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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old May 16, 2017   #1
Walt B.
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Default Whats Wrong With These Plants?

I'm trying to figure out why one of my tomato boxes is struggling a bit. I have two 7'x4' SIPs filled with Raybo's 3-2-1 mix. One of my boxes with 2 cherry tomatoes looks fine....no wilt or leaf discoloration......the other box with 6 plants looks stressed. Some leaf curling and purplish veins on the underside of the leaves. I mixed in Tomato-Tone initially and have been top water fertilizing with Texas Tomato Food weekly for the last two weeks (seeds started in late January....planted on 3/21). The weather has been pleasant all spring (high 70's) . I'm leaning towards phosphorous deficiency but would like to hear more seasoned opinions.
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Old May 16, 2017   #2
Walt B.
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We have had a couple of cooler nights in a row.........mid 40's. Maybe has something to do with it. Except the cherry tomatoes show no similar symptoms and neither does the tomatoes in the ground for that matter.
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Old May 16, 2017   #3
edweather
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Sounds like your mix is good. Just curious why you used Tomato Tone in an SIP. From what I've read organics have a hard time breaking down in a soil less mix due to lack of microbes, and are better suited for in ground applications. Not quite sure why you are top fertilizing, but probably can't due much harm. When I had my SIP's I would only fertilize through the water I filled them with. Actually I would feed them every time I filled the reservoir with a weak fertilizer solution. The Texas food should work well for that. How often are you adding water?
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Old May 16, 2017   #4
Walt B.
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Tomato Tone does include the microbes that break down the fertilizer.....and secondly its recommended by Raybo who's mix I'm using. I'm new to Texas Tomato Food fertilizer and weak as it is.....I'm wary of overfertilizing by mixing it directly into the reservoirs of my SIPS which hold about 55 gallons of water. At least until I get more familiar with this particular fertilizer. I'm filling the reservoir about every 15 days but the reservoir is dry before that.
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Old May 16, 2017   #5
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It does look like P deficiency, the question is why? P deficiency is typically caused by either cold soils, a real lack of available phosphorus, overly wet soil (lack of oxygen in the root zone), or a soil water PH issue (too low or too high a PH will limit P uptake)
Walt's fertilizer regimen is a mix of organic and conventional. Tomato-Tone mixed into the soil is fine, it contains some beneficial bacteria to help to mineralize nutrients (I would prefer to have the roots inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi when they were small transplants to provide the plants with more soluble P).
Even so, the Texas Tomato Food supplies available P directly to the roots, so P availability really shouldn't be a problem.
I'm guessing the soil conditions are too wet or there is a PH issue. ?????
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Old May 16, 2017   #6
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Have you had any strong winds with cool nights? I've got some of that going on and i'm
a bit concerned. We've had some cool nights. High winds yesterday. The trays under a
folding table were more protected and seem fine. A couple trays that were left out on
top got a bit beat up. They also received some unexpected morning sun as the sun's
path changed quicker than i expected. Noticed that Sunday being home all day.
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Old May 16, 2017   #7
edweather
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[QUOTE=Walt B.;640286]Tomato Tone does include the microbes that break down the fertilizer.....and secondly its recommended by Raybo who's mix I'm using. QUOTE]

OK, sorry, I didn't realize that. Are there tomatoes on the plants yet? I know my smaller plants and seedlings commonly have purple undersides that go away over time. Purple undersides usually indicate lack of P, but it seems there should be plenty available. Did you use the recommended amount of lime in the mix? I agree the leaves look a little stressed, but not too bad. Maybe cool nights are the issue. It might correct over time.
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Old May 16, 2017   #8
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Those microbes are highly dependent upon temperature. It has to be warm before they can thrive, or at least not too cold. It's the same with any organic fertilizer. I think you'll be fine when it warms up.
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Old May 16, 2017   #9
Walt B.
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I checked the PH before I planted and it was 7ish....but that was with one of those cheap PH testers so who knows how accurate that reading is. I did inoculate the roots with mycorrhizal fungi on planting out. It certainly has been brisk at night the last week or so (mid 40's).....so that could certainly be a factor. But considering the tomatoes in the other box (cherry tomatoes) and the ones planted in the ground don't seem to be affected I'm not so sure.

There are quite a few tomatoes on the plants already......some golf ball sized already. I do worry about overwatering......and I'm not refilling the reservoir as fast as I did last year allowing things to dry out a bit, but by design you shouldn't be able to overwater these SIPs as the wicking properties are more dependent on the amount of soil media that is in contact with the reservoir (between the landscape piping) and not the amount of water in the reservoir.
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Old May 16, 2017   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
Those microbes are highly dependent upon temperature. It has to be warm before they can thrive, or at least not too cold. It's the same with any organic fertilizer. I think you'll be fine when it warms up.
Looking at the Sacramento weather forecast, the temps haven't been that bad. warm daytime temperatures and 50's at night. Warmer than here with daytime swings from high 40's to 70 sometimes and nights in the 40's most of the time. My plants are still potted up and I take them outside in the day if there's no storms or high winds and usually bring them in the garage for the night. All mine are feed organically and inoculated and have not a stitch of any sign of nutrient deficiency. So I'm not thinking Walt's problem is temperature related. I've not seen P deficiency myself in the past unless the soil temp was real cold, like 30's or low 40's.
Sure, microbial activity is related to temperature but he's also using nutrient salts from the TTF which are not dependent on microbial activity.
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Old May 16, 2017   #11
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I don't grow in SIPs, so I defer to your experience.

