Innovative Indoor Tomato Grow

hautions11(6)December 21, 2008

Hi everyone! New to the forum, but I wanted to start an indoor tomato growing thread. I do not see a lot of specific techniques or experiences documented on too many forums. I decided I would make a pictorial of my techniques and more importantly my results. I often see some interim pictures but rarely a complete grow. Please excuse me if this has been covered, but I have not been able to find good info up to this point. So let's get to the basics..... I have struggled even outside to grow good tomatoes in my very well shaded and heavily tree infested yard. Lots of attempts and a few minor successes. So fall came and went cold weather is upon ( 3 degrees F tonight in mid Indiana )us and I have the gardening itch. I have seen a variety of attempts with both florescent and HID lighting to grow tomatoes. I see some random pictures of very leggy 6'-7' tall plants with few (5-10) tomatoes on them.

Here is my set-up... a 3 season porch with lots of single pane glass. left to it's own devices low 20's or teens in cold weather. I often try to winter over patio plants to save the $100-$200 dollar annual investment. Perfectly south facing window that gets an honest 6-7 hours of direct sun. First problem is heat and then the light issue. Some cheap Lowes window shrink plastic covers and 3" air gaps solved the basic insulation problems. A small 500w heater keeps the room at appropriate 60 night to 70 daytime temps. Here is an overall shot of my set-up with a 400w metal halide light in place.

As you can see there are quite a few plants gathered around my single light source. With most of them I'm not looking for an aggressive growing situation, just some minor bushing and an increase in overall vigor so that they're ready to really take off when they go back outside in the spring. You may be wondering about the big weird-looking screen suspended above the rear plants. Its made out of poultry net mounted in a 3 by 6 foot PVC pipe frame. This would yield an 18 square foot growing area, but due to the 11 inch deep curve in it you end up closer to 23 feet. I will explain the exact function and methodology of this screen and its use at a later date when I've actually started to use it. The main attraction here is these guys.

To the left we have a Burpee Big Boy hybrid, which is a large Beefsteak type tomato. The the right is Burpee's Big Momma hybrid, which is a large Roma type. Both plants are just finishing their 3rd week of life in the tubs, 4 weeks from seed. You may note the somwhat unusual looking containers in which they are planted, especially if you noticed the blue aquarium air hose snaking out of the left one. Let me explain:

Inside the tubs is a unique growing medium consisting of coconut moss, vermiculite, pearlite and compost resting on a 4 inch bed of lava rock. The rock is completely submerged in a water bath. The depth of the bath is maintained by a side overflow drain which sits at exactly 4 inches from the bottom of the tub. This allows me to water them with a can the traditional way but maintains the water level and makes sure the medium above never gets "soupy". At the bottom of the bath rests a 12 inch aquarium bubbler wand that constantly injects the bath and the medium above it with air. This oxygenates the entire medium, encouraging the growth of beneficial aerobic bacteria and killing off pesky anaerobic bacteria; technically making it a hydroponic system. However, unlike most hydroponic rigs it is mostly compromised of organic matirial and is thusly capable of supporting a full-fledged Mycorrhizae fungal colony which lives in a symbiotic relationship with the tomato roots. The fungus chelates all of the minerals for the plants, prevents dehydration, balances the PH and acts as a secondary immune system to fight off unwanted intruders. All of this makes for furiously aggressive growth from the tomatoes, it is an optimum environment for nutrient uptake, water retention and oxygenation. I feel that it has advantages over both traditional soil growing and hydroponic setups; the best of both worlds. It is much lower maintenance than most common hydroponic setups as most of the nutrients are loaded into the medium up front. I use organic nutes almost exclusively: Blood meal, coffee grounds, wood ash, garden sulfur, fast-acting lime and an organic mix called Bio-tone starter plus (contains feather meal, grab meal, guano, greensand and bone meal). The medium contains two special additives: Soil Moist granules to help it retain moisture (very important due to the light spongy nature of the medium) and Hydro Organics' Mycorrhizae Super Pack (a form of dry fungus spores). Over the course of their lives the tomatoes will receive fish emulsion for a nitrogen boost, corn-cob ash for potassium (very important) and bloom burst (my only salt fertilizer, just one teaspoon per season) for phosphorous. Other than the dry mycorrhizae spores (which aren't completely necessary because the Bio-Tone mix comes pre-loaded with a small variety of beneficial spores) all of these materials are readily available to anyone from a variety of local sources. I have gotten everything from Lowes, Ace Hardware and my local pet store.

Aside from my fancy bubbler tubs and the screen I use one other special technique not often seen in indoor tomato gardening: Supercropping.

This is a shot of Big Momma's stem, which is far bigger around than the #2 pencil I forgot to include in the shot for scale. It is positively monstrous for a 4 inch tall plant, bigger than stems I have seen on 12 inch plants from my local nursery. This is achieved through the technique I referred to as supercropping. Its a simple practice though it intimidates many growers who are frightened of the potential harm it could do. It takes a little practice but let me make this clear before I even explain it. Supercropping will not kill your plants. It won't, really, honest, I promise. All you do is once the sprouts have become established in their final grow medium, around the one week mark usually, take the stem section between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze gently while making a slight alternating twisting motion. There will be a tiny crushing sound and you will feel the phloem (the veins that carry things downstream towards the roots) give way and be crushed slightly. The plant will droop and look very sad and you will feel horrible, which makes it all the more difficult to continue doing this all up and down the main stem section. However, if you didn't wuss out, when you come back the next day the plant will have righted itself and the stem will have grown noticeably thicker. You must continue this practice as the plant grows new stem sections. If you are diligent this is the result:

You will note that the distances between each leaf (the internodal gaps) are very short, always less than an inch and in some places as little as a quarter of an inch. This is somewhat attributed to the metal halide lamp I'm using, but the extreeme degree to which it occurs is all down to the supercropping. You can see in the main stem section right above the two suckers where it tapers down significantly. This is a spot that I had not crushed yet so as to illustrate the difference in diameter between pinched and non-pinched stem sections. You will also note that where I hadn't crushed it is far and away the largest internodal gap on the plant. Diligent supercropping results in more vigorous plants that do a better job of holding themselves up and most importantly don't get to an out-of-control height in the limited space of indoor growing.

The lamp currently in place is a 400 watt Metal Halide high bay acquired from a local business currently in the process of replacing all of their HID lamps with more efficient T5 florescents. In a few weeks it will be swapped with a pair of 400 watt high pressure sodium lamps. I will write more on the lighting in the coming weeks as it becomes more pertinent. And now, some additional pictures:

Fat Momma

Big Boy

Wide shot

This is Big Boy and in the background is a tomato plant that is identical to him in almost every way. It came from the same bag of seeds and was sprouted on the same day. They have been given the same nutrients, bathed under the same quality of light, treated with the same Mycorrhizae spores and even have roughly the same growing medium. The only difference between this one and Big Boy is that Big boy lives in one of my bubbler tubs and the other lives in a traditional pot, yet the difference between the two of them is huge.

Well, thats about it, I've covered most of the general things that I feel sets my grow apart from others and/or may interest you guys. Feel free to ask any questions about specifics, comment, criticize or congratulate at your digression. I'd be happy to answer any questions about construction or the acquiring of materials to anyone who would be interested in employing some of these techniques themselves, or to anyone interested in why exactly I think this way is better. Happy growing and I hope you all have a great holiday!

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Here's my NON-innovative technique. NO LIGHTS EVER. Instead, sunny bay window that gets light from east, south and west. A little fish/kelp fertilizer. This year's plant is New Big Dwarf. Last two years Momotaro's. Before that others. Been doing this in zone 7 for years.

Cost: Pennies
Reward: Homegrown tomatoes all winter, PRICELESS.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 12:12PM
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Looks great! One of my problems is it is so shady all fall, summer, spring I barely get enough sun in the yard to grow a tomato. Zone 5 here and winter sun is pretty puny. Your plant looks really good. I have to go to a little more extremes and the patio flowers sure love the light in the winter. Thanks.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 1:05PM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

Congratulations on finding a way around your obstacles. If I can bring myself to do it, I'll try your supercropping techique.

Roots love air! Many of my perennials are in large pots with chunks of styrofoam under the potting medium. When I repot them the styrofoam is always surrounded by big thick, wormy looking white roots.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 1:39PM
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Indeed! Everybody knows that plants brethe in CO2, but its a much lesser-known fact that their roots need oxygen in order to take up nutrients. This is actually the main advantage of hydroponic rigs, not precision or nutrient delivery or whatever. With this we get the oxygen advantage without the hassle of measuring nutrient PPMs and buffering the PH and fighting the algae and on and on. Supercropping really yields amazing results, winding up with tomato plants that are far too tall and leggy for their given space seems to be a very common problem. This is far and away the simplest way to fix that.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 6:21PM
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I'm curious how you take them from the bubbler bath to outside in the dirt.

