Same variety (Cherokee Purple), but the two on the left and right are soil-based seed. Our hydroponic seed is in the middle. We think there’s not only DNA Epigenetic differences that you can’t see, but also a noticeable visual difference.
Tomato World Guinness Record holder, Charles Wilber, talks about the importance of starting with good seed stock. Do you know who grows your seed?
It turns out that we have some Irish in our lineage (about 20% they say), so as one of my oldest sons played his bag pipe I thought to myself… hey! We should offer a 20% off sale on our seeds in honor of our Irish heritage and the work that St. Patrick did to influence his world for the better those many years ago!
We have been busy seeding tomatoes this week inside in preparation for the 2021 growing season and we look forward to bringing you hydroponic adapted seeds once our trials have completed. I search far and wide for unique varieties that cannot be found at the grocery store or big box gardening centers and even from large seed producers. We even have some rare varieties we are excited to try and share with you if they do well in our trials.
Every season, I feel it’s important to have FUN while you grow food for you and your family, so here are some of my personal FUN goals…
In particular, this year, I think I’m going to try and tackle growing the largest tomato I’ve ever grown. I’m thinking like, state fair size. My seed stock for this challenge comes from a private grower in Italy and we shall see how it adapts to our growing region.
I’m also focusing on more plum varieties this year, so we can make some amazing sauce and preserve it for the winter to feed our family of seven. I did some extra research and selected varieties that were favored by other tomato connoisseurs.
I’m also particularly excited about our new line-up of micro-dwarf tomatoes that don’t require a trellis and have usually one or two flushes of tomatoes before they complete their growing cycle. Because of their compact habit, they are ideal for growing in the vertical Tower Garden and for those who want to grow in small spaces like in the Aerogarden, Farm Stand, or even in a pot on your back patio or deck.
Our seed is adapted to hydroponic growing conditions in Zone 7 just west of Atlanta, Georgia. I share this info not because tomatoes are a perennial (which is typically the reason for looking at growing zones), but instead to help our home growers know where their seed is grown, so they can match it to their own growing conditions for success. Our tomatoes are all grown outdoors in heat and humidity and hand-pollinated with the exception of our micro-dwarfs which are grown indoors to limit cross-pollination.
We give our mature tomatoes a PPM range of 1400-2000 and a pH of 6.0-6.5 for maximum nutrient uptake. We recommend using the Tower Garden Mineral Blend for healthy plants and maximum growth. If you’re wondering what grows well with tomatoes in a hydroponic system, we encourage you to visit this page on our Grow Your Health Gardening Web site for more information.
If you wonder why tomato seeds can cost more than other seeds, know that tomatoes are very time-and-labor intensive to grow and require a lot of personal management with seed starting, pruning, scouting for any pest pressure, or any efforts to boost immune system through foliar application of comfrey tea and molasses tea (which helps to bring out flavor).
15 Slicer Tomato Variaties:
Apricot Brandywine Tomato
Black Passion Tomato
Big Rainbow Tomato
Delice De Nevilly Tomato (Rare)
Genovese Tomato (Rare)
Great White Heirloom Tomato (Low-Acid)
Green Elf (Tom Wagner Variety)
Merveille Des Marches Tomato (Rare)
Nostrano Grasso Tomato (Rare)
Orange Orangutan Tomato
Pomodoro Gigante Farina Tomato (Rare)
Thornburn’s Terra Cotta Tomato (Rare)
Wagner Blue Green Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)
8 Paste Tomato Variaties:
Black Plum Paste Tomato
Cancelmo Family Ox Heart Tomato
Cassidy’s Folly Plum Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)
Cream Sausage Plum Tomato (Tom Wagner Variety)
Dwarf Sneaky Sauce Micro-Dwarf Plum Tomato
Goatbag Plum Tomato
San Marzano Plum Tomato
Speckled Roman Plum Tomato
8 Cherry Tomato Variaties:
Black Cherry Tomato
Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato
Brad’s Atomic Grape Cherry Tomato
Green Doctor’s Frosted Tomato
Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato
Red Pear Cherry Tomato
Sweetheart Cherry Tomato
Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato (Low Acid)
24 Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomatoes:
Annie’s Singapore Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Bonsai Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Dwarf Suzy’s Beauty Tomato
Gold Pearl Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Fat Frog Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Florida Petite Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Hahms Gelbe Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Hardins Miniature Micro-Dwarf Tomato
Inkspot Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Kookaburra Cackle Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Little Red Riding Hood Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Mo Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Monetka Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Olga’s Round Chicken Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Peachy Keen Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Pigmy Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Purple Reign Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Regina Red Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Regina Yellow Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Snegirjok Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Vilma Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Wherokowhai Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
Willa’s Cariboo Rose Micro-Dwarf Tomato
Yellow Canary Micro-Dwarf Cherry Tomato
What do you look for in a tomato? What are your tomato aspirations for the upcoming growing season? Drop us a line in the comment section below!
