressure Sodium (getting excellent side lighting, nearly primary lighting from this lamp as well) hung side by side.

Of course I do have a question. I am not sure what the appropriate amount of food to give pepper plants that are fruiting profusely. Once the plants started putting out flowers about 6-7 weeks ago I started using the GH 3 part bloom formula of 3-2-1 Bloom, Micro, Grow. I have worked my way up 650 ppm fertilizer strength, which is what they received yesterday. I fertilize every other watering, occasionally every third watering. However, I only give them what I would assume to be small amounts (in volume) of fertilizer. I am anal about overwatering and even fluid distribution so I water with a shot glass. When I feed I usually give them 4-5 "shots" of my pH'd RO water, then 4-5 shots of fertilzer, then another 3-4 shots of pH'd RO water to wash it in. I typically keep my peppers on the dry side, not bone, but let the top layer dry before I water again(typically 2-3 days). So my question is am I feeding them enough in ppm? in volume? The reason I ask is that one of the plant's fruit is not enlarging at the pace I figured it would (They are getting larger, just not that fast). Do I need to flush at all? I am trying to avoid flushing. After flushing the plants seem to take forever to dry out, and sometimes attract fungus gnats. The plants are in 3-4 gallon pots, so it would take a considerable amount of water to achieve runoff. On the days the plants receive plain water I typically water relatively deeply (probably about 15 shots) to soak in any fertilizer that may have accumulated on the top layer of soil.

If you all are interested in seeing my plants I'm sure I could figure out how to post pictures in the next day or two. So far I'm amazed at how well they are doing, much better than my typical effort outdoors. Sorry about the longwinded post, just wanted to be thorough.

Thank you for all your help, any further input would be greatly appreciated.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 2:58AM
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Nobody has any advice, or interest in pics? Really?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 3:22AM
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