Also, check out Rock Flour as an additive.
My semi unscientific, very low sample/control set has show very promising results, especially with tomato plants.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 7:00AM
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These two plants will never go outside. I have trouble growing any tomatoes outside due to the lack of sun in my yard. I would like these plants to run all summer as well as this winter. I am not sure it will work, but I have to have better luck then my outdoor attempts. I will still use a little suplemental light to augment the sun in the summer. I do have one plant in a regular pot shown in the pictures that I will try to keep very short and bushy, until it can go outside on the patio.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 8:03PM
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Yes I am an incurable scrounge. On my drive home for C-mas I picked up an ebay treasure. 400w HPS digital ballast and reflector($31). It was a one piece unit, so with the help of some lamp cord and a Lowes electrical box, some solder and shrink tubing I have a complete transformation to a remote ballast system for about $4. I can't wait to get it home and try it out. I miss the little guys all ready! It is nice being gone for a week, get to see l;ots of progress. See link to pics below

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 26, 2008 at 4:09PM
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hautions, your Supercropping is a very interesting technique. I did a google on it and it seems it was developed by the Cannibas growers. I've learned a lot from their growing techniques and use their ferts for my tomatoes I grow in containers which is 35 to 40 plants.
It would seem that supercropping would prevent seedlings from getting "Leggy" from inadequate lighting.
Is this your first use of supercropping with tomato plants or have you done it previously? The reason I ask is how many times would you supercrop the plant in the seedling stage prior to planting out in the garden and would you continue to supercrop during the growth phase after setting the plant out? Ami

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:41AM
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You supercrop the stem once and after the plant recovers, you crop the same area again. Every new leaflet or stem section grown, gets 2 treatments. After 2 treatments, you will notice the stem is too hard to crush. Since the process creates shorter internodal gaps that means more flowering sites, which is what we are after to produce more tomatoes per square foot of precios indoor realestate. You could continue the process outside, if you have limited space, or I could see it as very benaficial if you were growing an inderterminate variety in a container. The third plant in our pictures above is destined for the patio. Now as mentioned in other threads, starting a tomato in Dec for spring planting is tough, but a supercropping regiment and good lighting should keep that plant to a manageable size until May. The plant below in a regular pot is for the patio. We may create a huge monster as well, but it is an interesting experiment.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:07PM
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slo_garden(9 CA Coast)

Big Daddy J,

I'm trying to grow a couple of tomatoes indoors in a large, south facing window for the first time this winter. I'm encouraged by your success. So far, so good. The plants are still small, but they look healthy and happy.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 5:42PM
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@hautions, meisenbacher

I tried supercopping the last few days on some test plants
I started a while back.

Dang it's easy, and it works seem to work good.
From spindly to tough in just a few days.
I only did it wrong twice before getting the feel for it.
Even the victims of my practice run are recovering, if a bit slowly.

Thanks for the tip.

When do you crush the top growing section?
As soon as you fingers fit the internode?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 7:11PM
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slo garden, this is a first for me as well. What kind of plants are you growing? You may need som suplemental light to augment the rather weak winter sun. I think our lights make a big difference.

elskunkito, great news! It is a little acary at first. I am glad it's working for you. Yes a s soon as the next gap is big enough for your fingers, do it. What type of plants and what is your set-up? Lights? Pics? I love to see what other people are doing as I see little documentation with good detail. That is what inspired Zach and I to document our process. Good bad or indifferent, people can learn something. Thanks for the feedback,


    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 7:45PM
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I am currently running an experiment on the effects of Rock Flour and tomato growth.
My original, unscientific test was 4 microtoms.
They don't need the crush treatment. They have dwarf gene
which makes them pretty stocky as is.
The test was encouraging, so I planted 4 x siberian toms.
I also have 4x spinach, butter lettuce, radishes each.

They all live under a single shop light sitting
on books. when they grow into the light, I ad a book on each end.
It's not a real setup, just an experiment. Not picture worthy.

The second test, which is more controlled, does not have as dramatic results as the microtom test. The first test
the rock flour plants are twice as big as the controls. The second test, there 'is a difference'. Too early to tell really.

I did plant this years plants, but none of them are up yet.
No light setup / house for them yet. I'll post back when they have a house.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 8:58PM
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hautions, so if you allow side shoots to develop they would get the same treatment as well? As the stem grows do you continue to crop between the nodes as they form or is there a point where you stop cropping the plant ie the first fruit cluster? Sorry for all the questions but interesting subject. Ami

elskunkito, did a little googling on your rock flour and a very interesting product. As I grow and protect my plants with Bioproducts it could be a valuable addition to my growing regimen. Who is you source for Rock Flour and can it be ordered on-line. Ami

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 2:16AM
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I'm on the Michigan/Indiana state line and doing my first winter project, a little bit of everything as well as tomatoes. Only been gardening a few years and love it, trying to learn more and glad I found this site.
Well my Ace55 tomatoes are all coming up at a different rate, but one is 4" and skinny as a toothpick. They were still seeds in the package only 2 weeks ago and already getting too tall to stand on there own.
So I fugured I had nothing to loose and supercropped the 4" one, It now lies there like a slug, its its only defence. Not sure it will bounce back being so tall and skinny.
I'm useing 4' shop lights, cool white and soft white mixed, 4 bulbs total. Regular soil that I mixed with some nutrients and lime for these few project tomatoes, and then nothing but tap water.
I have others I just sowed in various potting soils(expirementing)and going to see what happens.

Should I only have the lights on 12 hours a day to keep growth in check, or would that send them into premature flowering?
Also Hautions11, I'm assuming the root will go into the lava rocks? Looks like the the pots you have them in are 8" deep, ei 4" lava rock and 4" of your unique soil mix?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 4:22AM
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Ami, thanks for the questions as they often help a lot of people. In theory you crop the side shoots as well. After the first fruit set, the cropping could continue indefinately. It simply improves the flow of nutrients. Since we are indoors, the more compact the better.

Nutty, your leggy plants are what I have experienced with my floresant lights in the past. Even tho I have sun in a south window, the winter sun is pretty weak. On something tall and skinny already go easy on the cropping until the plant gets some rigidity. Maybe crush small areas first. Keep your lights close to the plants. Try some clear adhesive foil tape on the top side of bulb to reflect more light directly downward. I have never done it but adding an additional ballast and overdriving floresants seems popular. Google it. I believe light is the key. Keep an eye peeled for a small (as in $ cheap) 150-250 watt HID light. Less time on your lights does not help the problem. Hope that helps.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 8:48AM
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responses for all!

Interesting. I'm sure that rock flour has tremendous benefits in regular soils and Miracle Grow type bagged potting mixes. Trace minerals are often overlooked and are very important to overall vigor. If I ever come across it locally I may pick some up, but I believe I have my trace elements covered pretty well. Between the wood ash, active compost, kelp meal and fish emulsion I think I have every necessary trace and then some. I will keep your results in mind though, I am always looking for additional advantages.

Yes, the side-shoots or "suckers" as they are known will be supercropped as well, but not as early. Because we are using this flat-screen training method it is ideal for the suckers to be at the same height as the main crown of the plant. Once this happens I will pinch them heavily and bring their growth rate down to a manageable level. Ideally, the suckers and the main crown will penetrate the screen at the same time and I will commence the weave. If you weren't using the screen technique but still wanted to supercrop I would recommend removing most of these suckers. They tend to end up light-starved in most bushy situations, they are only useful if they get long enough to exist at the outer edges of the plant. As for your second question, I believe you should continue to crop into fruiting, though eventually the plant will "learn" and you will notice internodal gaps becoming smaller and the stem generally being hardier all on its own.

It sounds like you over-did it slightly. Supercropping is rather difficult in the beginning, especially when the stems are as thin as you describe. You do not want to crush all the way through the stem, you should only crush the phloem, which is the outer layer of veins in the stem which carry things down towards the roots. Having these temporarily cut off poses no immediate threat to the plant. If you crush too much you will constrict the xylem, which is the inner set of veins that carry water and nutrients up into the plant. Cutting this off for any span of time is detrimental to the plant's health and can end in massive cell death. On very narrow stems it is difficult to discern where the phloem ends and the xylem begins, which is why I say to start as early as possible and to be gentle the first time. As the stem thickens up it becomes easier to differentiate between the outer and inner veins. I apologize if your plant ends up being a casualty of this technique. Chalk it up to experience and stick with it, I promise good things. Also, get your florescent lamps cranked down as close to the top of the plants as possible, their effective range for growing is highly limited, 4-6 inches at best. You may want to employ my screen technique to keep all of the productive leaves within that narrow light-sphere. In fact the technique was originally developed for this purpose, I can provide you details for a simple and effective screen if you have interest in going this route. Also, there is a way of getting more light energy from long florescent tubes where you want it. Get foil tape (2" wide for T12 floros, 1" wide for T8s and make sure it has a clear adhesive) and very carefully stick it on the back side of your florescent tube which faces away from your plants and towards your reflector, directly on the bulb, be sure to avoid folds bubbles and wrinkles. Make sure the tape falls an inch or two short of the end caps as the bulb is hottest here and you definitely don't want the metal tape to create a short between the usually metal caps. If you got the tape on there nice and straight with a minimum of imperfections they will be noticeably brighter on the side facing your plants. This works by reflecting the photons directly back out the front side of the bulb instead of them coming out of the backside, hitting whatever reflector you have and then making their way back down to the plants. Keep these things in mind and you should get better results. As for your photoperiod, I would adopt a 14-16 hour day for maximum development. Some growers mistakenly run them under a 24 hour cycle, but plants actually grow faster at night to an extent. It takes some of the plant's energy to run the photosynthesis process. When there is no light all of the stored sugars go toward growth, all available energy is dedicated to cell expansion. Your assumption about our lava rock is correct. In fact, the vast majority of the root mass will exist in that lower layer even though it occupies a smaller space. The tubs are actually nearly a foot deep, leaving an 8 inch deep layer of our organic grow medium. The secret is the tremendous surface area of the rock, the roots will actually penetrate the rocks and worm their way through them, even splitting them in some cases. Pulling up a spent plant that has lived in a tub like this is truly remarkable, nearly all of the rocks come up with it. Good luck with your leggy sprouts.

