Tomato Glacier
A good root system - not too wet

One of the benefits of hydroponic growing is that roots have access to air – oxygen to be precise – and lots of it!

Have you ever bought seed compost that has turned into blocks of mud when watered? … I know I have!

The  seedlings struggle and their growth is very slow. It’s because the soil has become compacted and so their roots have no air.

Without access to oxygen, roots become weak, plant growth slows and the harvest is disappointing – and that’s if the plant has made it to the end of the season without being bumped-off by a disease or two!

The simple fact is … roots need air and lots of it!

Here are some ways to improve air/water ratio.

  • Water seedlings from below which helps avoid soil compaction.
  • Add vermiculite to seed compost and perlite to potting and multi-purpose compost. Wilkinsons (a discount store) sells  both vermiculite and perlite and at the cheapest price I’ve seen.
  • Avoid over-watering and allow soil to dry-out slightly to let air back in, before watering again. If plants start to wilt, mist them, then give them a good watering.

Watering heavily around the base of the stem will wash away or dilute nutrients in the soil as well as removing air, so it’s best to water a few inches distance away. This also encourages roots to grow outwards to where the source of the water is.

I think that hydroponics will continue to grow in popularity and it’s great to be able to borrow a few tips to improve the way we grow our tomatoes in soil.

4 Responses

  1. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Nick

    In terms of ‘potting up’, you have suggested two or three upgrades prior to the final resting point from initial seedling to mature plant.

    Someone I know suggested that you shouldn’t pot up until a plant has ‘felt constrained’ and therefore started to produce the first fruiting body (i.e. in a 2 inch pot).

    Is this your experience or should the potting up process merely be a way of growing the plant efficiently prior to fruiting in its final resting place (be that Growbag, pot or soil) or a mechanism to ensure early fruiting?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys,

      Although I may use two or three potting stages before final position, it
      is best that roots feel the sides of the pot they are in before moving
      on to a larger pot – this encourages them on – as suggested.

      However, soil grown plants need a large root system, so restricting
      their roots in a small pot for too long will make top growth, but leave
      a smaller root system that will not be able to support a plant
      throughout the entire season – plants will peter-out sooner and not
      produce as many tomatoes.

      That’s my view and experience.

      Best wishes
      Nick

  2. George
    | Reply

    When do i start pinching out,and wich ones.near the bottom of the stalk. Thanks George

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