Polygreens Podcast

053: Hydroponically Grown Tomatoes Part 2

December 17, 2021 Joe Swartz & Nick Greens Season 1 Episode 53
Polygreens Podcast
053: Hydroponically Grown Tomatoes Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

In this Part 2 episode Joe and Nick will explain about hydroponically grown tomatoes one of the most common methods used for tomato farming, the Dutch Bucket method.

More about Joe Swartz:
Website: https://amhydro.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HydroConsultant

More about Nick Greens:
Website: https://www.nickgreens.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/InfoGreen

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Polygreens Podcast Episode 53

[00:00:00] Joe Swartz: Shorter wider, thicker stem. So again, I use my analogy of, of solar panels. We want as much leaf area as possible with good Sam stem strength to basically could complete photosynthesis and develop energy within the plant. So what we want to do is we want to make sure that the plants have the right environment, the proper light.
And as you said, space, Most most growers, one of the big mistakes I always see in their ceiling production is they leave the ceilings too close together. Once the plants are touching, physically touching each other, some profound changes are starting to happen. Yeah. So now the plants are going to start competing and they start releasing, start slapping each other.
When they're not looking, you don't know what's going on, but certainly, certainly you want to keep them spaced. So they are not touching each other one because you don't want. Uh, you want better air movement, but once they begin to physically touch, now they're going to start growing upright to, to try to compete for light.
And we don't [00:01:00] want that.
[00:01:00] Nick Greens: And the 14 people trying to sleep in a, in a five by five bedroom, or like a 10 by 10 bedroom or something, then, you know, never going to
[00:01:08] Joe Swartz: work out well. Yeah. So, um, so we want to make sure that, that the plants have that adequate space and another trick that I've always liked. Is brushing plants respond to physical touch.
And so by very gently, this is kind of an old school grower technique. Some growers now use air movement to do the same thing, but anything that causes some slight physical movement in the plant. And like I said, putting a fan on your plants gently again, gently, um, is important. Um, or what we used to do is we had basically, it was like a long broom handle with, with strings hanging off at like, like a, like a, like a mop or a brush, and just very gently once a day, brushing the tomato seedlings and it made for a much thicker.
Uh, tomato seedlings. So you have a much more robust plant with a thicker stem. Now, when you [00:02:00] look at the thickness of a tomato stem, a tomato stem that's thicker has more vascular tissue and it can absorb water and nutrient and move it around much more effectively than a, a thin spinning. Type of, uh, stem.
So we want to make sure that we're growing our seedlings, using all the right environment, giving them space and in some cases actually providing physical context. So, um, from day one, we want to make sure that our nutrient solution is appropriate. So again, know developing a nutrient program. Conventional a hydroponic fertilizers.
There's a lot of great products out there. We am hydro has a tomato formula and it's a it's specifically, you know, adjusted for, for the right growth stage. And, and that's where again, growers tend to sometimes not pay as much attention. We want to raise high quality, short, thick seedlings that are rapidly growing that have plenty of leaf area [00:03:00] index for good photo sensors.
And now we want to develop them to the point where they're ready to transplant into the main growing system. And that's a big question. A lot of times people will ask me about the number of days or the certain stages, or some growers are just anxious to get them out in the greenhouse. And as soon as the plants are up, they'll kind of arbitrarily put them out and transplant them in the growing system.
And so this is a critically important time because what we're doing is we are preparing a seedling. To transplant out into the main growing system and the minute, uh, and while it's growing in the ceiling system, it's again, it's a vegetative state. When we go into the main system, now we want to shift it to the generative state.
So basically when we transplant it, it's like we flip that switch and go, okay, now we want you producing fruit. So there's some changes and some things that we need to do now. 
[00:03:51] Nick Greens: Well, the, you know, the way mighty, uh, uh, what is it? Mighty vine, just his business plan is. But they do is they have, I [00:04:00] think I even spoke about this before the other end.
Another lens is the, where they breed. They breed all of the species that they grow. Um, the, the, in Canada, they, they, they, uh, they do the whole seeding and propagating to a certain height, and then they ship them from Canada to Illinois to do all the flowering and Illinois. Yep. Yeah. That's how this is how important it is that Joel is speaking about, like beginning seedling stage is because this is the part, I mean, other companies are just having the experts do 
[00:04:34] Joe Swartz: it, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. There are specific nurseries. All they do is produce seedlings and they do it well. Uh, but they, but they certainly do, uh, do a lot of. Of high quality production because they're focused on what's what's going on with that 
[00:04:48] Nick Greens: ceiling and their whole, and their whole greenhouses are designed to just do seedlings all the time.
Exactly. 
[00:04:54] Joe Swartz: Yup. So, uh, some growers will actually take a tomato plant and as Nick alluded [00:05:00] to earlier, The tomatoes are very quickly. We'll start producing side shoots. So, uh, other growing points. So we have a singular growing point of the center of the plant, but now the plants are also producing side shoots that called suckers.