Thank you all for your interest, there should be a nice picture update later on today. We are getting ready to head back home from our holiday this morning, check back this evening to see how much progress we've made in this past week. At this point my guess is as good as all of yours, I've not seen them since a day after my original post!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 8:57AM
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Well, here we are at week 4 and what a change. So far Big Boy and Fat Momma have been growing at a fairly even rate, slowly, methodically, biding their time until I wasn't looking. They've packed on more above-ground plant mass over this past week then they've generated during their first 3 weeks, really getting into their stride now. They where slightly dehydrated when we got back, it wasn't bad, they where just a little wilty which shows in the pictures.


Fat Momma has gone nuts, what where tiny little sucker starts when we left are now massive out-of-control shoots that have stretched well past the height of the main stem and begun to penetrate the screen. A little supercropping has halted the taller one in its tracks and it should assume a slower, stockier growth rate from here on out. Still, I am impressed with how thick it is without any help from me. This is the "learning" I have been alluding to, although it obviously hasn't helped the internodal gaps any, they're HUGE.

^Momma's little suckers before we left^

^Momma's suckers today, holy crap!^

As impressive as this growth is, it has come at a price. Big boy's suckers haven't shown nearly the development of these and there is a reason for that:

This is a shot of the stem leading up to Fat Momma's crown. Before we left I got a little over-zealous with the supercropping in a bid to make sure she didn't get too out of control whilst we where gone. As a result her main stem has made almost no progress other than packing on extra leaves and general girth. Happily it has scabbed over quite well and looks to have recently resumed development, so all is well. Because of the super-streachy suckers Momma has already penetrated the screen level and I have been able to pull a couple of leaves through as seen below:

This is the very beginning of her training regiment, though it will still be a little while before the stems have grown long enough to go into their first step of the "weave"

Big boy on the other hand has stuck much more closely to what we're traditionally looking for.

Big, bushy and with massive leaves, look at this thing!

His stem has also caught up to Momma's quite nicely, even surpassing hers in some places:

He was bigger than his twin brother last week, but now he's really pulling away!

^A perfectly healthy plant, just fine by all standards, but absolutely puny compared to his twin brother.
Well, thats about it, I'm sure this update was more fun, more pictures and fewer boring explanations. Tune in next week to see new pictures and track their progress, though at the rate they're growing I may sneak in a few pictures before then. We'll have additional updates related to this grow soon including DIY remote ballast HPS lamps and the all-important potassium-rich corn-sob ash tutorial. See you then and happy gardening!


    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 6:54PM
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Very interesting project so far (and quite impressive). I decided to do the same in my own way except I cant find anything for gardening at the bigger retail stores yet here in Michigan, so I'll have to get up to the closest REAL garden center and see what they have for me to play with.
I started two of my own TUB projects as I've been calling them.
They are filled at the bottem with pea gravel over an 8" bubbler with a thin layer of fine tree and shrub mix to seperate the potting soil mix I came up with. It's a very interesting and high tech mix of soil, I first had to cut the bag open and then pour the contents into the tubs. I'm hoping a Miracle will happen like it said on the bag, LOL.
They both have drains, and hoses going to the pump.
I had everything on hand to do it this way so we'll just have to see what happens,nothing elaberate but you never know.
They will call home on each side of an aerogarden till I can come up with a sufficiant light setup in a week or two.
Well if your interested in some pictures of my project then you'll have to email me at because I cant figure out how to put them in the post without hosting from another site, and that will take out of gardening time figuring that out.

Thanks for the idea Zach and I hope this amature gardener can have results close to yours.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 5:49PM
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Can you please elaberate more on the actual composition of the compost you are using, as it looks very white to me, and I cant see much evidence of coconut fibre in it, if you could give the basic quantities of each material used to make up a good mix of our own, it would be much appreciated, this is a very interesting system and I shall definately try it come the new season,

I am a bit wary though of the stem pinching method, and will have to grow a few spare seedlings of certain varieties to practice on first, I suppose that it becomes an aquired art after a while, but for all us ham fisted thick fingered brigade, I reckon a bit of practice is needed first on several trial runs-to get used to the idea first.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 4:00AM
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shelbyguy(z5 IL)

the layer of perlite on top is probably to discourage fungus gnats.

straight coco coir works better than coco amended with perlite et al.

supercropping, like anything that stresses the plant, reduces yield and increases days to maturity. also instead of breaking the hurd, you can simply drive a stainless steel screw or toothpick through the stem and achieve the same end. the purpose of supercropping is to make the stems stronger so they can support whatever they're supposed to support better, but tomatoes get supported anyway so I don't really see the need.

i keep the height under control by pruning them using the missouri method. makes for bigger tomatoes too.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 6:31AM
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are you going to the garden store for Lights? I would definitely put coco coir in your mix, otherwise you will not get the good airflow that the fibrous(almost hairy) coir supplies.


I will let Zack jump on here later and get you a percentage of ingredients in the grow medium. The perlite on top is mulch and a reflector. I found the supercropping frightening at first as well. I let Zach do it. I have been practicing though, and as a thick fingered 50 year old, it is not that bad.

the perlite is two things in this system, neither is to dicourage fungas gnats, as the mirohaze in the pots wipes out anything or any eggs the gnats try to lay in the soil. The perite is simply a mulch to keep the top layer of dirt from drying out and it is reflective to bounce light back up in to the plants.

We like the coco coir mix better then straight coir to add some compost and to create a mix that transfers the oxygen from the bubblers through the soil to the plant roots.

Supercropping does stress the plant and slows growth as you state. I am not sure about the reducing yields statement. But you missed the real importance, creating a bigger pipeline for nutrient flow in the plant. As you can see from the pictures, we have compacted plant growth, but the plants are growing so fast they are still way closer to maturity then any regular start I have ever done in peat pots under florescents. The supercropping also keeps the internodal lengths shorter, to allow more flowering sites per square foot, increasing yields. The better support is a bi-product, but as you say with support, it is not required. Running a toothpick or stainless screw through the plant will not increase nutrient flow as I can see it blocking the way, even though it would bulk up the stems and create better support.

Are you growing tomatoes indoors? Send some pictures, I would love to see some other methods. Our biggest reason for starting this diary, is it was hard to find any real information on the complete grow cycle indoors, including yields per plant etc. Everyone seems to want to send a picture of the first ripe tomato and then the thread ends.Most of the pictures showed 8' leggy plants, cherry tomatoes, or a bush variety that is determinate and produces 10 tomatoes. How about lbs of tomatoes per plant.

We are simply feeling our way along here as this is our first attempt, but it looks real good so far. The flowering and fruit production will be really fun as well.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 7:48AM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

Very interesting method. I haven't started my tomatoes yet but will grow quite a few of the same types to give it a try...I don't want to lose them all to my less than delicate crushing of the stems. Thanks for the information.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 1:11PM
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Missouri Pruning.
In Missouri pruning, you pinch out just the tip of the sucker, letting one or two leaves remain. The advantage is that the plant has more leaf area for photosynthesis and to protect developing fruit from sun-scald. The disadvantage is that new suckers inevitably develop along the side stems, adding to your future pruning chores.
I don't see how Missouri pruning will control the height of a plant.
I believe what is happening here is they are using Supercropping to make a more compact sturdy plant that will grow more horizontally than vertically (hence the chicken wire support stucture) thus forming a canopy while maximizing the available light in a given space.
What I'm looking at using supercropping for is to get stalkier and healthier seedlings prior to plantout which I believe it will. And I can't see using this procedure causing reduced yields. Ami

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 4:05PM
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Yes I'm going to get a new light setup, and also try and find some coco coir to mix in the soil, thanks for the advise.
The two 4" leggie plants I supercropped where still laying around last night, but there getting true leaves above the cotylegon now and other than laying around they seem very healthy otherwise. So I went ahead and repotted them and put them in deep this morning, now this evening there looking pretty good so we'll just have to see. I did go overboard on the supercropping and also pinched to hard with my big fingers.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 7:09PM
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Drop me an email I may be able to hook you up with a light pretty cheap. I got several from a business that is changing them out for T5's. I know I have a 1000 MH and ther may be a 400 knocking around. drop me a note.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:19PM
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> Who is you source for Rock Flour and can it be ordered on-line.

I got it from walt's organic.
Their rock flour comes from somehwere in Canuckland.

