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Old February 23, 2008   #1
rnewste
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Default Myth-Busters "Challenge" Tomatoville-style - - CONFIRMED or BUSTED

When I called my friend Jamie, up in Alameda, suggesting they should do a segment on “Tomato Myths – Confirmed or Busted”, I was met with thundering silence. His only response was: But Ray, tomato myths aren’t “Show” (Hollywood-speak for low audience interest - - no explosions or cars crashing into each other).

So, in the true spirit of Myth-Busters, I am going to put half of my tomato crop in jeopardy this year. Having visited the Galapagos, and Fanning Island in the remote South Pacific, I have always been impressed with Natural Selection in flora and fauna. So what better way to experiment doing “A/B” comparisons than with identical tomato plants in a controlled eco-system like an Earthbox.

As I am doing the “Noah’s Ark” thing this year (2 identical plants per one EarthTainer) I can precisely control variables such as: water availability, growing-media uniformity, fertilization, sun exposure, such that I can keep everything constant, and change only one variable at a time. This is something difficult to accomplish with in-ground planting.

Now for the “Challenge”. I have 12 containers that will contain two identical plants, with a divider isolating the plants from each other (see photo below). Each plant will have identical access to water through the wicking basket; both plants will be in the same amount of Miracle Grow Potting Mix with Moisture Control (except Myth # 7), and both plants will have identical exposure to the Sun. I have come up with 9 of the 12 “A/B” experiments, and need your help suggesting another 3.

Now for the Myths - - Confirmed or Busted!!

1). Aeration Screen – few holes vs. lots of holes. Victim: JD’s Special C-Tex

2). Fertilizer – strip vs. ring around plant. Victim: Purple Haze

3). Epsom Salts vs. Dolomite as a supplement. Victim: Earl’s Faux

4). Wall-O-Water vs. none. Victim: Paul Robeson

5). FoxFarms fertilizer vs. TomatoTone. Victim: Stump of the World

6). Gypsum added to potting mix vs. none. Victim: Goose Creek

7). Miracle Grow vs. Sta-Green with Moisture Control. Victim: Ed’s Millennium

8. Battery toothbrush assist vs. natural pollination. Victim: Brandywine Sudduth

9). Single stem vs. two stem plant to assess productivity. Victim: 1884 Purple

10). ________________________________________ Victim: Stupice

11). ________________________________________ Victim: Dona

12). ________________________________________ Victim: Cherokee Chocolate


Let's have some fun!!


Ray
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Last edited by rnewste; February 23, 2008 at 05:40 PM.
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Old February 23, 2008   #2
dcarch
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should be very interesting.

Here are two you can try:

1. put a reflective aluminum panel behind one, so one plant gets light from front and back.

2. I often wonder if thicker stem will give you more production:
http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...hlight=thicker

dcarch
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Old February 23, 2008   #3
rnewste
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2. I often wonder if thicker stem will give you more production:
http://www.tomatoville.com/showthrea...hlight=thicker

dcarch[/quote]

This is my intent with Myth #9 by comparing a (stronger) single stem plant, to a (skinny) multi-stem plant, to see which configuration will produce more tomatoes.

Ray
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Old February 23, 2008   #4
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How about daconil vs no daconil?
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Old February 23, 2008   #5
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How about the IRT Red Mulch test (supposed to increase yields by 20 percent). You can now buy individual 3' by 3' squares of this from garden supply catalogs.

Bill
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Old February 23, 2008   #6
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Craig,

In growing tomatoes here in N. California, I have never used a Fungicide in 25 years. Hopefully, with the tomato plants now "above ground" in their EarthTainers, I should experience a further reduction from exposure to soil-borne diseases.

Bill,

What is the "science" behind the 20% increase in yield with red mulch? If it is reflective based, the small surface area in an EarthTainer would probably not have any effect. It would seem you would need a large reflective area out around the plant to have any meaningful impact. Right? (But I will be happy to try the experiment if you think I should).

Ray
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Old February 23, 2008   #7
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Ray, what about different pruning methods.??
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Old February 23, 2008   #8
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Robin,

Good suggestion. I think it was Ami who had posted pictures of his pruning method. Maybe he can suggest the "A/B" pruning approach I should use.

I also need to have Morgan give me a "brush-up" on how best to use the vibrating action of the toothbrush in the flower.

Ray
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Old February 23, 2008   #9
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This is priceless. Absolutely classic!

Cost of potting soil and tomato seed: $500. Cost of 12 DIY EB's: $300. Cost of digital camera to record everything: $400. Ray taking on Hollywood in a tomato myth-busting demonstration. PRICELESS!!!

