Growing hydroponic tomatoes brings you the benefits of hydroponic growing, such as no weeds, no soil-borne diseases, faster results and greater yields. And tomatoes are so useful in cooking — they’re used extensively in Italian dishes, stews, salads and are popular on sandwiches. So if there’s one plant you want a good yield on, it’s tomatoes!
Setting Up Your Hydroponics
When you’re first starting out in the hobby of growing your own hydroponic tomatoes, you’ll probably have several questions. The hydroponics that you initially set up will be the most complicated part of the entire process, but I’ll teach you how to get everything just right.
Hydroponic tomatoes grow best in a closed-circuit nutrient system. Determine the number of tomato plants that you want to grow. Each plant will eventually require its own container, pipe nipple and irrigation tube, so bear this in mind when you head off to the hardware store.
Begin by constructing a table for the hydroponics to be situated on. To insure proper drainage, the table should have a 2.5-5cm (1-2 inches) slope. Any less than this will cause drainage issues. Any more than this will make your plants slide around the table top. If you are using a regular table for this purpose, you can use a piece of wood or something else of the right height to prop up one side of the table.
The Drainage Pipe
On this slightly sloped table, arrange a PVC pipe to serve for your drainage collection. Secure the pipe in the table center using U clamps (U bolts), and then drill one hole into the pipe for every container you plan to have in the system. This hole should correspond to the exterior width of your pipe nipple, so that you can snugly fit the pipe nipple into the hole.
Attaching the Containers to the Drainage Pipe
Using blocks of wood to support the bottom of the containers (not shown in the image below), lift each container so that its bottom fits over the PVC drainage pipe. Drill a corresponding hole in the bottom of each container, and align the hole in the container and the pipe. Affix the pipe nipple from the inside of the container so that it emerges within the drainage pipe. Place a large container with a lid to serve as a reservoir on the ground beside one end of the table, and run your PVC pipe through a hole in the lid to drain.
Once this system is ready, the tomatoes will need a water-based growing medium. In a separate container, combine one part Heydite or Vermiculite with three parts Perlite. Mix well and saturate overnight. Prepare a layer of large clay pellets such as Hydroton on the bottom of each pot. Fill the pot with your saturated mix to within an inch of the top. Repeat for each pot.
Putting the Tomatoes in the Containers
Wash any soil away from your tomato plant’s roots gently, then create a hole in your potting mix. Position the hydroponic tomatoes in the center of the container, one plant per container, and fill in around it with your potting mix. Apply a layer of Hydroton to the top to keep algae growth under control.
Position a small pond pump in the reservoir, and attach a timed irrigation system to it. Place one irrigation outlet on the surface of each pot, so the water will flow over it. Set your irrigation pump to supply ten minutes of water, twice daily, to your hydroponic tomatoes. Fill the reservoir with water and add tomato nutritional supplements to it. Suspend plant lights overhead and provide 12-18 hours of light every day.
Maintenance and Care
Change your water on a weekly basis. As your hydroponic tomatoes begin to grow, remember to prune them as needed and to support their growth with stakes and careful tie-off points to prevent their own weight from uprooting the plant.