I imagine it would be hideously expensive to ship.
Worth a shot.
But it's probably best to find a local source, and test a small batch before committing to it.
I can't find the testing method easily.
Suspending it in solution then let sit over night.
The amount of sand versus flour then becomes obvious in the morning. IIRC you want 50% or more.
Also growing fast stuff in it is another test.
Hence the radishes.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 10:15PM
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DO NOT try our method, or anything similar to our method without the coco moss, you will be deeply disapointed. without a significant percentage (about 50%) of the coconut fiber your medium will quickly turn to mud and flow down into the rock layer, defeating its usefulness. Also, pea gravel will disappoint you as well, it is too small and round and isn't porous, exactly the opposite from what you want. You need to have medium-sized, porous, irregularly shaped rocks for this to work AT ALL. In short, it must be volcanic rock of one form or another. I find that the classic red volcanic is easiest to come by. When done right, the rock layer is actually where the majority of the root mass will exist, your pea gravel does not have enough surface area and is not irregularly shaped enough to create large gaps between the rocks. These seem like details, but the operation of the entire system hinges on them. Trust me, I have experimented for years to get to this point. I have worked backwards from full-blown hydroponic rigs to develop this system, stripping away every part of those rigs that didn't seem to make a major impact on root development. I have concluded that the main advantage of hydroponics is not how precisely nutrients can be delivered, as this often is more of a hindrance due to the necessity to carefully balance the PH and the ease of locking out essential nutrients if one is not careful. The major advantage of hydro is actually the extremely high levels of oxygen delivery to the roots, that's all, everything else is just a side effect of a water-based nutrient delivery system. The downsides, as I alluded to, are cost, complexity, a high-maintenance nature and the near impossibility of taking advantage of organics, micro-life and especially beneficial Mycorrhizae fungus. Our system may seem like just some dirt with bubblers at the bottom but you really must look at it as a highly refined and simplified hydroponic solution and that means sticking rather strictly to our construction method. This is not to say I am discouraging experimentation, far from it, that's how I came upon this method and I have heard nothing but dissent from the established hydroponic community the WHOLE way. I am simply stating that this method has some basic design requirements: volcanic rock (or something similar) in the water bath and a 50% coco moss content in the organic medium. The rest is completely up to you, experiment away. For instance, you could use hydroton balls instead of volcanic rock, which have an even larger surface area than rock and are a popular hydroponic medium themselves. I simply don't want you to be disappointed and become disillusioned with my method before you've given it a proper try.

happily! I mix our special medium based on simple ratios, and there is indeed a bit of approximation that goes into it. I have learned from experience and tend to mix by feel, adding constituents of different consistencies until I believe it is right. That said, here is a recepie that should do you well:
50% coco moss (this is important, you can ignore the rest and do it your own way so long as you have this)
15% organic compost
15% pearlite
20% vermiculite
Soil Moist in a quantity recommended by the label. (also important)
That's it! I also reccomend pre-loading the medium with the following organic fertilizers according to 1/2 the quantity recommended by their labels. This is because 1/2 of the medium you are adding them to (the coco moss) is incapable of absorbing water or nutrients, which means that if you add the normal amount you will end up with double the intended concentration. This can lead to root rot as I discovered in some of my early experiments.
Blood Meal
Coffee Grounds
Bio Tone Starter Plus (great for the included micro-life)
kelp meal
organic garden sulfur
fast-acting lime

That is for our bubbler tubs. This mix also makes an absolutely amazing potting soil if you modify it slightly. Simply reduce the coco moss amount to 25% and replace its lost volume with additional organic compost. This results in a fast-draining oxygen-rich soil with amazing water retention, we use it for everything. Since there seems to be more interest in replicating our method than I thought there might be I will soon develop some diagrams and a tutorial for your instruction. It'll most likely end up being a separate thread over in the growing under lights forum, I'll post a link when I have it done. I hope this helps and happy growing!


    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 11:08PM
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Larry,Zach. Any updates. Ami

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 2:29AM
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I want to take some more pictures today. One of the plants is 3-4 inches above the screen and I do not totally understand the weave process as I am sure others have a hard time visualizing. Several pictures before and after will help describe the process. Update late today or Sunday if they need some more time to grow higher above the screen. Here are a couple of pics. The sucker on the Big Momma plant is the highest above the screen, but one other sucker and the crown are there now also. The overall shot shows both plants as the Big Boy has reached the screen with it's main crown as well.

I am a little unclear on bending this whole section over and what to do with all the leaves etc.

This overall shot shows the plants 3-4 inches taller and quite a bit bulkier then the update last Tues. I left the indoor outdoor thermometer in the shot to dupict the effectiveness of our rudimentary insulation job. We only run the heater for part of the night and on a 35 degree morning it is still 71 degrees in our grow room. When the heater runs at night the humidity drops from the high 50's- 60% in to the high 40% range. That's it for now, more pics when the first weave is ready.............. Larry

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:15AM
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bluemater(z5 IL)

meisenbacher, can purchase rock phosphate (rock flour) from any good garden center that carries the Espoma line of organic fertilizers...I work at one in IL and we carry it

Here is a link that might be useful: Espoma website

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 10:28AM
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rock flour and rock phosphate are 2 separate critters.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 3:09PM
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bluemater(z5 IL)


I checked out your link to walt's and I see rock phosphate listed but no rock flour so I assumed it was the same until I checked back and see that they call it "glacial rock dust"...sorry if my post caused any confusion between the two!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 5:27PM
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bluemater(z5 IL)

elskunkito...I googled "glacial rock dust" and found several websites that sell it...Planet Natural, Gaia Green and Grow Organic to name a few...

Here is a link that might be useful: Planet Natural

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 5:42PM
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These close up pictures really help me understand how you're training the vines. Again, as the vines grow longer, watch for choking and stem damage.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 7:13PM
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We are real close to starting the first weave. It is interesting because the highest sucker that grew 6" in 4-5 days literally stopped when it cleared the poultry net and was in the direct light. It has waited for the crown and another sucker to get that high before it started growing again. I will take some good detail shots when we take the first crown and weave it through the net. If the plants are woven rather then tied to the net material, they are supposed to come out unscathed. We will keep a close watch though, and I am learning as I go here.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 10:15PM
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Today is the day. Dad has been monitoring the plants more closely than I lately and figured that one of Fat Mamma's shoots was tall enough to start the weave. Such was his enthusiasm that he came home on his lunch break and rolled me out of bed before it was even noon yet to commence the first step in the weave. Without further adieu, here is a step-by-step pictorial how-to on flat-screen training.

^first pinch the stem adjacent to the wire where the shoot has come up similar to the supercropping process. However, do not pinch and rotate and do not pinch from multimple directions as usual. You want to flatten the stem slightly so that it easily beds over the adjacent wire so that it looks like this:

^Observe the flatness just above my left thumb. Next you will bend the plant over the adjacent wire as shown below. It should give quite easily due to the flattening process, if it doesn't, re-pinch and start again.


Now that you have gotten the stem at a 90-ish degree angle along the "boarder" wire that separates the hole in the screen the shoot grew up through from the adjacent hole you are aiming for you can begin to pull it through like this:

Be careful during this step and bunch up the leaves so that they don't tear on the way through. If you did it right the hard part is over and the plant should now look like this:

^neatly tucked beneath the screen^
Note how I've managed the leaves, pulling them through adjacent holes and letting them come to rest on top, the opposite of what is done to the plants that this technique was developed for. Now all that is left to do is poke the top of the crown through the next hole over, the third one involved in this process:

^the completed weave^
Jobs a good'un. You may want to sort out the smaller leaves near the top of the crown and get them laying on top of the screen where they belong. Also, once the crown is in its final position I like to supercrop all of the horizontal stem section except for the very top node to lock the vine into place and toughen up the stem to avoid any abrasive effect that the wire might have on the skin. Now the crown will soon resume growth and turn upwards towards the light. Once it has gotten 3 or 4 inches tall we will repeat the process and the cycle will continue indefinitely. I hope this has been informative, good luck and happy gardening!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 4:11PM
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As the plant grows will you add chicken wire layer for the tip and future branches or will you try to weave the entire plant to grow horizontally???

Right now, I'm encouraging my sungold in a vertical serpentine fashion. As the plant grows almost horizontally across the pot (encouraged by stakes and yarn ties), then I rais the light about 1" and gently "encourage" the tip to grow in the other direction. This vine variety is about 36" in length but the height from the soil to the top of the light is 22" so far. The plant has about 25 green cherry tomatoes and appears happy.

It has one sucker the same size that originates just above the first blossom truss. That sucker also has a truss. I'm debating whether to cut the sucker and try to root it now in water, or just leave it do it's thing.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 4:07PM
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The whole plant will weave and grow horizontallly. This process keeps evarything 12-16 inches from the light source. That is also why the poultry net is a parobolic shape as well. Last night we added a 400w HPS light to our spectrum along with the existing 400w Metal Halide. The Halide is now outside the netting area and shining on the tomatoes and the balance of our winter hold-over plants. I will put the small peppers under the metal halide and promote nice stocky little plants.

Send a picture of your sungold. It sounds really cool and seems to be pretty productive for you.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 4:24PM
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Wow, it sounds like you are taking a more 3-dimensional approach to training than we are. We will be laying down no additional wire, the current screen is all that we will ever use. It has roughly 23 square feet of growing area due to its curved shape and keeps all leaves within a roughly uniform distance from the lamp. The plants will grow on this curved plane indefinitely and while I have never seen a similar layout on this scale, I know that the process is possible and yields significant benefits because of this:

This is a tomato plant that I once found in an un-referenced image and so far was my only indication that what I'm doing has been done before in any way shape or form. I recently discovered that this is actually part of an exhibit in Disney World's Epcot Center called Living Worlds. They grow many vine-type plants this way using a combination of flat-screen training and hydroponic techniques. Freed from the limits of gravity these plants are capable of achieving stupefying yields supporting fruit numbers that break into four figures on a single plant. There are plenty of differences between these behemoths and my grow style including a full-blown hydroponic regiment, unhindered natural sunlight and the benefits of genetic modifications, but I believe I stand to reap benefits from this concept as well. We'd love to see some images from your alternative training style. Good luck and happy gardening!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 4:44PM
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hautions11, (lengthy post, sorry).