They're called, um, uh, side growth, um, to whatever you would like to use the 
[00:05:16] Nick Greens: scout every day. Like you'll come out. Like if you, if you go to scout and then a week later, You'll get confused at which ones are the, are the suckers and not, they got 
[00:05:26] Joe Swartz: so big. We don't want that to happen. We want to stay on top of it, but sure.
That does definitely happen. So some growers will actually train to growing points in a tomato plant. So when the tomato plant is grown out, it's actually. Split into two plants. Other growers will just grow a singular plant, put two plants together. And when we move, plant them out. So that's really up to you.
Um, there advantages and disadvantages of both, but basically what we're doing is raising our seedling plants to the point of flowering. So when a tomato plant has about six, between six and 10 leaves on the main stem, [00:06:00] it will then produce a flower cluster. And when the flower cluster starts to become. Uh, mature and the flowers are getting ready to open.
This is kind of that, that point where we want to start transplanting them out. So basically most commercial growers will transplant when usually when they are just about to open or maybe even the first flower is starting to open. Now that's a fairly large ceiling plan. So that in a tomato plant, that's a tomato plant that may be almost a foot tall, a fairly thick and fairly wide.
And so, so you need a lot of space to grow them. But you are basically producing a plant that is getting ready to really shift hard into the vegetable 
[00:06:40] Nick Greens: two weeks or two weeks, I mean, two months. Right? So you're looking at about eight weeks, 10 weeks, 
[00:06:46] Joe Swartz: but it depends on the light and the environment and 
[00:06:48] Nick Greens: I'll call the temperature was and like, yeah, 
[00:06:51] Joe Swartz: exactly what we want, ideal conditions.
So, so certainly though at that first flower, That is the really the ideal time to [00:07:00] transplant. So that's when they're moved out into the growing system. And once they're transplanted into the system, they, whether it's a bucket system or a hanging gutter system, the drip irrigation steaks are attached to irrigate the top of that ceiling.
Now you don't take the plant out of a ceiling. Can you literally take the propagation block that the plant is in and you place that block right on top of your growing medium and you. As you would normally, and the root systems will now grow into the growing medium. And so the plant is now often running, and this is where this is where the fun happens.
And so we now have to start looking at providing physical support for the. So, what we normally do is tomato plants are attached to a trellis system. So there's a series of overhead wires hanging from the trust as at the greenhouse and at each plant space, we have a small twine that hangs down from the ceiling and these twines are usually attached to some kind of real system.
They're commonly called tomato [00:08:00] rails, tomahawks there's different methods. It's basically, it's a spool to hold, uh, you know, several feet to several yards. Of twine and those are attached to the wires up overhead could be anywhere from eight to 15 feet above your head. And 
[00:08:17] Nick Greens: where's even automated systems, right.
That are spin around for you and stuff like hanger tagging 
[00:08:23] Joe Swartz: systems. Yeah. They look like something out of a, a large. Uh, dry cleaning, 
[00:08:30] Nick Greens: right? Exactly. Oh my God. It did remind me of a dry cleaning thing, but they had one at crop king and the research greenhouse. They had one there. 
[00:08:38] Joe Swartz: Yeah. I don't know if there's anybody on a larger scale using that or at this point, but it's really cool because what we want to do is basically now we have to provide physical support for the plants to grow.
And as we train them up these wires and then straight. Well, eventually we're going to start lowering the plants a little because basically we're going to have a, uh, a stem or main stem growing stem of a [00:09:00] plant that could be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet long. And so now we're talking about not only managing our environment and our nutrition, but we're also now physically managing the plants because of their size.
So we don't want again, just to let the plants grow haphazardly all over the ground. So as they train upright one, the plants, the leaves are exposed to. Much better. The plants are now the air movement to the crop is much more effective. And, um, you know, things like 
[00:09:29] Nick Greens: flip how many clips supports should be on the wire to the plant.
So I liked the wires hanging down. What do you, what do you recommend right 
[00:09:37] Joe Swartz: at the base of the plant and then every. 12 to 15 inches that the plant grows. We add another clip and these are just small plastic vine clips to basically attack 
[00:09:48] Nick Greens: every, every fruit 
[00:09:49] Joe Swartz: zone maybe. Yeah. And that, that could be done.
And that's something that's a good point. Is that when you attach a clip plastic vine clip to the plant, you want to make sure it's clipped under a [00:10:00] leaf petiole so it has some support. You never want to clip it right. Close to a fruit cluster because you can damage the fruit as the fruit starts or the 
[00:10:07] Nick Greens: grow, the fruit might grow through it.
[00:10:10] Joe Swartz: Yep. I've seen that. And I've seen as the plant pulls a little bit, the fruit cluster can actually get pinched in the, um, in the clip. So as you're clipping, you always want to make sure you're clipping around a leaf and not around a fruit cluster, but yeah, usually every, everybody, every flood or so, um, generally in the main growing season, you may add a clip every week, uh, as the plant grows up.
