One thing that really interests me about hydroponic growing – growing without soil – is the amount of extra supplemental feeds that are available.

These are given in addition to regular nutrients and “fill in the gaps” as it were, for those times of the season when tomato plants need a little extra boost of something specific.

Many hydroponic nutrients are excellent for us tomato growers too, who prefer old fashioned soil but wouldn’t mind a bit of help to make our crops more successful.

Vitalink Foliar - rich in calcium

A good example of a supplement is Vitalink Foliar
This is applied as a spray and is rich in calcium. Plants require large amounts of calcium for the development of strong cell walls. Strong cell walls keep your plants strong and healthy by increasing their resistance to pests, disease and drought – helpful when the soil becomes too dry!

Helps protect against blight and other fungal infections.
VitaLink Foliar contains tea tree oil, which is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ingredient. It will help to combat fungal infections, including Botrytis, Powdery Mildew and Blight. These fungal infections can weaken and even destroy your plants.

Avoid nutrient competition
I mentioned in a previous newsletter about how potassium can affect the absorption of calcium when competing in the soil. Potassium, also known as potash is found in large amounts in tomato food because it boosts flowering and fruiting. However, because this is a foliar feed and sprayed onto the leaves, which are able to absorb up to five times more nutrient than the roots, it limits the potassium versus calcium competition. Your tomato plants are then able to use both calcium and potassium more effectively, producing a bigger and better crop.

It is well known to add egg shells and dissolved indigestion tablets to soil as a way of adding extra calcium to soil. However, it is far better to apply calcium as a foliar feed to avoid the nutrient competition problem.

To Recap – the benefits of Vitalink Foliar are:

  • Helps produce strong growth
  • Helps prevent Blossom End Rot
  • Helps prevent Tomato Blight and other fungal diseases
  • Helps prevent insect attack
  • Helps plants cope with extreme temperatures
  • Avoids nutrient competition/block

When foliar feeds are used in conjunction with a wetting agent, the results are even better!

Wetting agent helps plants absorb nutrients.

A wetting agent helps when applying a foliar feed like Vitalink Foliar and when re-hydrating dry soils. It reduces the surface tension of water and assists in the plant’s ability to absorb the nutrients through the plant tissue.

Essentials Wetter also contains beneficial bacteria to increase disease resistance and when applied to soil, improve root structure.

The advantages of using these nutrients are plain to see, however, they aren’t cheap!

These are a great addition for the enthusiastic tomato grower who enjoys growing tomatoes as a hobby!

Next: Feeding Tomatoes Part Five

8 Responses

  1. Shirley Walke
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,

    You appear to have sold out of the Vitalink Foliar and Essentials Wetter but there is a note underneath to say to email you if we wanted you to order them. Have I misunderstood this. Could I ask you to order them for me or is it too late?

    Regards

    Shirley

  2. Avril
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    I have had problems in the past with all you have mentioned above. It is great to know that help is there if we need it. I totally agree that foliar feeding is the best way as you know the plant will get the nutrients quickly.
    Thank you for making us aware of these helpful products. I will be ensuring my plants get more calcium this year.
    I am certainly willing to spend a little extra to get the satisfaction of a plentiful, beautiful crop of delicious tomatoes. I have eaten too many supermarket tomatoes over the winter/spring!!
    I have a household of five and we buy vine ripened tomatoes at £1.70 twice a week. We just can’t stand those orange (which should be red) tomatoes, that are totally tasteless. Although the supermarket vine ripened toms are nothing compared to home-grown toms, they do us through the winter/spring.
    The big taste difference is in the summer when my kids adore my toms and eat them like sweets!
    Once again, thank you for all your time and expert advice!
    Avril

  3. jess allaway
    | Reply

    Well, Mark, you might buy a lot of tomatoes for £11.99, but what do they taste like! I quote from a BBC News item I read today “The successful sequencing of the tomato genome will lead to tastier varieties within five years. Scientists believe that the elusive flavour of home grown tomatoes will by then be available in supermarkets”. I haven’t been able to make myself lift a packet of tomatoes in a supermarket for years now – I’d rather go without. Maybe you can get some organic on-vine, etc., that taste reasonable, but then I guess you wouldn’t buy all that many for your £11.99. Keep on growing them!

    • Rhys Jaggar
      | Reply

      I think you’ll find that the tomato sequencing project will lead to generating varieties that the supermarkets and the growers want, which may or may not include tastiness.

      What they want are as follows:
      1. The ability to harvest a crop in a oner.
      2. Yield per plant.
      3. Resistance to disease.
      4. Resistance to temperature extremes.
      5. Transportability.

      Tastiness will in my judgement be for niche brands which people pay more for. Since my gut judgement is that the yield-tastiness curve will optimise at yields lower than commercial growers are comfortable with.

  4. Mark D
    | Reply

    Sounds good but – you could buy a lot of tomatoes for £11.99 🙁

    • David
      | Reply

      I couldn’t agree more!

      Nevertheless the information IS interesting!

    • Nick
      | Reply

      You are right of course – you can get a lot of tomatoes for £11.99, but these products are for those who treat their tomato growing as a serious hobby and are prepared to spend the extra money to get the best possible results.
      Professional growers have been using these “extras” for some time and now they are available to the public in amounts that are affordable – albeit more expensive than a bottle of Tomorite.
      I sow my first seeds each year in January and use grow lights, extra heating and all sorts of extras.
      I don’t know how much each tomato costs me from a plant started so early – but I don’t care – it’s the enjoyment I get from growing the plants and getting a fantastic crop!

      • Mark D
        | Reply

        Sounds good to me. Money certainly isn’t everything!

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