Wow, that's pretty amazing/inspiring. My setup is limited by the width of the fluorescent fixtures but there may be a way to try the chicken wire prototype on a smaller scale. It's too late to try that for this plant. Maybe on the next planting (about 6 weeks).

hautions11, My innovative setup up would cook your plants because of the types of lights you're using. Because of the reflection, my setup would be difficult to photograph so I'll describe. The plants are surrounded by a mylar "grow light hood" that drops to the floor. The hood is a double layer of space blanket mylar sheets that are supported from the fluorescent light itself. It drops to the floor on both sides of the fixture (with plants inside).

Everything under the hood is covered with foil or mylar. To enhance reflection, nothing is exposed. There is no exposed soil; sheets of mylar cover the soil. The containers are covered with foil. Also, each plant is separated by a vertical "curtain" to enhance lateral reflection. Inspired by the reflectors that they use on corporate office lights. So a single fixture with two OTT 40W bulbs is super bright/efficient-hurts my eyes! The tip of each plant is .5" from the lights.

The top 10" of the tomato has a diagonal booster panel that reflects light to the upper leaves (without blocking too much light from the lowest nodes). That part might be overkill, but no complaints yet!

To prevent light from escaping out of the sides of the hood, I wrap and fasten the sides with clothes pins all the way down to the floor. This helps the plants on the end to get the maximum amount of light. Each day, I unfasten one side of the hood, inspect the plants, and encourage them much like your super technique (didn't know it had a name). A little light still escapes out the sides and along the floor a bit. Maybe that's OK.

So far, heat has not been much of a problem. But this will probably not work in the summer time. I'm not sure. I've only been doing this since Oct. The first tomato was brought in from outside and this plant is the first to grow from scratch to bearing fruit.

Santa brought another fixture and 2 Ott lights. That light will grow all Red Robins in a similar fashion as Dark Garden's containers. They don't sell 3liter pop bottle's here, but I'll try his idea on some other types of containers. Your chicken wire innovation may work well on those 16" plants.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 7:40PM
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>>Should I only have the lights on 12 hours a day to keep growth in check, or would that send them into premature flowering?
For indoor stuff, I don't think pre-mature flowering is a problem.I have mine on 16hrs/day and the plant flowered 30 days after it was planted (from seed). Flowers seem early but the fruit is gaining size steadily.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:51AM
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finnbiker(Z 5 PA)

Unbelievable amount of information here. Thank you immensely for taking the time to educate those of us who can benefit.
I am also in zone 5. It is too late for me to start seeds to transplant in late April?
Must you order the seeds or can you get them from garden centers this time of year?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 10:29PM
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@hatuions, anyone else

Would appreciate more detailed super cropping technique.
So far so good for me, but my plants are only a couple weeks old, and I am mostly guessing.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 1:21AM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

Wow! I'm feeling guilty adding to this thread. It already reads like War And Peace, but here goes anyway.

I grow hydroponically and the "Supercropping" is similar to growing tomatoes on their side for a while. It's a matter of injury recovery; it strengthens the stems. This is a valid approach and I'd all but forgotten about it. I've been at this since my college days (late 60's).

I currently grow strawberries and tomatoes in "Static" hydroponic culture. What is shown in the first pictures on this thread is very similar to the technique I use. You are hedging on hydroponics and like you said, are reaping the benefits of both aeroponics and hydroponics combines. Good job!

Check my profile and visit my Web site for more information on similar growing techniques. By the way, I'm currently re-propagating the site.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 1:26AM
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bluemater(z5 IL)

hautions (Larry)...I have a question about this part of your postings:

"Try some clear adhesive foil tape on the top side of bulb to reflect more light directly downward."

I use T8 lights and was wondering if I could just spray the inside of the fixture (which is white) with silver metallic paint to reflect the light down or do you think the tape would really focus the light downwards better?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 10:43AM
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Wow all kinds of questions. Let me take a shot at some of them.
finnbiker, it is definitely not too late, probably early if you are just planting seeds to transfer outside. I was at Lowe's today and saw seeds, so you can probably get them locally rather then order.

elskunkito, more definition on supercropping. Pretty tough even with video as it is very feel related. My only advise is to go easy on them until you get a feel for it. You can't kill them, so just go easy.

Freemangreens, nice web site! This is Larry and I can take no credit for the bubbler tubs, all Zach. I wanted a control, so we have a big boy in a regular pot. I am getting my A$$ kicked as the tub plant is easily twice as big.

Bluemater, I am not all that familiar with the tape process, but remember distance is not your friend. The light leaving the tube and hitting the reflector and returning loses a lot of energy. The theory behind the tape is the light never leaves the bulb. Can't comment much more then that. Don't forget to google overdriven floro tubes as people easily add another ballast to the fixture and overdrive the lights. I've never done it but it sounds easy.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 11:46AM
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Wow, fascinating web site, you seem to have an understanding of hydroponics that few people do; in that you recognize the real advantages of hydro and don't subscribe to the mantra that more complex systems are always better. Your "ultimate" hydroponic growing method, static hydroponics, sounds remarkably similar to what we do albeit with some small differences. Our system does capture the benefits of hydroponic and aeroponic systems as does yours, but most importantly I think is that ours also extols the benefits of organic growing through very strong pro-biotic and beneficial fungal growth. This is something that I feel is missing from your ultimate technique. Also, we're capitalizing on forced oxygen induction, a trick I stole from deep water culture technique, and something that I feel is responsible for the rapid growth we experience. You don't seem to rely on any sort of air pump to provide oxygen to your plants' roots. Do you simply use the same capillary action that delivers the water? It seems you aren't a fan of having to depend on a mechanical device for the continued well-being of your plants, but air pumps are incredibly reliable these days, I think that forced induction could generate some real benefits for your static method. Have you experimented with this? Or am I missing some detail about your method that would render an air pump moot?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 4:11PM
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3 more ?s

I'd like to try you hydroponics method just for fun.
Ballpark figures, What is the cost per amount of tomato for the electricity, etc?

Supercropping. How many times do you bust the kneecaps
on you plants. once, twice, until the stem is too tough to turn?
And how often, as soon as they can stand up again give them a twist?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 5:15PM
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Here'e another milestone. The first flowers. On closer inspection, all the crowns and suckers we started to weave have flowers. Even the std Big Boy in the regular pot has flowers as well. Now pollination etc. and on to that first tomato.

I am pretty excited. Sunday will have a corn cob ash tea to really kick off the flowering activity. Next week is superbloom and tomato flowering hormones. It should be fun.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 9:13PM
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I know this isn't the best place for a lighting question, but since my primary objective is a decent winter tomato this seemed like a good place. My wife is willing to allow me to tinker with hydroponics and was happy last winter to have fresh herbs. But I can't go spending crazy like I usually do with new hobbies :-) So my two-part question is this:
1. Are the 125w CFL light systems sufficient to raise two healthy (bushy) tomato plants when they are supplemented with natural light from south facing windows? They have 6500k and 2700k bulbs to choose from.
2. If not, are there budget options for high-intensity light that don't require hundreds of dollars spent on a reflector, ballast, etc?

My grow area is limited to a 2'x6' table in my indoor patio room that has a few windows with south or southwest exposure.

I'm eager to experiment with nutrients, training, supercropping, etc, but I'd really like to get the lighting "right" from the beginning :-)

Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 12:27PM
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With such fast growth, how often are you checking and weaving the plants?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 1:22PM
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cuisinartoh, I am sure that a 125 would do at least 1 plant. What do 125 CFL's cost? There is an HID 150 option in HPS for about $40-$50 complete. Give me a little more detail and we can do a cost trade.

vrkelly, We have gone thru the hardest first weave and the plants are a little sad. I am guessing about once a week from the current growth rate, but this is a first for us and it is a little bit of a guess.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 1:47PM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

Your indoor grow area sounds like mine, Cuisinartoh and I have been able to get nice healthy bushy plants using two high-lumen CF bulbs. They are clamped to the legs of my grow table and aimed at plants on the floor.

Now that the tomatoes are spending their days outside again, I've moved the eggplants in. However, I have not yet tried changing bulbs from mixed blue/red to all red to induce fruiting.

This area gets lots of natural light, but I leave my lights on for 12 hours a day anyway, because I think that helps to compensate for the difference between artificial light and direct sunlight. I imagine you are getting less sun per day and from a lower angle, so you might want to leave yours on longer for another few weeks.

For more cheap lumens you could add an inexpensive set of horizontal florescents. Shoplights were too big for my area, so I fastened three 24" light strips ($10 ea.) to a piece of leftover laminate flooring and added eyehooks to the corners. It's suspended over the table on a rolling garment rack and I use it for starting seedlings.

I'd like a still wider fixture but I avoid power tools wherever possible, so I'll probably just duct tape 4 or 5 lightstrips to piece of foam board. Improv is my middle name. (grin)


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 1:58PM
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I am a big proponent of anything will work, what is cost effective? I got all my lights for free ;-) and run a pile of 400w HPS and MH lights. There is a 150w alternative to Floro if the price is right. Great innovation on your part, I love to see different ways to solve an individual problem. You are right at our latitude the sun is pretty weenie. I am a power tool nut and here is a labor of love in kitchen cabinets. Walnut.