So the play is going, growing up now, as the plant is growing, you've adjusted your nutrient solution. Specifically for a generative fruiting production. So we're going to increase the strength. We're going to make sure we, you know, in a recirculating system, we want to make sure. And this is to your earlier question about, um, the, the weight of the growing medium, the amount of nutrients water versus the amount of oxygen.
Or dry space. So, so this is really [00:11:00] important is that what we're doing is we're trying to provide, again, the ideal environment for both the plant roots, but also all the microbial life that's going on there. Just like in soil, we have millions and billions and trillions of bacteria and fungus, uh, from, you know, the commons that we think about as streptomyces and tranquil Derma and mycorrhiza, and.
Stimulating those in and providing a good environment is, is critically important from day one. So we want to make sure that we have optimum moisture content, but a, an optimum oxygenation. And part of that is a function of how often we irrigate. It's also a function of the growing media. That's why the super course, or the course type of perlite, excuse me.
Um, the, the chorus type of cocoa fiber is important because it has more poor space. It doesn't compact and become oxygen dependent. Or growers we'll add perlite and we're making you late to the growing mix specifically to provide good drainage and oxygenation. So again, we want to really look [00:12:00] at the routing and.
And our media selection and irrigation strategies will, will support that. So, so now our tomatoes are starting to produce fruit and we are pruning or suckering where we're removing any side shoots. So as we're clipping the plant, as it grows up between. Plant is getting taller. It's also producing a lot of leaf material, but it's also producing side shoots.
So we want to keep all of that energy focused on the shoot production and the root and the fruit production. So what we do is we pull off any unnecessary, shy side shoots to keep the growth moving forward. Um, this is also a time if you ever have any, uh, insects or diseases. Um, any nutritional imbalances where we have unproductive leaves, we always want to prune those up.
That's not 
[00:12:50] Nick Greens: a question of like, why can't I keep the side shoots? Doesn't it. Give me more fruits. 
[00:12:55] Joe Swartz: Yup, absolutely. Now, so it'll drain more energy from the plant and create a, um, [00:13:00] uh, difficulty in managing the physical plant, but also to you won't get overall, uh, Good quality 
[00:13:07] Nick Greens: fruit. And sometimes that tomato will stop producing fruits as well.
Right. You're stuck in for 
[00:13:11] Joe Swartz: production kick back to vegetative state, which is now, uh, at this point you should have had a very intensive biological pest control program. And that's, that's something that you start from day one. And I was remiss while we were talking. I, I skipped over that. So when we start from day one, we want to be constantly.
Preparing for any type of insect or disease infestation that, that not only can, but will come around. So obviously a lot of our disease control is focused around our proper environment and varietals selection. And then when we look at insects and believe me Thomas, 
[00:13:49] Nick Greens: the one too, right? Like, depending on, uh, uh, say for instance, if it's January or February, I'm probably not going to see no aphids problems at all, because.
They're not [00:14:00] really around as much during those months, right? Correct. 
[00:14:03] Joe Swartz: Yeah. What is what's outside locally? We'll be inside your greenhouse at some point, but yeah, usually, and usually you 
[00:14:08] Nick Greens: can get a chart. I mean, I got, I got a book here it's I don't know. I see you can't see it. It's not showing up, but I got a chart where it's, where it's describing.
Um, the month and the problems that you have and what month, and this is, this is growing in a greenhouse book too, as well. 
[00:14:26] Joe Swartz: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean you where you are and what, what is native outside to where your greenhouse is, is obviously a big, important thing. But if you're growing me. You're going to see greenhouse whitefly you're going to see eight beds.
Thrips possibly leaf miners and yes. Spider 
[00:14:43] Nick Greens: mites. Yes, definitely. Yeah. Especially if you're a lot of, especially if you have a lot of in and out of your greenhouse, you usually tend to come in from people. I'm sorry to say, but. People bring in spider mites. 
[00:14:56] Joe Swartz: Yeah. Well, we do a show about environmental control and pest control.
We're going to, we're [00:15:00] going to really dial in on how those buggers get into your greenhouse, you know, you 
[00:15:04] Nick Greens: know, so, you know, you know, a way, right? So, and, and big facility food facilities, right? You, you have to roll your whole body with the rollers. Oh, you know, the food, you know, the rollers that you take length off of your cashmere jacket.
Sure. 
[00:15:23] Joe Swartz: The lint 
[00:15:24] Nick Greens: roller, before you go into a grow room, it should be a rule. You got to let roll. Everybody's got to let roll themselves. 
[00:15:31] Joe Swartz: I don't have a cashmere sweater that I just want to be clear, 
[00:15:36] Nick Greens: but maybe a case about a cashmere scarf. 
[00:15:39] Joe Swartz: Oh, okay. There we go. So, yeah. So, so the, the we're going to, we're going to add a future episode.
