I have really been enjoying my time interning at Nourish the Planet. After starting a few weeks ago, I’ve learned so much and have had so many ideas pop up in my head I thought it would be a good idea to start putting some of them down and keep a record of my learning experiences.

I’ve become confident in completing most daily monitoring tasks on my own, especially water quality and daily checks for the aquaponics systems. As well as the aquaculture systems, making sure they are all functioning properly, and harvesting fodder.

Over the weekend we worked on tidying up the place a bit by pulling weeds and basically going through things and organizing them. I also worked on the tomatoes, and pruned them in hopes that it will result in more healthy plants and prosperous fruit. I learned how to properly prune a tomato plant, and the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes

Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called “bush” tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet).

They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, and ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die.

They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or “suckered” as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container (minimum size of 5-6 gallon). Examples are: Rutgers, Roma, Celebrity (called a semi-determinate by some), and Marglobe.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called “vining” tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet, although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season. They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. The need for removal, and advisability of doing it, varies from region to region. By removing suckers from an indeterminate tomato plant, you can create a more consistent yield over a longer period of time. You just want to make sure you don’t remove all of them or you’ll be left with no fruit in they end. Experimentation with techniques is recommended to see what works best for your project. Because of the need for substantial support and the size of the plants, indeterminate varieties are not usually recommended as container plants. Examples are: Big Boy, Beef Master, most “cherry” types, Early Girl, most heirloom varieties, etc.

I love learning new little gardening tips! This week I learned that by giving tomato plants a little shake, this will help pollination and increase fruit production. I also learned a good method to grow indeterminate tomatoes in an aquaponic system. By attaching a string from the base of the plant to above it with a clip, you can create a trellis for the vines to grow and fruit. I really look forward to learning more about the plants and new ways to grow them. I’m always interested in learning more about plants, gardening, fish, and sustainable ways of living so I’ve really been enjoying my time here.

I’ve started to do some research on fodder because the aquaponic fodder system suddenly had decreased significantly in production. We mainly grow barley but sometimes wheatgrass is used instead (I have yet to see the wheatgrass process). The barley was doing great and producing dense healthy flats of fodder everyday until summer really kicked in. When I looked into it I found that air circulation, humidity, and temperature are a big factor when it comes to growing fodder.

I’m thinking that the increase in heat has caused a slight increase in humidity within the warehouse were the fodder station is. I’ll be able to check the records from weeks earlier to really tell if there’s been a significant increase in humidity in relation to higher temperatures. Increasing airflow might help regulate the humidity and whisk away extra moisture preventing residue build up and decreasing the chances of mold to develop.

Another issue is that the trays are not reaching even close to 100% germination; I have been seeing a rate of 30-60%. The germination is also very uneven and spotty. My first hypothesis is that there is build up in the tubes that deliver water flow through the trays and therefore causing an uneven water flow across the trays reducing the germination rate. I will be keeping up to date with fodder system as I continue to learn more.

I hope you are interested in my ideas and comments, and you will definitely see more blog articles from me in relation the fodder and its productivity.

Referance: http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/tomato/2000082337022708.html

Written by: Katie Schemering, Aquaponics Intern

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