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Lesson Ten

The Business of Hydroponics 10-3

Most commercial tomato growers plant an indeterminate variety from seed. They replant their 
greenhouse once a year. The seeds can be propagated in a small space and, when the seedlings 
are several weeks old, they are moved into the greenhouse. With most varieties, the grower 
will begin harvesting in about 100 days and continue harvesting for 8-9 months.

In fruiting crops, there are five primary culturing jobs that need to be done every week. These 
jobs include:

Clipping
When the tomato plants are set out in the greenhouse, they will need to
be supported. The type of support system used varies from grower to
grower but most are some variation of the following. Main support wires
are strung above the plant rows. From the main wires a string is hung
down to each plant and then the plant is clipped to it. The tomato plants
can grow as much as one foot per week so the clipping process needs to
be done every week.


Plant clip and support
string on a tomato plant

Sucker Pruning


Removing a sucker

When the tomato plants are four or five weeks old, suckers (also called
side branches) begin to grow at every leaf axial. In the greenhouse,
you groom the plant to one main stem, removing each of the side
branches and leaving only the main stem and leaves. From this point
on, sucker pruning will need to be done once a week.

A sucker is removed by firmly grasping the sucker and bending it one
way and then back.

Cluster Pruning
To ensure an even fruit load on the plant and larger tomatoes overall, a
hydroponic grower cluster prune. Cluster pruning begins when your first
tomatoes have set and are approximately the size of a pea. When cluster
pruning, you remove the misshapen, smallest and weakest fruit, leaving
the largest to develop. Depending on the season and the current fruit
 load, most of beef-steak-type tomato growers prune the clusters to 3 or 4
tomatoes and most cluster-type tomato growers prune the clusters to 5-6
tomatoes per cluster. Most growers will cluster prune their tomato plants
once a week.


Cluster pruning 

 Leaf Pruning
As a tomato plant matures, the lower leaves can be removed to encourage fresh new growth 
at the top of the plant. The lower leaves easily break off when pressure is applied at the base of the leaf.

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