We're gonna talk a lot about that, but basically your jacket would be weird. Yeah. Especially in the greenhouse, but. But, but a biological control program from day one is critically important. So that goes without saying, [00:16:00] um, and, and managing that. Now, one of the other issues now we're starting to look at is with, uh, tomatoes is pollination.
So back in the day, tomatoes will self pollinate to a certain degree. And with any kind of physical shaking of the plant, the pollen will shake loose and pollinate the tomato flowers. What I, what I had done for years, I'm kind of an old school technique is once a day, growers would walk down the rows and they would just like a stick or a broom handle.
They would tap on the overhead wires as they walked down the greenhouse. And that would shake the plant enough to, to provide proper pollination good pollination will result in good fruit set. So a lot of times, if you have. Um, inconsistency in the, you know, the size of your tomatoes. So some tomatoes, a larger summer smaller, um, some are misshapen or if on a cluster of fruit, all the tomatoes are not close to the same size.
Um, you know, so you have a couple of big tomatoes and then a couple of small tomatoes, all of those are related to [00:17:00] improper or ineffective pollination. So, but I can 
[00:17:03] Nick Greens: germinate every flower myself. I don't need no, no, no shaker. 
[00:17:09] Joe Swartz: I think I spent a lot of time down there. 
[00:17:11] Nick Greens: I've heard people tell me this before.
This is just like, I'm like really like, no, no, you can't do it yourself. 
[00:17:17] Joe Swartz: Yeah. So bumblebees have been a really effective tool. I bought my first hive probably 25 years ago. And 
[00:17:24] Nick Greens: what is the, what is the variety that's mostly used in the greenhouses these 
[00:17:28] Joe Swartz: days? Well, there's a, there is, um, a specific. Uh, bumblebee honey producer.
No, no, no. Cause there's no nectar in a tomato flower. There's only pollen. So Bumble bees are the, uh, preferred, uh, pollinators. And, and I don't, I, I don't know the name of the specific, uh, type of bumblebee. They're smaller than a lot of the bumblebees that you may see outdoors, but very effective. You can get a small class beehive.
50 in it and it can, it can be pollinating. I think it's up to 10,000 square feet. [00:18:00] So, you know, 50 bees are just out there working all the time and, and tomato, uh, pollination happens most effectively at very specific temperatures and very specific humidity. And if you're pollinating by hand, you can't always be there at exactly the right time.
Well, the bees know when to pollinate and they pollinated exactly the right time and they do a very, they do a better job. So what we've seen with incorporating, um, Bumble bees for pollination one, uh, your labor input goes down significantly because they, they work 24 7, um, while during daylight, they did, they know the proper times and, and they're out there.
So you're not out there yourself doing it. They're working for you. And they know the right time to do it, and they do a much better job. So right away, we started to see increase the yields, better quality, fruit, better fruit set, and more uniform size. So really it it's a no brainer now for any commercial operation, you know, companies like bio best and coper, [00:19:00] biologicals culprits.
One of my 
[00:19:01] Nick Greens: favorite companies should be on a regular ordering bees. Uh, At darter have a consistency. Like he said, if you don't have enough bees doing the work, then you're going to have some irregular, uh, patterns and growth. 
[00:19:13] Joe Swartz: Yeah. So again, this is all about producing high quality consistently all the time and whatever tools we have available to us and the bumblebees are a great tool.
So, so we're now setting. And as we talked about earlier, one of the most valuable components of a CA system, if you're selling locally is instead of harvesting the fruit immature, you're allowing these plants to grow to full maturity, to full color on the vine and the quality, the flavor, the texture is unmatched.
If you were to harvest and immature tomato and. Put it on your counter and allow it to fully ripe. And the flavor profile is never exactly the same. The, the, the quality is never as good as something that you harvest now, [00:20:00] the right 
[00:20:00] Nick Greens: one that you buy from the store that came from California. When he got on the truck, they were.
Yeah. Now they got gas all the way from California to Chicago or even Massachusetts then yes. They're going to turn red after they got gas. Defied. 
[00:20:17] Joe Swartz: Yeah. Sugar conversions, never as good. And the flavor is just not there. And I mean, and, and I've seen tomatoes that were shipped immature and ripened, and the quality is very good, but certainly you can't beat a tomato.
[00:20:33] Nick Greens: The freshness you can tell is not there still 
[00:20:35] Joe Swartz: though. Right? Absolutely. Now the downside of that of course, is if you allow a tomato to ripe and fully on the vine, once you pick it, the shelf life is limited, but if you're selling to a local community, That doesn't matter because it's going to be consumed within a few days.
Um, and 
[00:20:51] Nick Greens: if you want to present, if you want to do that, then just pick them when they're like, just starting to turn pink and you can pick them then, and then [00:21:00] they're still going to be. Yeah, you're going to be amazing. 
