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24.09.2014 admin
We’ve had a terrific season of growing tomatoes for the last eight or nine months and right through into the Queensland winter. I must admit being a bit cautious about what the flavour of an aquaponically grown tomato would be like.
But there is a trade-off with tomatoes grown in aquaponics and that is you will get rampant growth. The tell tale signs that things are powering along below the pebbles is that the water bringing in all that lovely fish nutrient will start to pool on top of the gravel or clay pebbles. Its not really a problem that worries us greatly if we are getting good growth and plenty of fruit. It had still plenty of green and ripe tomatoes coming along but the system badly needed some attention. Lifting the plant out of the grow bed revealed that the root-ball does not grow down to the bottom of the trough but spreads out laterally like a thick carpet of mulch. Any compost worms you’ve thrown into the system will adhere in this layer feeding off bacteria. A good technique is to use a plastic laundry basket to wash and drain the roots, free the pebbles and allowing them to be reintroduced back into the system.
Some people just let them dry out in the sun for a few days, loosening the roots, making them more brittle and easier to dislodge. This same plastic laundry basket was also used as a nursery tank for our small baby Jade perch. Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics Secrets also covers laundry baskets and other innovative uses including salt baths plus heaps of Aquaponics related information.

We’re attending a tomato growing workshop this week, a very knowledgeable farmer will be sharing her wisdom with the group. I like to buy seeds that originate in regions with similar climates to the ones that I am attempting to grow in.
We can assure you if you choose a good old fashioned variety the tomatoes you grow will outclass anything you can buy in the shops. Aquaponics can grow tomatoes very well but it can’t work miracles, so choose your tomato variety carefully before planting for good results. Water pooling like this can indicate you have either far too much water running into your grow-beds or if there’s a tomato planted nearby.
But after a while you need to do some maintenance because the root-ball will crowd out other plants growing nearby and you’ll notice your tomato vine is just getting rampant and out of control. Because larger fish will eat baby fry, you’ll need to separate them so an inexpensive basket like this was placed in the fish tank until the fish got larger and able to fend for themselves. We’ve been up less than three months and only recently been able to plant tomatoes in 2 new GBs. Our system is now about two and a half years old and growth has come on well over that period. Young aquaponics systems under 12 months do struggle a bit with heavy feeding plants like cabbages, tomatoes etc. For example, if I am growing in sandy soil on the hot side of my house, perhaps a mediterannean Roma?
Tomatoes like a temp between 50F and 90F and if your water is too cold it might be a problem.

Things will likely be very different in a few months though, we’re heading into fall soon, and sunlight hours will be a factor.
The Roma tomatoes are showing signs of deficiencies, as too another variety whose leaves have gotten purple areas. I’ve noticed a difference in how much energy I have to exert to help my tomatoes thrive, by being carefully selective of what varieties I use. We have grown Romas without problem in Aquaponics but have found the smaller sweet cherry tomatoes and the Amish Paste variety to grow very well and produce good tasting fruit. The larger varieties like Beefstake and Black Russian I didn’t have success with and found them very ordinary and took a long time to ripen.
Ultimately your climate zone, heat and low humidity, pollination conditions etc can play an important role in success with aquaponics.
Once its humming along all we do is throw a little bit of lime into the system (a handfull every second week) to buffer the pH down to a more tolerable level (pH 6.8) so fish and plants can live in ideal conditions. Might be an idea to see what other gardeners in your locality have had success with and try their suggestions.

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