OOOps Pizza boxes and a wine glasses in the same picture. Oh My!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 2:28PM
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First let me say that I've enjoyed your posts on this board. I like your frugality and ingenuity. I saw some Hydrofarm 125watt CFL systems for about $155, which includes the bulb, socket, and hood. The more I read the more I think HID lighting is inescapable :-) So I'm wondering if I build a 400 watt HPS system but use CMH bulbs for at least the pre-fruiting stages if that would be sufficient, switching to HPS bulb for fruiting.

I saw in another post of yours where you advocated using 150watt HPS vapor tight bulbs instead of fluorescent for about the same cost. I think that makes sense. But by the time I dink around with setting up three of those (with reflectors), maybe I'd just be better off with the 400w HPS system using wide-spectrum CMH bulbs. It will take a little persuasion for the finance committee, but I might be able to get it through.

I'm very interested in your mesh/weaving method. I'd like to avoid tall plants so I can keep the plants elevated to use the light coming in from the windows. Here in Central Ohio, we don't get much sun in the winter, but I figure even overcast light is free light.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 3:30PM
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cuisinartoh, 150w HPS is $50 complete compared to $155 for the same wattage CFL. I just bought a digital 400w HPS ballast for $75 new. It needs a socket and reflector, but I have those. If you have some light thru a window I think HPS would be just fine. I am with you on weenie light from the window in the winter.I bet you could get in to a 400w for less then $100. Send me a PM and we can chat.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 3:55PM
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I sent you an email. I hope that's what you meant by PM. I didn't see any PM function on here.

I was assuming (perhaps wrongly) that I'd get more lumens from a 125watt CFL than a 125watt HPS. But, if I can get into a 400watt HPS system for $100-$200 then I'm game!


    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 5:49PM
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yes ed. i sent my cel. call me or send a # and I will call you

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 6:33PM
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Well another week has gone by and the mutant tomatoes that took over the world are still growing very well. Our weave has now completed a couple of cycles and is looking pretty good. We now have 7-8 blossom sites and on the same vine the sites are only 2-3 inches apart. Last week-end we put 1/3 cup of corn cob ash for Potassium in a organic form. Corn cob ash is nearly 30% potassium, one of the highest sources. Regular ash from your fire place is 5-6%. Some of our blossoms are now yellow and starting to open. No camera card here so photo's Sat. This week end some tomato set spray and a big phosphorus hit with 15 55 6 super bloom our only salt based fertilizer. So it is mid Jan the plants are 6 weeks old and our contro plant the in the regular pot Big boy is doing great. Way behind the mutant plants, but really a lot prettier plant overall. I have never managed to grow anything this stocky indoor s from seeds. More pics later.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 9:39PM
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Here are some recent pictures. Blooms are progressing and there are 7-8 bloom sites.

The plants trained on the screen are really getting kind of ratty looking. Zach contributes this to how hard we are pushing them between nutes light and training they are not real happy. Now they are growing like a mutant banshee, but they are a little ugly. Lots of leaf curl splotchy leaves etc. We think they may slow down a bit when they a\start setting fruit. That would be good.

The control big boy on the other hand is a thing of beauty. It is in a regular pot and is much slower but growing very well. VERY stocky and about a foot tall now at 6weeks.

Stem shot

This week end is blossom set spray and big phosphorus with 15 55 6 More later


    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 12:23PM
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>>The plants trained on the screen are really getting kind of ratty looking.

The picture shows curling yellow leaves. Are they getting enough water and light? If not enough light, you can try to add some foil underneath some of the leaves to help bounce some of that light back onto the plants.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 9:07PM
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Indeed the leaves are in a sorry condition. They where a little dehydrated in that picture, we are adjusting from the initial one watering a week schedule. They are beginning to drink a lot more and are getting moody. They'll go from springy and turgid to sad and wilty in a very short period of time, not more than an hour or so. The medium they are in has great uniformity, with no wet or dry spots. When it finally runs out of moisture all 8 gallons of the medium gets dry in a hurry; with the bubblers exacerbating this issue all the time. Usually, as they are right now, leaf yellowing and curling don't occur simultaneously. Fat Momma has a curling issue, localized only on shoots that are near one of the nasty 90 degree bends in the stem. In the overhead picture this is all that is visible. None of her lower leaves are bothered and look great, a trait shared by both plants. They are shaded a bit and receive a lot of "spill" from the nearby Metal Halide lamp. Big Boy has very little leaf curl, but his leaves are mottled and yellow in places. I think we where actually a little over-lit with the beastly orange 400 watt HPS lamp hanging within 14-16 inches over the screen. Plus the Metal Halide is still up and hangs less than 36 inches away. We've backed the HPS off 6 inches since then and they appear a little better, though Fat Momma still looks pretty pissed.

We hit them with corn-cob ash last weekend and just today fed them with Bloom Burst. Its a 12-55-6 salt fertilizer that also carries a nice little chelated Iron (.10%) boost. It was a light dosage, just 1 teaspoon per gallon, as the medium carries some hefty organic nutrient content already. We're hoping that this combined with the Blossom Set Spray (active ingredient: cytokinin) we'll be looking at rapid blooming, fruiting and ripening. We're hoping that if we can get some fruit set the mad vegetative vine growth will slow down a little. In my experience plants, especially ones in aggressive growth situations, respond surprisingly rapidly to cytokinin. If all continues to go as I've predicted we'll see fairly apparent change by the middle of this week. We'll post new pictures then and perhaps do a better job of illustrating the layers of foliage and the differences between the older less stressed leaves and the newer rather more tortured ones that where predominantly featured last time around.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 3:19AM
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I have a better blossom picture today.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 11:55AM
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I am a little shocked as I just showed my first open blossom Sat We have 'maters!! That realy snuck up on me.

I believe I see two more when I examine the other flower sites. This is pretty cool! No I guess I could still get BER and loose these little guys, but I will keep my fingers crossed. I mentioned earlier that we took our vibrating air pump that runs the bubbler tub and put it on the poultry net to simulate high frequency vibration, but i did not Q-tip these flowers or anything yet. It must work for some no fuss pollination. Who would have thought. Everybody wish our new little guys luck in their early development. Yea!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 8:19PM
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Electric toothbrush or just shake for 10 sec. twice a day. Morning and eveneing

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 11:07PM
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Looks like the plants are recovering nicely. How many days from seed to blossom??? It will also be interesting to discover the number of days from set to ripe.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 10:37AM
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Both methods we investigated long before we even set flowers. We had settled on manual pollination via Q-tip, but for fun decided to try setting our air pump on the screen as flowers first started to show up. The air pump drives a surprisingly powerful vibration through the screen and its supports. The results seem promising, blossoms that had just opened on Saturday had set fruit and where taking off late the following Tuesday without us ever messing with the flowers themselves. If this wasn't a fluke we should have good pollination rates without ever lifting a finger.

Dad and I where talking about this last night. Blossoms had first started opening on Saturday, just as the plants where turning 6 weeks old. Now that's six weeks from being placed in our bubbler tubs, we put them in when they where very small; just starting to sprout their first set of true leaves. They where only a week from seed (thats 1 week from us putting the seeds in the sprouting medium) when we did the transplant, putting them at almost exactly seven weeks from seed when we first saw flowers. Pretty quick I think, but I'm still most impressed with our 3 day gap between the first blossom opening and our first set fruit.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 11:46AM
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Some one, ( Master gardener ) at work threw a gauntlet that we can not make a ripe tomato, by the end of Feb! That is about 40 days from our pea size unit today! When I asked this forum the consensus was 50-55 days for a ripe tomato. This will be another test of the whole screen nutes light supercropping philosophy. That is about a 25% improvement over std good conditions outdoor grow. Pretty tough. But the whole system has been tuned up to this point to grow big abundant fruit indoors. The challenge is noted and it should be real fun to see where it goes! Watch along and we will see.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 6:41PM
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I've never grown a tomato so I didn't know how well my plant is doing. My results are similar. Took 6 weeks from seed to flower. I didn't know about fruit setting, as soon as the flower falls off, there's a tomato.

Flowers started showing up on 12/27/08. There's probably 35 green tomatoes but nothing is ripe! I'm not sure why it takes so long to ripen fruit. But there's a total of 4 truss es at various stages. Plant is still growing.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 8:08PM
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>>consensus was 50-55 days for a ripe tomato.

When the seed pack says 50 days to mature, they mean from the time it sets to the time it ripens? I thought the days was the time from seed to eat. No wonder nothing is producing "on time".

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 8:13PM
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The package days to maturity are based on planting a 6-8 week old plant and then it is 50-65 days. Your determinate variety should be faster then that. We think our nutes pots and light will speed up set to fruit time on big 1#'ish tomatoes, but only time will tell. Keep posting pics of your plants, it is great!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 10:39PM
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>>planting a 6-8 week old plant and then it is 50-65 days
What? So really it's 120 days to maturity (seed to eat). Deceptive marketing. This must be some outdoor metrics. What does a "6-8 week plant" looks like??? Is that a 8" tomato plant? or taller???

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 11:45PM
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With no special light it is and 8-10" pant

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 12:15AM
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Hehe, I know the majority of this project appears to highlight the organic methods of hydroponics, but imagine how fast they grow when you are giving them the same nutrients at 2 or 5 or 10 times the concentration and oxygenate the roots using H2O2.