[00:21:03] Joe Swartz: You know, that's another, uh, art, art and science intersection is when one of those 
[00:21:09] Nick Greens: believers that it's like, right when it's starting to turn a little pink is when you should pick it and let it sit and just finish off the.
[00:21:18] Joe Swartz: Yeah, I will, I will leave it on the vine till it's red. Red does already bursting open. Yeah. I'm well, I'm, I'm spoiled. I can go to, if I can make a sandwich for lunch, I'll walk out to the greenhouse, pull it tomato down, cut it up, cut it up on my sandwich and use it right. Then 
[00:21:34] Nick Greens: you don't have to fight a squirrel for you, tomato that's right, 
[00:21:38] Joe Swartz: exactly.
Um, so yeah, so, so the, when you start harvesting, your tomatoes is entirely up to you based on your market and your. So obviously you can't harvest them completely ripe if you're shipping them several days or weeks. Um, so, so that's an important consideration, but again, with the, the localized, um, [00:22:00] uh, food distribution model that hopefully you have in your own operation, you really have some great advantages there.
And I've had people tell me, they're amazed. They say these tomatoes taste just like I picked them out of the garden. And I said, well, because they ripened on the vine, just like you did. And then 
[00:22:15] Nick Greens: selling them on the vine is, is, is more dollar too, right? 
[00:22:19] Joe Swartz: That's a whole nother tomato on the vines. People like those.
Um, it gives a perception of a freshness. Um, some people just like to buy a cluster, almost like a cluster of grapes, but a cluster of tomatoes and 
[00:22:32] Nick Greens: which is technically a. 
[00:22:34] Joe Swartz: Yeah, well, we're not making a tomato wine anytime soon, but, but certainly again in cherry tomatoes are another story. We can harvest cherry tomatoes and put them in a little pint basket.
We can harvest cherry tomatoes on a whole vine, uh, cluster mine. It's, it's entirely up to you, but this is one of the real big advantages of growing tomatoes on a small scale is you can do a lot of different things. Um, heirloom variety. [00:23:00] Uh, there, you know, the yellow varieties, the tiger Stripe, the black varieties 
[00:23:04] Nick Greens: they're zebras the zebra, right?
[00:23:07] Joe Swartz: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they're really, there's so many varieties that you can do all of the same system at the same time. So you've got a lot of options there. So when you're growing tomatoes, the, you know, the, the goal is not to compete with the big tomato producers, but rather to produce something unique or something really high quality and high value.
And so the. Yeah. I mean, if you do 
[00:23:28] Nick Greens: have a big greenhouse or you're doing a huge Badal, you know, like you got to say a couple hundred Badal buckets going yeah. Do one of them, you know, a special variety or two, you know, it doesn't hurt. 
[00:23:42] Joe Swartz: No, absolutely. So if you, our environment was. Proper all the way through.
If you were managing your crops nutritionally and you're using the irrigation properly and employing good biological pest control, keeping the disease issues to a [00:24:00] minimum, keeping any pests to a minimum and pruning them properly. You should get a very long. Out of your tomato plants, 
[00:24:08] Nick Greens: airflow, what do you recommend?
Therefore, I I've, I've seen a lot of different, uh, ways done, you know, I seen blow on the floor, you know, like the big believers, they want to move all the air on the floor mainly, you know, cause the air rises right. The fresh air will then naturally rise in theory. Um, what do you believe her of both the top canopies and between the canopies or what, what is your, what is your technique?
[00:24:33] Joe Swartz: So the, the upright nature of the culture of the tomato plants really lends itself well to good air movement. That's also one reason why we prune off a lot of the Leafs on the bottom of the plant, as well as any yellowing leaves or any leaves that were. Because not only do we, are they unproductive and want to take them off, but that also facilitates good air flow.
Um, you know, managing any kind of, uh, green, uh, tomato, uh, diseases in the greenhouse. Uh, [00:25:00] environmental control is really important. Airflow is kind of the foundation of that. Moving CO2 through your crops, driving the transpiration. Lot of our friends at plant empowerment. Talk about the, the function of.
Providing the plant exactly what it needs and the air movement. Better CO2 utilization driving the transpiration of the plant. All those things are all based on good air movement. So, so moving air is critically important and, and how that's done. Obviously the horizontal airflow fan system has been around forever.
It works very effectively. I'm a big fan of applying airflow, um, underneath the tomato plants. So basically I'm using either a semi-closed system or even with a standard ventilation system blowing air underneath through poly tubes or other fantasists. Underneath the crops, applying heat to that way is really important.
And then you get the, basically the airflow is vertical. Now it goes up. 
[00:25:58] Nick Greens: I have heated floors, [00:26:00] right? That's where the heated floors come in and greenhouses, if you are growing tomatoes and you are building a greenhouse right now, and you're in plan of that. Please, please throw the heat and floors. And like, I, that money is well spent.