I was listening to a podcast by one of my favorite market growers from Alabama, Noah Sanders, and he had a guest on from Kaleva, (Northern) Michigan, Craig Shaaf, from Golden Rule Farm who mentioned that he put red dye in an empty soda bottle and it helped his tomatoes mature earlier than anyone else’s tomatoes in the area while also sighting a Clemson University Study.
So, being that we drink a lot of sparkling water in our house, I had an empty liter lying around (we typically repurpose these for terrariums in cold hardy annuals but that’s a something to discuss for another day), so I filled it with some water and added several drops of red food coloring to it and sat it on my indoor Tower Garden near some micro dwarf unripened cherry tomatoes I was growing. Low and behold, two days later, the cherry tomatoes closest to the red-colored water began to ripen from the bottom up!
Red reflective Far-Red light encourages tomatoes to ripen.
Studies using Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM) Show Increased Yields for Certain Plants
Research originally started during the 1980s and led to development of SRM-Red, a selective reflecting mulch that has been available commercially since 1996. Plant physiologist Michael J. Kasperbauer, who retired from the Agricultural Research Service‘s (ARS) Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center at Florence, S.C. found that plastic colored-mulch’s controlling factor is not the colors themselves, but how the colors adjust the amount of blue light and the ratio of far-red (FR) to red light that plants receive reflecting from the ground upwards.
The studies used a red plastic mulch (also referred to as Selective Reflecting Mulch, or SRM for short). It is similar to black plastic mulch used frequently by growers to help warm the soil, prevent erosion, and retains moisture. The red plastic mulch is often thinner than most black weed block and allows more light (and sometimes weeds) through it.
But red plastic mulch’s true strength is in its ability to reflect certain red light waves back onto the growing plant, thereby accelerating fruit production and increasing overall yields. Past ARS work showed that red plastic mulch produced larger tomatoes and produced 20% more than black plastic mulch counterparts and the red plastic mulch also sweeter-smelling, better-tasting strawberries.
Similar results were found on peppers and eggplants as well as with lettuce.
ARS’ also tried the red plastic mulch with cotton, carrots and basil. They found that color of the plastic mulch can affect the roots, stems, leaves and seeds, as well as the fruits, of many other food and crop plants.
Research on cotton showed that cotton fibers grew longer in bolls exposed to increased FR-to-red light ratios. Another study, on carrots, showed that concentrations of nutrients and compounds such as vitamin C and beta carotene in the roots of food crops could be changed by reflecting the right waves of color onto the plants’ leaves.
What’s more, in studies with basil, the amounts of blue, red and FR light reflected onto developing leaves affected their size, aroma and concentration of soluble phenolics. The phenolics are natural compounds, including tannins and pigments that can induce color, some flavors and odors, and antioxidant activity.
Basil leaves developing above red mulches had greater area, succulence and fresh weight than those developing above black mulch. When grown above yellow and green mulches, basil leaves developed significantly higher concentrations of aroma compounds and phenolics than did those of plants grown above white and blue mulches.
The concept of colored mulch sprouted when Kasperbauer wondered whether phytochrome was equally distributed in leaves. He became curious about what would happen if light impinged on the leaf’s lower, rather than upper, surface. “The plant response was the same, no matter which surface received the light,” says Kasperbauer. “Although that experiment seemed somewhat unconventional in 1962, it became highly relevant about 22 years later, when we determined that red and FR reflected from the soil surface could act through the plant’s phytochrome system to enhance yield and quality. That led to our colored-mulch work.”
Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM) helps to Deter Nematodes
What’s more, tests done by USDA’s plant physiologist Michael J. Kasperbauer and Clemson University nematologist Bruce Fornum showed that nematode damage can be lessened by red plastic mulch. They did an interesting study where they planted tomatoes into sterile soil — some rows covered in black plastic mulch and some covered in red plastic mulch. They then inoculated both rows with 0-200,000 nematode eggs. Their findings showed the black mulch produced 8 pounds of tomatoes whereas the red mulch produced 17 pounds! That’s roughly a 113% increase in yield battling the same conditions.
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that red plastic mulch suppresses root nematode damage to tomatoes because the light reflection keeps more of the plant’s growth above ground. The plant’s energy goes into developing fruit and foliage, rather than roots. Nematodes feed on roots. The far-red light reflection to the above-ground plant draws away nutrients from the roots – and nutrients away from the nematodes. Fewer roots mean less food for nematodes. Less food = fewer nematodes.
Things to Consider When Using Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch (SRM)
Carefully secure red plastic selective reflecting mulch underneath your plants so that there is at least a foot on every side of the plant in it’s mature stage of growth.
Do not place the red plastic selective reflecting mulch in walking paths as it is thinner than other weed blocking materials.
Consider placing a weed block material underneath your red plastic SRM to help limit weeds from growing underneath.
