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Old January 12, 2018   #53
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
Posts: 5,830

Originally Posted by Black Krim View Post
Food security is one of my concerns. Why an early tomato is of interest to me. Tomatoes are the one food we, my family, eats the most. If the tomato plant just sits in the cold soil and does not produce fruit, then I have gained nothing and lost much in time , effort , seed and soil.
There are a huge variety of tomatoes to choose from that will produce fruit in cool weather. The larger issue will be to find the ones that produce fruit you enjoy for fresh eating.

As for cold soil, there are techniques to maximize your success at early planting. Any tomato will be stressed by transplanting into cold soil. Choose your transplant day when there are several warm days in a row, to avoid simultaneous cold stress and transplant stress. They'll be over it in a couple of days and better able to tolerate a cooler trend.
Use techniques to warm the soil. Black mulch, raised beds, water bottles are some techniques that will get it warmer and keep it warmer. If the soil is cold at the bottom of your planting hole, you can warm it with hot water. The heat will dissipate into the surrounding soil and raise the temperature overall. Warm soluble kelp solution is also a great way to water in your transplants.

That being said, you also want to minimize the humidity in your structure and how wet the soil is. It is better to err on the side of dry than wet especially when it's cold or going to be cold. So if water is used for warming or watering in, make sure it's not excess, and provide adequate ventilation until the humidity inside has equalized with the outside. If you see condensation inside on your plastic, your setup is too wet and needs to be vented asap. Condensation on the plants will promote foliage disease and also make them more susceptible to frost damage. And humidity can cause pollen to clump so that fruit don't form.

Heat in a hoop house/structure is also more of a fruit set issue than cold, assuming you choose cool weather varieties. Pollen becomes unviable over 95 F, and it's easy to reach those temperatures under plastic on a sunny day. So ventilation will be important, and vigilance as to when it should be opened or closed. The biggest challenge of a low hoop structure is the extremes of heat within and the need to ventilate it without losing all warmth advantages.
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