[00:26:14] Joe Swartz: Trust me on that. If you're in a cold climate, you know, that, that goes a very long 
[00:26:20] Nick Greens: way. Like you said, using the fans, but with those heated floors, like you just said, that's a great way of moving around. 
[00:26:27] Joe Swartz: Yep. And we're working with the thermodynamics of heat. So basically, um, heat is obviously always rising.
So for applying that heat down through the bottom of the crop and the greenhouse is heating up because the sunlight is hitting it. All that air movement is moving up through the crop, um, going through the undersides of the leaves. Which again is opening the stolemates it's driving good transpiration.
It's keeping the leaves dry or the leave surfaces dryer. That's keeping certain diseases like powdery mildew, um, or Downy mildew to, to a minimum. So there's a [00:27:00] lot of benefit to that. So the vertical air systems, as, as our, especially as our greenhouses are getting taller, the vertical air movement systems, I'm seeing a lot of benefit in.
Not, not fatal. If you only have a horizontal air movement system, 
[00:27:14] Nick Greens: zip, you seen them put tubes through the Isles of the, of the greenhouse are 
[00:27:18] Joe Swartz: above. Oh yeah. Oh, we, uh, both within the crop canopy and then underneath. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So basically you have a plastic tube with holes poked in and all the way down.
And you're, as you're blowing air is coming out evenly all the way through the greenhouse space. So you don't have certain areas getting more heat or less heat or more air movement. And the air movement is very gentle and, um, but very effective and it keeps the crops dry. It drives the transpiration and it, it minimizes.
Uh, any type of disease issues. And so all of those factors now, one of the things now CO2 utilization, obviously CO2 is a little heavier than air. So CO2 in a [00:28:00] static environment tends to settle down to the floor, but with good vertical air movement, you're basically pulling that CO2 off 
[00:28:07] Nick Greens: constantly get new CO2, just always just up and down in the greenhouse.
Yeah. 
[00:28:13] Joe Swartz: Yeah. So good air exchange is critically important and Vining crops like tomatoes really. Um, can be the difference between a really good successful high quality crop, and then a crop where you're not getting good production and you're constantly battling fungal diseases, for example. So, so that air movement is really important.
So when you got to think 
[00:28:31] Nick Greens: about it, I mean, if you take one of those Leafs, right, and you. And you look that the bottom of a leaf and you look really close and it's almost like the leaf has like all these little lips all throughout the whole leaf where it's doing its, its interaction with the environment.
And of course there's going to be water everywhere. You know, like I don't think people understand that when they just look at one leaf of what can have millions of these like little transpiration, little holes, you know, [00:29:00] like it's really like bizarre. And when I. 
[00:29:03] Joe Swartz: Yeah. I mean, the estimates are, are, are driving all of them, the movement of gas and water vapor in and out of the plant.
So again, if the environment is not correct, it's 
[00:29:13] Nick Greens: like, dude, if you really think about it, a plant. 
[00:29:18] Joe Swartz: Well, if anybody out there is a jog or goes for a run, why don't you go for a run with duct tape over your mouth and see how far you can go when you can't breathe properly? It's same concept, same thing. 
[00:29:29] Nick Greens: And when you have bad air for plant, 
[00:29:31] Joe Swartz: correct.
And a lot of that is just environmentally driven. Both the air flow. As well as temperature and relative humidity. And if those are off the estimates, we'll close up somewhat and limit the transpiration of the plant. And again, we talked about transpiration, respiration and photosynthesis, and if those three things, somehow any one of them are impacted in a negative way that slows down and impacts your crop growth.
And again, Bottom line is we want to use our simple techniques and [00:30:00] simple technologies to follow the fundamental laws of horticulture. And if we do that, that plant will grow at its maximum growth rate. It will grow the highest quality possible, and that impacts your bottom line. 
[00:30:12] Nick Greens: And then just keep up with the change of seasons with the change of your greenhouse.
You know, you add, you're adding your, your sheet, you're adding your, uh, your shade on your taking your shade off certain time. You know, in the winter time you don't want your shade on. 
[00:30:27] Joe Swartz: No, you want to, you want to maximize your life. You want to maximize 
[00:30:29] Nick Greens: some, but in the, in the peak of summer, you want your shade on because you want, you want to minimize that, that raised, that are coming in.
[00:30:37] Joe Swartz: Yeah, you can give too much, like why don't you to get over 35 or 40 moles per square meter per day, the DLI, uh, the volume of light coming in at a 24 hour periods burns the plant, burns it up. The plants can't use any more of it really effectively. We get diminishing returns. And so what happens is, is it, it generates heat and within the plant and the plant is burning energy, [00:31:00] trying to cool.
So 
[00:31:01] Nick Greens: that's in the sunburn. It's like the plant gets a sunburn. 
[00:31:04] Joe Swartz: Oh, wow. Yeah. And a lot of varieties now don't show it as much, but some of the older varieties, the green shoulder, tomato varieties, too much solar radiation actually caused what was called sunburn on the plan and reduce the quality of the fruit.