Drip irrigation will be necessary underneath
Two other Bonus Tips for Boosting Flavor in Tomatoes:
Place 1-2 TBSP of pure natural Molasses in a gallon of water and stir well to dilute it down and place into a spray bottle and spray your leaves. This will aid in bringing out flavor in your tomatoes.
When your tomatoes are about 18″ tall, a little bit of stress at times can really boost flavor as well. Spray your plants about every 2 weeks with 1 standard strength 325 mg uncoated aspirin tablet mixed in a gallon of water and mix well until the aspirin is completely dissolved and then spray the tomato leaves with the aspirin solution (Salicylic Acid) to trigger tomato defenses. This will especially really beef up your Beef Steak varieties and boost the flavor profile as well.
Find Red Plastic Selective Reflecting Mulch for your Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Basil, Cotton, and Lettuce (and more) Crops
As committed Seed Stewards, we understand the importance of good quality seed, because strong seed means strong plants that can better fight-off pest pressure and diseases … and strong plants also mean the best nutrition possible for your body. It’s important to know where your seed comes from because the plant that seed came from has adapted to its growing environment — and if it’s different than your environment, that plant may struggle which means you struggle.
But it doesn’t have to be a struggle to grow your own food — in fact, we think it is FUN to be connected to your food from seed to harvest! Our seed for sale has been cultivated from seed and nurtured using organic growing methods on through to harvest by our family of seven. We take great pride in our seed stock knowing each generation of plants we grow only strengthens our exclusive line of seeds. We are thrilled we can now share our extra seeds with you!
We are unique in that we have thoughtfully chosen heirloom and open source varieties of vegetables, herbs, and greens (and sometimes extremely rare seed) and have grown these varieties out in one season adapting them to hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic growing conditions in the Southeast region of the United States.
As a friend of GYHG and follower, enjoy today through November 14, 2021, 21% off your first seed order! Enter code: GYHG-LOVES-ME-21 when you check out.
Thanks and we hope that this year is the year you especially grow your health gardening!
It’s on cold wintery days like this that homemade tomato soup hits the spot. These heirloom tomatoes were from our 2019 season. I was short on time the day this bag (and another bag like this) came off the hydroponic Bato Bucket system and so I just threw it in a gallon size freezer bag for the Instapot this winter. Feels great knowing it’s pure unadulterated good food for my family.
I have four sons and a daughter and we like to watch the History Channel television show called Alone. Today we rewatched the last episode of season one. As we paused to thank the Lord for His provisions, my 10-year-old blessed the meal and I had to grin when he referenced the last episode of Alone saying, “…and thank you, Lord, that we didn’t have to struggle to find food or eat any bugs or slugs today.” Indeed. We are so blessed to be able to grow our own food. And every year we do it, we get better at it and more efficient.
Learning to grow food started when I was a little girl, helping my grandma to pick beans and bring in what would be served at supper to the farm hands and our family. I remember snapping peas into threes and dropping them kerplunk-kerplunk-kerplunk into a metal bucket. It was in Grandma’s kitchen standing for hours canning cherries harvested from her pie cherry tree for her yummy homemade pies.
And my parents had a garden for a few years. I can remember planting long rows of strawberries and we would put a fish head in the hole, fill it with water, and then plant the strawberry plant in the middle of the hole gathering the earth around it and gently pressing the earth down. But they got so busy with both working that it was difficult to keep up with the garden. I remember on Saturdays I got stuck with the inside cleaning jobs while my brothers got to go out and weed the garden and mow the lawn. Eventually the garden became grass and the grass got covered when Dad’s garage was built.
In both situations, gardening was disguised as “work” to me as a child, but now, looking back, I see how it was instilling the value of self-reliance, the importance of growing food — at least until our family got caught up with eating out and running from event to event. Beware of the busyness of life…
Fast forward almost 17 years … It wasn’t until my children were being homeschooled that I realized I had taken my experiences and what knowledge I had in gardening for granted and that we all needed to be better at knowing how to grow food. I was curious about hydroponics because I was tired of fighting the Georgia clay, so we dove into learning about hydroponics together as a family while also covering biology of plants / botany. I learned so much about hydroponics that I wanted to keep going even after the kids had moved on to other subjects. And year after year, we continue to learn and grow. (Hence the name “Grow Your Health Gardening”.) I’m proud that one of my sons has become the youngest Master Gardener in our county. He was my one child that watched me save a seed and began saving his own seeds. I love his passion!
So remember, it may look like work and seem like work, but it’s good work. And when you enjoy a meal eating the very fruit of your effort, well, it’s a great feeling.
Planning a garden does take some time and financial resources to get going, but just start with what you can manage and every year try one new thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just start with what you already like to eat and
Tomorrow, I’ll post my heirloom line up for 2020 and more on why I chose them for those still planning their tomato 2020 season. 🍴👍
That’s all for tonight –
Tips for Hydroponic, Aeroponic, Aquaponic, and Soil-based Gardening Methods