And yes, they still taste very good. Peppers grow in a similar manner.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 11:09PM
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All you have to do is look at the Hrdo plant picture at Epcot listed 10-15 posts above. We like the combo potting mix and oxygenated water bath with the added micro life in the grow medium. The reason we started this diary is it is hard to find well documented grows from start to finish with good time frames and then results past "this is my first tomato" How about 3's produced etc. We still have very tight time line to get a ripe tomato by the end of Feb. We have a fighting chance, but it sure is fun trying. We will definitely have some ripe ones in March some time. Thanks for the interest and keep watching.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 11:07AM
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i have a few tomato plants growing in my coffee cups on my window sill..looks pretty good..

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 2:18PM
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slo_garden(9 CA Coast)


Me too! I have two plants in pots in a south facing window. They are both starting to flower. Just natural sunlight and potting soil.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 3:11PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Very interesting techniques! I am trying winter gardening indoors for the first time this year, using aquaponics. I have 2 Shubunkin goldfish in a 40 gal stock tank and a 24 gal growbed with pea gravel, flood and drain with an autosiphon. I was reluctant to spend all the money for the lighting needed for fruiting tomatoes but am just using a 4' fluorescent fixture and 3 hooded cfl. I started some seeds in net pots with hydroton, and some by throwing seeds into the pea gravel. Tomatoes did poorly in both situations, the plants sprouted but then just sat and didn't develope, so my system mostly has pole beans, of which I've eaten a few, cucumbers which are getting close to the first female flower after amazing #'s of male flowers, some Chinese mustard which has yielded a few leaves, and some basil and cilantro. They are growing very slowly but may be close to doing better.

I like aquaponics because of lowering the cost of the nutrients and possibly in future producing edible fish. I can see the advantages of your system with the more natural growing medium and inclusion of mycorrhyzal fungi. When I can improve my light setup I'll have to see how I can work something like that in.

Here's one of probably many threads on tomatoes from the Aussie Backyardaquaponics forum, which talks about training tomato vines and has some photos (their foliage doesn't look so great either), including a phenomenal commercial tomato hydroponics photo-


Here is a link that might be useful: aquaponic tomatoes

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 8:27PM
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Thanks Nancy. Light is very important especially in the winter here. I am sure Slo and des cat have massive plants and are expecting 30 40 50 # yields from there coffee cups, but understanding the important drivers in the grow process can help yields significantly. I have been very impressed with the addition of simple HPS and MH lighting. No horticultural bulbs, no $150 reflectors, but solid lighting great organic nutes and flat screen training seems awesome so far. It will be interesting 2-3 months down the road to see how full the screen is and what we need to start hacking off. Lot's of fun and happy gardening.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 8:54PM
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Nanacy, after reviewing your link. I am thinking about taking off all the leaves below the screen. That accomplishes the same thing. I could also chase the fruit set around the screen removing leaves. I'll defiantly take this in to account. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 8:43AM
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That purpling on the underside of the leaves (and often on the stems) is a common sign of Phosphorus deficiency.

It's not uncommon from what I've seen for the younger plants to get that, but it doesn't tend to be a problem if you're using a high quality plant food. Most garden store brands don't cut it in hydroponics, from my experience.

I switched to a 3-part made by Advanced Nutrients awhile back that has cleared up all the nutrition problems I had.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 10:53AM
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>>Some one, ( Master gardener ) at work threw a gauntlet that we can not make a ripe tomato, by the end of Feb!

Oh really? How's HIS garden doing :p Hey! I picked 2 yellowing cherry tomatoes yesterday (about 90 day old plant). The bad news was that I accidentally broke the tip off of this indeterminate. Gahhh. The tip is now rooting in a baggies. Pretty sorry shape!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 8:59PM
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>>That purpling on the underside of the leaves (and often on the stems) is a common sign of Phosphorus deficiency.

We did indeed have some purpling which is visible in some of the earlier shots. This was to be expected as we had only used organic ferts pre-loaded into the medium at first. We went light on the phosphorus at this point so that we could be nitrogen-heavy early on to induce rapid vine growth. Additionally, I didn't want to load them up too much early on because I knew down the road (we just did it about 2 weeks ago) we would be applying Green Light's Bloom Burst which is an incredible 10-55-6 salt fert. Having much phosphorus pre-loaded could have lead to an overdose when used in conjunction with the bloom burst. At the same time we also applied corn cob ash, a great organic potassium supplement that packs between 30 and 35% potassium by mass. I believe we got the timing right and the plants should now have all of the Phosphorous they need for flowering and fruiting.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:20PM
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Our first big set-back. BER has set in on the first three tomatoes on Big Momma! OHHHH NOOOOO! I searched the forum and read all the various reasons. It is not wet or dry conditions but we do see a couple of potential issues. Very fast growth appears to be one of the drivers and if we went a little overboard on our corn cob ash ( Potassium overload ) either or both of those could contribute. I also noticed that roma's appear to be some what of a problem with BER any way. Not much we can do, may try the epsom salt foliar spray, but it will probably just have to grow out of it! Take a look.

Pretty sad! Oh well, we will push on from here. Happy gardening!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 4:57PM
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Yeah, Roma's are notorious for BER. I think I remember reading once that they suffer from it more than any other strain, but I could be wrong on that.

BER is almost exclusively a Calcium deficiency but as you noted too much Potassium can lock out Calcium even if you have plenty of it.

You might try flushing them to see if you can wash out some of the excess K.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:43PM
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The commercial high phosphorus formulations are often spin offs from the hydroponic pot "bud" growers market. These are not interested in the subsequent fruiting crop.
High phosphorus is not a formulation always transferable to other plants, even though the stages of development look to be the same.
As for tomatoes: the nitrogen can be progressively diminished at flowering, at ripening & during harvest; reduce potassium at least when harvesting; curiously the phosphorus needs stay the same from flower through harvest.
Gary gave you good advice: flush your growing medium at this stage & then make sure your calcium is adequately utilized (looks like you top water - dust off your hydroponic EC ratio chart).
Speaking of the technique:
In tropic field crops we take old plants of indeterminate tomatoes,eggplants & peppers that have become unproductive, twist their stem closer to the ground & they renew growth low down on the plant.
Seems some pot growers came across this in Africa or S.E. Asia & used it for
quick volume turn around time under lights.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:14PM
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It will be interesting to see if any of the other tomato fruits develop BER. Researchers have found "Stress" to the plant more than anything else causes BER. And one thing I didn't think about before when "supercropping" the plant is how much stress are we putting on the plant? Something to think about. Ami

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:57PM
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Interesting observations by all. Fortunately we have a plant in a regular pot that got all the same nutrients and very hard supercropping regiment. Not tubs and real oxyniated roots to put super fast growth in to affect. It should be an interesting comparison. More pictures in a bit.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 7:27PM
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Hi Miesenbacher,
I'd like to read some more about the stress factor relevant to BER.
It could be of use for the tropical agricultural development projects I work
with. Any lead would be appreciated.
Pardon my off post etiquette, Hautions,
Thanks for sharing your interesting work.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 8:14PM
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Here's a link I was talking about. Stress comes in many forms and this paper from the University of Nebraska explains it pretty well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 1:31AM
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It appears the article is referring to moisture stress and i am not sure if supercropping or even the training through the screen could contribute as well. It is hard to pick out a firm answer here. The control plant in the regular pot appears to be free of BER, at least at this point. The big boy non roma style looks like it's first fruit might be affected as well. The plant in the regular pot is a big boy with the same nutrients and light, but slower less aggressive growth. The next few weeks should display BER in the big boy tub plant and the regular pot version, if it is going to show up there. It may just be the rapid growth referenced in the article rather then stress induced by supercropping/training. We will keep you up to date.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:30AM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

In response to: Posted by hautions11 6 (My Page) on Sat, Jan 10, 09 at 16:11

I must admit I kind of forgot to follow this thread. Let me explain a couple of twists to my "ultimate" growing system:

First off, I super-crop only the main stem and for only the first 12 inches of growth. I grow in perlite and when super-cropped seedlings are about a foot and a half tall, I transplant them to a larger growing container; again 100% commercial perlite (medium to small granules).

Here's the first trick: I start seeds in a 2" net pot and when I transplant, I put about an inch of perlite in the bottom of the new container, then set the entire 2" net pot on it and fill up the container BURYING at least 8" of the super-cropped stem. This creates a mammoth root stock.

Next, I suspend a rope from about 5 feet above the newly-transplanted stock and begin tying off the main stem to this. The rope supports the weight of the main plant.

As Mr. Tomato grows, I trim off side growth at about every other node. This allows enough vegetation for fruiting, but doesn't create shadows, which would otherwise starve lower leaves from light exposure. As the plant nears flowering, I use the "single-truss cropping" method. All that means is I cut out the tops as they go to flower. I rely on only one or two flower trusses about mid-way up the entire plant stalk.

I grow 'indeterminate' tomatoes, which means they will grow for several seasons. By cutting off much of the side growth and limiting their height, together with a massive 'trunk' and super-cropped stem, they produce fruit like you wouldn't believe and it's all at waist height so this old fart doesn't have to bend over to pick it off.

As I harvest, I let newly-formed flowering trusses remain and when I've picked all the tomatoes off one truss, I trim it off and move on to the next one and so on.

As far as "forcing" oxygen, I guess I didn't tell you, but I aerate my nutrient tub (about 30 gallons) with a 12-inch air stone 24/7. I feed my plants with aerated nutrient using the "old fart drip irrigation method". What that means is I have both gravity-fed irrigation as well as a submersible pump in my nutrient batch tank. When I water the plants, I just flick on a switch and it supplies nutrient at the proper pH and EC to my hose, fitted with a little spring-loaded, trigger nozzle.

