What Is Hydroponics?
True hydroponics uses water only as a growing medium, but many hydroponic systems--often called "soilless culture"--use other mediums such as sawdust, gravel, rockwool, clay pellets, coconut fibers, peat, foam or recycled foam. The plants are grown in this medium and all growing factors effecting the development of the plant are controlled.
Benefits of Hydroponics Growing
The benefits of growing tomatoes (or any plants) using a hydroponics system help you understand the process. It involves environmental and health concerns for individual hydroponics growers and even economic and social concerns for businesses.
Hydroponic tomatoes are grown pesticide free and are more pest resistant than regularly grown plants. Growing systems can use small amounts of, recycled or no growing mediums at all. Less space is required. Growing can be done any time of year. Growers control all nutrients going to tomatoes and all other environmental factors, such as light and temperature. Hydroponic tomatoes are vine ripened, which provides superior nutrition and taste.
Tomato seeds are placed in starter trays that have a small amount of growing medium that was soaked with water with a pH level of 4.5. Plants are covered with domes. Trays are kept damp and warm awaiting seedlings to emerge.
Light source is added for 12 hours daily and the domes are removed. After seedlings have roots appearing at the bottom of trays and have true leaves on stems, each is transplanted to a growing area. This could be either a drip irrigation or ebb and flow system, which differ in the method of supplying nutrients to the tomatoes.
A light source is supplied for 16 to 19 hours, followed by complete darkness for eight hours when the tomato plants are mature. PH level of nutrients is maintained between 5.8 and 6.3 at all times and altered as required. Temperature is controlled at ideal levels during light and dark growing periods.
The grower, using either a cotton-swab or paintbrush to gently brush the stigma of the blossoms, pollinates tomato plants. The grower removes any suckers appearing around plants and inspects tomato plants continually for any indication of nutritional problems. Adjustments are made as needed until tomatoes are ripe and picked.