If Hollywood can't do it, Ray can! This is going to add trememdously to the fun and education here in 2008! I'm increasing my DSL speed just for this!

Don
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Old February 23, 2008   #10
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What is the "science" behind the 20% increase in yield with red mulch? If it is reflective based, the small surface area in an EarthTainer would probably not have any effect. It would seem you would need a large reflective area out around the plant to have any meaningful impact. Right? (But I will be happy to try the experiment if you think I should).


*****

Clemson U was the place where the red plastic mulch was developed and tested and it was for commercial gardeners who grow determinate type plants.

I was present at the NE fruit and vegetable conference when they made their first presentation.

Initial results did show around a 20% increase but since then almost everyone agrees that 10% is more like it.

And you have to have lots of room on all sides of the plant for the red stuff to see any result at all.

So.......you've got a plant that normally gives you 20 tomatoes and maybe you get two more withe red mulch.

is it really worth it? I don't think so. Not considering such a modest increase as opposed to the cost of the red plastic.
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Old February 23, 2008   #11
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Carolyn,

Thanks, this confirms that a large reflective area (commercial growers) is needed for effect. The relatively small mulch area of an Earthbox wouldn't give the desired result.

TomatoDon,

The assembled cost (out of pocket, not valuing my time at all) comes out to $25.00 for the containers and hardware, $12.50 for the EarthBox Company's Automated Watering System, plus $14.00 per container for 78 quarts of Miracle Grow Potting Mix.

Offsetting this is that I will NEVER have to pick up a hose to manually water again, and NEVER have to weed again, and NEVER have to run that cantankerous Rototiller again. For me, this has been a very worthwhile expenditure.

Anybody want to buy a (used) rototiller CHEAP??

Ray
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Old February 23, 2008   #12
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I tried red plastic mulch in 2007. Once the plants are big you can hardly see the plastic, unless you have a really big piece of it, such as covering the whole bed. Doesn't look too great either. I'm guessing this is another one of those things that works in theory and at a research station, but is not all that practical for the real world.

Just my opinion, but I won't try it again.

Don
BTW Ray, I think there is a web site still floating around out there somewhere that gives a detailed scientific angle on it. I think that's where I got the idea, but after my own test, I saw no practical value to it.
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Old February 24, 2008   #13
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I have one: dolomite vs gypsum+epsom_salt
(The epsom salt supplies magnesium to the one
that gets gypsum.)

The question is whether either plant gets BER.
(Did the dolomite break down sufficiently over
the course of the season to supply enough calcium
to prevent BER?) You would have to fertilize both
with a fertilizer that contains no calcium to take
that out as a variable. I assume that the potting mix
has negligible amounts of it.
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Old February 24, 2008   #14
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Last year I tried an experiment with red versus black versus no mulch.

I grew in 4ft by 40ft beds. I grew the same varieties in 3 different beds. One with red mulch, one with black mulch, and one with no mulch. Also, I grew some determinites, some semi-determinites and some indeterminites.

I was unable to properly determine the results due to physical issues and general craziness of the farm. However,the plants in beds with red mulch did produce for a few weeks later than the other beds due to the delayed onset of disease versus the other beds. Don't know why, but that is how it played out.

Like most things, it is not too expensive (cost per plant) when done on a larger scale. I always use a mulch of some kind to help prevent some diseases and weeding. My big problem with the red mulch is that the large rolls are not perforated, thus not letting what little rainwater that we receive to the plants.

This years "mulch" experiment will be white-on-black plastic versus black plastic. Part of the theory here is that the white-on-black should not heat the soil as much as the black. The black plastic heats the soil too much for us here in the South when making later plantings. We'll see what happens.

Ray,
I agree that it probably isn't practical for use in a single earthbox. As Carolyn indicates, the official studies were done on determinite plants in commercial situations. Obviously the most appropriate use. Not my best suggestion.

Bill
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Old February 24, 2008   #15
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""Ray,
I agree that it probably isn't practical for use in a single earthbox. As Carolyn indicates, the official studies were done on determinite plants in commercial situations. Obviously the most appropriate use. Not my best suggestion.

Bill[/quote]""

Bill,

Another factor why the Red Mulch won't have much of an impact in an Earthbox is due to the tomato plants being "elevated" in the cage system, therefore not benefiting from the radiant effect.

I suspect the University study that Carolyn cited with a 20% increase in productivity had the tomato plants either lying directly on the Red Mulch, or suspended near the ground using the Florida weave method - not something you would do in an Earthbox.

dice,

Can you explain a bit more on your experiment? What exactly do you want put in Side "A" of the EarthTainer, and what do you want put in Side "B"?

Ray
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