So, so certainly yeah, managing that tells 
[00:31:20] Nick Greens: you even in your germination stage more doesn't mean. Better, you know, no more light. They're not going to get big as big as they could. They'd only can move a certain speed. 
[00:31:32] Joe Swartz: More is not better. Better is better 
[00:31:34] Nick Greens: centers. Better. Attention 
[00:31:36] Joe Swartz: is better. There you go. So you want to, you want to focus on every growth, every period in the crops, growth and look at what the plants need and provide that.
And if you. The benefits will become obvious. So, so now is the, is the crop you're harvesting crop. You're still removing side shoots. You're still removing ineffective, uh, leaves. And your crop is getting toward the end of its productive life. And this [00:32:00] is where usually growers are starting new seedlings in their nursery.
So they've got new crops growing as they're finishing their old ones. And so when they decide 
[00:32:09] Nick Greens: it's time to, how long have you seen one goal? What's the most 12 months. I always heard 11 months, 12 months. 
[00:32:15] Joe Swartz: Most growers ended up using about a year cycle. I actually had a tomato crop grown for two years. 
[00:32:21] Nick Greens: Wow.
And there's still we're producing it towards the end was just still getting the production. The same really 
[00:32:26] Joe Swartz: had to, I mean, we had to stay on top of things and obviously as the crop gets older, it gets less productive. And you know, in red, dry, we, we wanted to, we wanted to push the envelope. We wanted to say, you know, 1516 months was definitely the max.
And once we were pushing two years, the productivity just wasn't there. Um, so, so managing that really, I mean, your rule of thumb is, you know, a year crop to start to. For a lot of people, but again, it really depends. Some growers will in a 12 month period will actually grow [00:33:00] two crops. Uh, the spring of fall, uh, excuse me, a winter spring crop, and then shut down in the summer and then have a fall winter crop.
And, and, you know, again, there's no right or wrong way to do it. There's there's a lot to be sad for. You know what, by 
[00:33:15] Nick Greens: the way, I've seen somebody successfully grow tomatoes with an NFT system, a nutrient film technique. 
[00:33:22] Joe Swartz: Sure. Well, because you're managing a large root system. There's some logistical issues, but certainly it can be done.
There was a grower in the UK, their name escapes me right now. We're growing cherry tomatoes in NFT commercial, and a fairly large scale, but certainly the, the, the technology or the technique that you use. Is not nearly as relevant as long as you're meeting the needs of the crop. So the even appear in 
[00:33:47] Nick Greens: certain locations and you don't have enough light throughout the, you know, you don't have summers like then LEDs, like just suck, you know, supplement what led, but don't, but just like he said about make sure you're hitting that right deal.[00:34:00] 
[00:34:00] Joe Swartz: So supplemental light is very important in areas where you were not getting sufficient light. And, and so that's, uh, another, another aspect for when we talk about, we do a segment on lighting, we're going to talk about that specifically, especially as it relates to fruiting crops, because that's where lighting requirements change and there's different benefits from different wavelengths and different DLI.
So certainly there's a lot. So, so we're, we're finishing up our crop. We have our new crop coming. Obviously this is the best time to finish the prop up, remove it clean and sanitize the greenhouse, any residual, 
[00:34:33] Nick Greens: the total amount of clusters. So say I am I'm in full flower mode. I've been in flower mode for a couple months.
How many amount of clusters should I have on my, on one plant? Is it, is it five or no? More than four clusters because the more clusters doesn't mean the better, right? It means that it might stop pruning. 
[00:34:54] Joe Swartz: No, you want way and you want to manage them. So that you basically have a [00:35:00] sequential number of clusters.
So if you looked at the bottom of the plant at the, at the main first, let's say the first cluster is starting to mature. The next cluster up should have fairly large immature tomatoes on it. The next cluster up after that should have smaller tomatoes. And so it basically gets to 
[00:35:18] Nick Greens: the flower until it gets to exactly.
Exactly. So how many, how many flowers should I have? Is there a certain amount where I have to. Not good. 
[00:35:27] Joe Swartz: Yup. So certain varieties will produce a certain number. Um, but it's also a function of proper environment. Highlight two for growing large beefsteak tomatoes. I like to prune off all the flowers or, um, small fruit on the first few clusters, two to four or five tomatoes per cluster.
Uh, most commercial beefsteak tomato varieties will produce about that anyway, but, but certainly as you're, as you're growing. Fruit. If you have one fruit on the cluster, that's too small. Um, or there's a lot of inconsistency in size. Obviously you want to look at your environment cause it's [00:36:00] a and pollination because it's, there's an issue there, but, but definitely you want to prove those off.
I always recommend with tomatoes to be pretty aggressive with pruning. So cluster pruning is just part of that. If you have fruit that are inconsistent in size or. Much smaller than the rest of them are not hurting 
[00:36:15] Nick Greens: the plant. So, so don't, don't get attached that you're, I can't remove a leaf. I can't remove this.