I haven't used TTF, but in looking at the organic ingredients of it, they all give me problems in cold weather if I include it in media or fertilizers. So my perspective may certainly be biased, as someone who has killed a lot of plants with organic ferts
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Old May 16, 2017   #12
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Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
I don't grow in SIPs, so I defer to your experience.

I haven't used TTF, but in looking at the organic ingredients of it, they all give me problems in cold weather if I include it in media or fertilizers. So my perspective may certainly be biased, as someone who has killed a lot of plants with organic ferts
The only organic components of TTF are "Bat guanos, Sea Kelp, Mycorrhizae, Earthworm Castings, Humic Acid, Vitazyme®, Amino Acids", why would these give you problems in cold weather or any weather? Haven't used it myself but it seems from the positive effects people have reported that the organic components are are the magic added to the hydroponics grade salts.
OK, you've got to tell me how you killed a lot of plants with organic ferts.
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Old May 16, 2017   #13
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The organic matter in those fertilizers is there to feed bacteria. In warm weather, it is the beneficial, aerobic bacteria that grow. But in cold weather, anaerobic bacteria like pythium take over. I get stem rot, mostly from fish emulsion. Using any mix that contains worm castings, like Light Warrior, and letting the plants get below about 50 or so, especially when in six-packs, will make them turn yellow and purple, and become permanently stunted. Microdwarfs and PL varieties seem to get it the worst. I toss out several flats of plants every season due to these problems.
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Old May 16, 2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
The organic matter in those fertilizers is there to feed bacteria. In warm weather, it is the beneficial, aerobic bacteria that grow. But in cold weather, anaerobic bacteria like pythium take over. I get stem rot, mostly from fish emulsion. Using any mix that contains worm castings, like Light Warrior, and letting the plants get below about 50 or so, especially when in six-packs, will make them turn yellow and purple, and become permanently stunted. Microdwarfs and PL varieties seem to get it the worst. I toss out several flats of plants every season due to these problems.
50°F or so? Don't you use heat mats or something to keep the soil temperature up? Soil temperature is what matters.
Pythium and other common damping off pathogens are not bacteria, they are not even fungus, they are Oomycetes (water molds). They don't care what kind of nutrients you use or what kind of medium you use. Pythium is the scourge of hydroponics water culture too with no organics. It's true that
Pythium may do better in anaerobic conditions which is one reason why over watering should be avoided Temperature has little to do with whether there are aerobic or anaerobic conditions, it's the level of oxygen in the soil. Yes beneficial bacteria are more active in warm soils but they don't shut down and go dormant unless the soil temperatures are really cold.
Spores can come from anywhere, your water source, on your shoes from walking outside, dirty tools or containers, previously infected dead roots laying around, even through the air. Their spores (called zoospores) germinate in water in the presence of plant roots, they are not immobile like fungal spores, they have flagella similar to what some bacteria have which allows them to swim to plant roots. That's where they infect inside the root, feed, grow and reproduce. They don't eat your fertilizer, whatever that may be.
I've only had damping off once some years ago in a so-called sterile mix. How the spores got there, I have no idea. Haven't had it since I followed the following program. I think your best bets since it is a persistent problem for you is to keep the environment clean and disinfected as possible, avoid bringing in any possible outdoor sources of spores and then inoculate at first with the seed beneficial rhizobacteria and fungi (trichoderma and mycorrhizal fungi) to give the growing roots a defensive shield against those pathogens. Reinforce the microherd with more inoculations maybe in 2 week intervals.











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Old May 17, 2017   #15
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Heat mats would be great if they made them in 4' x 8' size. The ones I have seen are the size of pillow cases.

That's a good point about pythium not actually being bacteria. I think pythium spores are in every breath of air we take. My greenhouse is in a 40-acre field. There's no sterilizing nature.

I think the best bet for me is simply avoiding organic fertilizers, at least until summer arrives. If I lived in an area of the country where people would pay $6 for a certified organic plant, then I could make enough money to pay for the extra heat required to be organic, but I don't. There is an organic plant vendor at my market, who is a very nice person that I like a lot, but her early stuff never looks very good. I can tell she doesn't have heat in her greenhouse either. Her plants improve a lot as the weather warms.

Pro-Mix comes without organic matter in it for a reason - that's the recipe that guarantees the most success across the largest spectrum of conditions. And I think it's the same with synthetic fertilizers. They work for me in cold weather, when the organic ones don't.
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