I spent a lot of time determining just how much nutrient to give my plants and in the summer, I supplement nutrient delivery with a twice-a-day sprinkling with high-calcium-content tap water on a little battery-operated timer I spent a fortune for! Hey, it works--it keeps things wet and cool in the summer and prevents me from over-feeding the plants.

When plants (strawberries and tomatoes) are in fruit, I also "tweak" my nutrients with MgSO4 (Epsom salts) to maintain the proper EC, while cutting back on the nitrogen. Nitrogen is for leaves!

I hope that clears up a few things for you. The Web site is undergoing metamorphosis and is almost a butterfly; stay tuned.

Here is a link that might be useful: TenGreenThumbs

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:02AM
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> then set the entire 2" net pot on it and fill up the container BURYING at least 8" of the super-cropped stem. This creates a mammoth root stock.

hat is a net pot?
I made 'pots' this year from burlap sacks for maximum oxygen exposure.
Just wondering if thats similar to your method???

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:39AM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

Hey! Good thinking. I grow some items in burlap too. Anyway, a "net pot" is a plastic pot. I use 2" ones. Imagine a small plastic pot that has slits cut both vertically and around the base; that's a net pot.

Go to my profile and click on my Web site, then go to Galleries and scroll down until you see a hand holding a tomato seedling in a little pot. There are white roots extending from the bottom of the thing. That's a net pot!

Questions? Email me from my profile or Web site.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 2:08AM
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I would think that after super cropping a stem you'd have a slower root growth response from that stem. I know that if you bury a tomato stem it will grow roots all along the buried length, but if I'm not mistaken the supercropping thickens the skin and would likely inhibit root growth.

I could be wrong, has anyone checked that?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 12:36PM
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>>Our first big set-back. BER
Dang! I also had a few disappointments. The plant produced 40 cherry or 4.5 oz of fruit. It's now 48" long. How many trusses should a plant that size have?

Very few new the flowers. I've started adding epsom salt to the Miracle grow that the plant gets every 10 days. About 1X/mo the plant gets a side dressing of Dr. Earth. Stuff stinks to high heavens as it rots under the soil. Even 2 air cleaners can't keep up with the soil/Dr. Earth odor -- bothers my nose! The plant has no suckers...maybe I should let the suckers produce too????

Very meager results for such healthy plant.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 6:03PM
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I started my seedlings dec 30 and have three different projects going. The TUB (like the one that started this thread for the most part) I call it with the bubbler or TUB, the Aero garden and the regular ol pot method. Cant tell much of a difference from the Aero garden and the TUB but the regular ol pots are slow. The Aero and the tubs are HUGE and I need to promote some flowering here real soon. But I stopped the super cropping and you can tell by the big stalks half way up and the slimmer ones near the bottom, I seen they were stessing badly but now there much happier. I will keep the TUB project year after year without using the make it fast method but rather let them do there thing, only because I could see they were not liking rushed you could say. I have noticed that they like just some reguler Miracle grow food here and there and only watered about once a week in the tubs.
I tryed many different lights and what I came up with for the TUBS was a BIG lamp shade lined with foil inside and three 60 watt flourecents inside (you know those spiral things that only take 13 watts they say), its the same thing the Aero gardens use for the most part and thats what made the plants the happyest. I did burn some leaves here and there because they grow so fast I did'nt raise the lamps enough, they don't get hot at all but will dry the leaves.
On a different note:
My green beans have been nuts all winter inside and they like low lighting.
The Boston Picklings Cute Little Cumbers are crazy in the TUB/bubbler environment with flowering at about 2', I also tried them in pots but no success they are flowering at about 4" tall, so less light is my guess on that experiment.
My family are hot pepper freaks so we keep many varieties going all year long indoors here in Michigan.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 1:21AM
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nuttyd Nice distraction from tomatoes! How many bean containers do you have and in what size containers?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 11:11AM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)


I'm waiting for things to grow a bit and I'll be putting up a slide show regarding super cropping as well as burying super-cropped stems deep in perlite. I've even thought of pulling a few plants out of the growing medium to photograph their root development. If I do that, I'll include it in the slide show on my Web page.

Hide and watch!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 2:47AM
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Sorry about bringing up the beans, but I grow them in 6"wide 8"deep and 3'long containers.I do them 5 beans per container with miracle grow potting soil and thats it.With some feeding I'm sure you could plant more in that size container, but mine are doing really good as is.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 1:44AM
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Hey the beans are great! Sorry for the lapse in posting, but between work and results...big problems. Our plants are devastated. This week Zach ran 3 gallons of water through the tubs and flushed the current nutrient content. This will stunt all growth, but we were obviously down the wrong path. Here is a good shot of the weave and the physical method appears very sound. We probably pushed the plants too hard and made a nutrient lock of some kind.

The weave worked and the toms hanging below the netting is great. BER is devastating and the half rotten red toms are dismal. In my favorite movie, the worlds fastest Indian, there are a lot of dismal failures leading up to great success. The overall shot of both plants is just as ugly.

The peppers are growing well but we are fighting a HUGE bug infestation. Here is our first pepper but note the little beasties in the shot.

The rest of the plants are either fighting bugs or doing great. Some new tom starts for a friend and doing well also.

We will try to keep everyone updated, that's all for now.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 10:44AM
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mitanoff(Z4b Ontario)

Ah, you'll never know until you try.
Thanks for posting the "ugly" pics. This reminds me of my plum tomatoes from last year. Same end result, probably a different reason since they were outside. I am going to start a few seedlings tonight and supercrop them. As an experiment. I'll start a second crop later on. And those wee beasties (small furry, softbody insects- fergit what you call 'em), I had them on an indoor plant for YEARS and I just couldn't get rid of them. I said to heck with it this year, and left the plant outdoors all winter. They better be dead.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 10:24AM
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Hi hautions11,
Bugs on picture shown look like aphids. They can spread through your other plants, so taking action is wise (the plants won't fight aphids off themselves).
I want to tell you that your innovative grow is intriguing to me - am just not chiming in to impose on your methods.
BER dismaying & your assesment of nutrient "lock" seems correct.
? Will you explain to us what you are considering to improve your project?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 9:07PM
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I agree those look like aphids. You can fight them a number of ways. If you want to go "biological" on them I recommend Aphidius (a tiny parasitic wasp) or Aphidoletes (a carnivorous larvae). Aphidoletes is better at larger infestations, but can be problematic if there isn't much "dirt" under the plants. For you I'd recommend a combination of a soap treatment to bring the aphid numbers down and Aphidius to finish them off.

Why do you leave the fruit on after they show signs of BER? You can't really eat them and the plant is just wasting resources trying to develop those fruit.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 8:42PM
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jusme_newby(5b North-Central MO)

Just a question: Could the BER come from too much over-cropping? If the plant cannot return excess nutrients back to the roots, could they build up and look like over-fertilization? I really don't know but it sounds like a logical place to look. But then, that's jusme.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 12:25AM
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All good comments. There is no reason to leave the fruit on other then I am trying to judge if it is reducing in sverity. It is easy to see the early signs and i could just trim them but there does appear to be some better looking fruits that get farther along in the process. The big boy is definatly less affected then the roma style. Our control big boy is definately not seeing the afects.

The control plant was overcropped just as much, so I do not think that is the factor.

Aphids are horrible. I have been using soap and I am not even keeping up.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 11:31AM
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I would suggest it's a bit early to dismiss the supercropping as possible cause of the BER. I agree it's not likely, but one plant without symptoms doesn't necessarily prove the supercropping wasn't at fault. It's possible the control plant had some variable in its favor that made the difference.

Of course it's more likely there was some other minor variable that pushed things against the plants with BER.

For the aphids I'd say either go biological or get out the big guns. Hardcore pesticides aren't great, but sometimes it's better than a total loss.

Oh, and leaving the fruit on can make the BER persist. Each of those fruits represents a major future investment of plant resources. If there isn't enough to go around (a calcium shortage causing BER) the more fruit they're trying to grow the more thinly it's spread and the worse the problem is likely to get.

I'd advise removing anything with even a hint of BER. Force the plant to redirect it's resources to areas that aren't already lost causes. It may be time to look for a superior source for nutrition. I've been using Advanced Nutrients for awhile now without trouble. It might work better for you as well.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 5:54PM
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ontheteam(5a-6 (S.Eastern, MA))

Everything points to overstressed plants. The Toms look over watered too boot,

Stress is TOO much or NOT enough of light: water :nutrients.
Its really that simple.
The aphids do not cause the leaf mottling on your peppers.

It's all GOOD ideas..but I think in the end you have too much of a mis-mash of methods going on and you are diluting the benefits of any ONE method and getting all the challenges of ALL the methods.
I'd also say as far as feeding... too much "n" and not enough P and K. All the green but mebbe not enough roots to support all that green.
Mebbe also wrong type of fert for growing medium. With the hydro set up I would imagine you'd have to have a slow steady constant feed to allow it to be absorbed and not just washed away. Isn't that way hydro medium is basically fortified water
Just thoughts.. a A for effort tho!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 11:54AM
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Very interesting. I am beginning experimenting with this supercropping technique. I hope to feedback results. Thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 8:30AM
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This has all been so interesting! Does anyone have innovations for the upside-down tomato bags that are now on the market I recently started 2 (outdoors) with hopes of moving them into a greenhouse when it gets cold and because I have very limited full sun area.Maybe I'll supercrop one to see the difference in yield.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 4:06AM
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