These weeks I have been sharing my experiences growing indoor tomatoes. While the purpose of this experiment was to learn about Nanny, I got more than what I expected. I am reserving the experience of using a Nanny for next week; today I will write about other things I learned.
The one mistake I will never repeat is not checking the pH of my substrate before starting the culture. As I did not properly stabilized the pH of the expanded clay, the nutrient solution increased its pH with each irrigation cycle. This has provoked additional work and worse, nutrient deficiencies in the plants. Not saying that taking care of the culture was a lot of work: I usually spent less than 10 minutes per day, a bit more when I had to change the water. When the plants are small you do not even need to check them everyday. Later, they use much more water, so you will need to replenish the reservoir daily, or risk letting EC to grow too high or worst, seeing your plants dry and die.
My daily chores were adding pH down to the solution to lower the pH; once a day at the beginning, twice when I increased the watering frequency. Other thing I did daily were shaking the flowers to pollinate. At the beginning it is quite easy, but when the plants grow it becomes increasingly difficult to make sure that you have touched every bunch of flowers. Lately I have seen some flowers which did not set properly. Next time I want to try a trick I saw somewhere: to use an electric tooth brush to imitate the buzz of an insect. The last thing I did daily was to cut off the lateral branches as soon as they started to develop. The word for this in Spanish is “destallar”, but I couldn’t find a proper english translation. Anyway, this is something that also gets harder with the size of the plant. At the beginning the difficulty for me was to recognize the lateral branches and not pruning normal branches by mistake; you get the hang of it very quickly. Later the problem is to find them among the foliage. If you miss one, it will grow and develop flowers very quickly. I usually forgave them if they had flowers… I know, I am too soft.
I learned how to train the plants by watching videos on the Internet. Not hard. I recommend using plastic raffia: it worked very well for me. Other learning is that the right time to start an indoor culture in a hot climate is September, when you have months before it is too hot for the plants. I have to say that tomatoes are incredibly tough and resist varied conditions, but you will only get their best if you give them optimal conditions.
Next time I also want to change the seed selection. I will make sure that I get the best seeds I can find, because the time investment is too high to waste it with mediocre seeds. Talking about time, I discovered that although things happen very fast at the beginning, they appear to slow down later. Since I saw the first set flower until the first tomato turned red, more than a month passed. Be patient. If you do not like to wait, try faster cultures, like leafy greens or green sprouts.
Another thing I have learned is how special the whole experience is. Farming has deep meaning. It will connect and enlighten you. It is also a wonderful hobby to share with your family. Do not forget that at the end you can consume your produce. Knowing how to grow food will also be handy after a zombie outbreak. Definitely worth trying.