Like, if you feel that it's not doing the plant well, then just take it off. If there's a yellow, a yellow in leaf, I mean, it's just barely yellowing. I'm going to pull that leaf off. And if I keep on seeing it, then there's a problem. Then I'll start figuring out what it was. But if it just happened once in a while, I'm going to pull that leaf off.
Like you said, we did direct the energy, uh, and to not trying to fix the leaf, but to growing. Yup. 
[00:36:45] Joe Swartz: Yeah. Cause it's not productive. So you want to take it off, minimize any potential for disease and you want to improve the air movement and allow the plant to produce more, more, uh, more leaves that are productive.
Again. The leaves are just like little [00:37:00] photovoltaic cells and they're taking sunlight and the environment you give it and mixing it with the nutrient and water. You give it. And it's creating something. It's creating energy within the plant to produce high quality tomatoes. So anything that impacts that if you have solar photovoltaic, solar panels on your house, and they're really dirty, they're not going to be as effective in generating power.
All of those things have to be rolled into your, your tomato production. And, and so when you're finishing up your crop, you want to make sure you clean out the greenhouse properly, sanitize everything, any insect or diseases. 
[00:37:35] Nick Greens: What about sanitizing? The air with air MREs? Uh, are you a big fan of that? Of like, like nighttime when I'm not there?
[00:37:44] Joe Swartz: Not, not during the production cycle for sure. Um, you know, there is, there is some value for fogging, uh, using things like hydrogen peroxide or hydrogen dioxide, lots of different. Um, I've seen some really cool stuff with UV light [00:38:00] sterilization now. Um, lot of, lot of operations just use simple, simple.
Common chemical. Sterilants like a bleach, uh, and, and they want to clean all the surfaces and start fresh. So when your, your new tomato crop comes out of the nursery and goes into the system, it has a fresh start. And then you start the cycle all over again and, and, and that's really it. So, so when we focus on.
The overall production. We want to make sure our system supports everything from our proper route development to the proper environmental control. And we want to look at our cultural practices. You know, what, what type of tomatoes are we producing and what are the best ways to do that? And so hopefully you, we gave you some, some good ones.
Tips and tricks and enhance on growing tomatoes. Certainly if you do have some type of line grub system, uh, I strongly urge to, to do some high-end tomatoes, um, market them accordingly, market them as the real high quality specialty crops they [00:39:00] are. And, and I think that, um, you know, your bottom line will thank you on that.
And I, and I think that a lot of people will enjoy it. And, 
[00:39:06] Nick Greens: um, and in your mind, if you do have a Dutch book system, Doesn't mean that you can't get into cucumbers, uh, cucumbers also work with the Dutch bucket system. It's just, we're going to talk more deeply about those and another 
[00:39:19] Joe Swartz: episode. Yeah, we've done.
Cause we've done with the loofa sponges we've done in the, the bucket system. We've had tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers. European long English, cucumbers, and the small beta 
[00:39:30] Nick Greens: strawberries get done in the Dutch bucket as well. 
[00:39:33] Joe Swartz: That's a great point. And we've also had strawberries in the Dutch bucket systems. So really the limit is your own imagination.
I've enjoyed growing eggplant in the bucket systems as well. Yeah, they do really, really well. Yeah. So fruiting crops, it's a great system. We have a grower growing, a banana tree, you know, very large container. It's not as a Dutch bucket. It's a large potato, but it's the same. 
[00:39:53] Nick Greens: I don't think watermelons would work, please.
Uh, they're probably below the pipes out the roots, the roots might [00:40:00] get into. 
[00:40:02] Joe Swartz: We've done. We've got some small watermelon in the, uh, in the middle 
[00:40:06] Nick Greens: of our baby or sized a little 
[00:40:07] Joe Swartz: cucumber refrigerator ones. And then we did the Sharyn T melons, which are real high quality specialty Mellon. And those were really.
And there's a lot of growers in, uh, Vietnam and Taiwan that are growing cantaloupe and different types of sweet melon in the systems. And they're pretty fascinating to watch because they're these big melons hanging from a very robust structural system with inside the greenhouse. So the limit is really only your, your imagination and what.
Grow and market cost-effectively. So that, that takes a lot of time to, you know, look at your markets and develop what you want to grow, but you know, really the sky's the limit, but tomatoes are really one of those things where almost everywhere you go, there's a good market for really high quality tomatoes.
So, so anyway, so thanks very much for joining us today. Please continue to send us more questions. We'll be talking to. But more, uh, different crop production cycles, uh, in upcoming [00:41:00] shows. We also have some really cool guests coming up. So, um, please any, uh, please continue to send us your, your suggestions and your comments complaints as well.
We'll be happy to read those too, and as always, thanks very much for spending time with us today. And we look forward to talking with you again soon.