Soil acts a medium for supplying nutrients and supporting the root system, but it is not directly involved in the growth and development of plants. Hence, if we provide the necessary nutrients in another way, plants still continue to grow, and bear flowers and fruits.
Under the methodology of hydroponics, vegetables are grown in a soilless medium, after enriching it with essential plant nutrients. The result of this soilless gardening is really impressive. For some cultivars, the yield is much higher than regular plant growing techniques.
Commercial growing of hydroponic tomatoes is done in greenhouses. The general advantages of hydroponics are:
- It does not require soil preparation
- Easy regulation of nutrient quantity
- Less water usage
- Easy control of pests
- Stable crop production
The major disadvantage with hydroponic gardening is the high cost for setting up the plant and more importantly, you should know the basic concept behind soilless culture. If you are thorough with these requirements, you can experiment growing the tomatoes hydroponically at home.
Nowadays, most garden supplies sell hydroponic systems for home growers. You can select a kit of a particular size, based on your budget and need. Other supplies needed are plant nutrients, tomato plantlets, supporting stakes, measuring spoons, and a light source (if needed). Keep in mind that hydroponic tomato seeds are same as regular tomato seeds.
Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes
Once you have the supplies, decide where you want to maintain your hydroponic system. If you do not want hassles of installing artificial light, it is best to have it near a window, balcony, or on the porch. The only thing is to protect the plants from night frost. The next step for hydroponic gardening is setting up the system as per instructions.
Refer to the guidelines while filling water, to maintain water quality and levels. Then add the nutrients as per the given concentrations. Ensure that you measure the ingredients accurately, and add them in the water. Lower or higher concentration can reduce the yields. After this, clean the rocks with the kit (if any), and add the hydroponic system.
Now, you are ready to introduce tomato plants in your hydroponic system. Gently remove plantlets from the container. Try removing the adhering soil from the roots as far as possible. You can wash the roots to get rid of soil components. Place the tomato plants in the system and cover their roots with rocks. This gives support and prevents them from bending.
Complete the installation part (hose and drip ring) for growing the tomatoes. Start the system and check for proper functioning. If you find water dripping from the ring at regular intervals, it is working fine. After you have completed setting up the system, the next steps are focused on maintenance like regular filling water and supplementing nutrients.
You may need to change some portion of water on a regular basis, once in two weeks. Follow the basic tips for staking and pruning tomato plants, particularly when they reach to a height of about 2 feet. With correct water levels and proper nutrients, your hydroponic tomatoes will develop flowers, and you can soon enjoy homegrown hydroponic tomatoes.