Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Latest House Tomato Plant Experiment

Babies see them? They are on the left and there are lots of them. The main plant on the right is from last winter. Note it is blossoming for its third time.
1. The first winter I grew Tiny Tom heirloom tomatoes under grow lights and all but a couple ended up dying from neglect in the summer. That was the first summer the grandkids came to stay. 
2. The second winter I cloned the plants and started some from seed to see the difference in growth.

3. The third winter is around the corner. Right around the corner as we are suppose to get down to 16 degrees F. mid this week. My new experiment for this fall and winter has been cutting the existing plants down and letting the scraggly things grow from a stub. The plants looked pretty sad due to neglect in August and September which is really a hectic time with trying to get kids in school, canning season, and getting everything ready for winter which never fully happens. The plants are presently under the grow lights since the sunlight hours is decreasing and the plants would simply begin to die if I did not. I tried leaving them in the window some plants in the window area last fall. Our sun hits our house from a lower in the sky from a southern direction in the winter months. Then it moves overhead in the summer months and the same winter plants that produced  in the southern window sills had to be moved to the back deck to get adequate sunlight.

 The plants after producing a total of 80 to 100 tomatoes per plant (40 to 50 at a time) died back with neglect. I picked the best plants and reduced the number. They are once more under grow lights as the sunlight decreases. I hear we won't have such a warm winter this year so I'm guessing grow lights is where they will remain  instead of the window sill.
It was not until recently that I started paying serious attention to the poorly neglected plants. I badly need to get some lettuce, spinach, etc. along with herbs growing. We miss the fresh produce and economically could really use them so I'm slowly working on getting things in production once more. Several of the tomato plants had come around and after showing a great deal of new growth were looking pretty sad once more but in a different way. Aphids took over. The cause I know was improper watering and the soil was depleted leaving the plants weakened. I hosed the plants down thoroughly with the water spraying off the kitchen sink, cut away much of the diseased area, pulled a good portion of the soil out from around the roots without completely disturbing the plants since they are blossoming, and rubbed my fingers firmly against the top and under side of the leaves to squish the bugs several days in a row. A week later, the remaining leaves looked pretty healthy.
 In their neglected stage, I had let some of the tomatoes rot on the plant and the seeds fell to the soil and new plants sprung up. As I worked over the parent plants, I transplanted some of the volunteers to smaller pots. Sometimes wonderful things happen all on their own. What a blessing! These new plants I will put in large pots around the south and west side in the windows or in front of them when the sunlight hours increase.

I love the fact that the tomatoes nurtured their own young. I've got more things to do than energy and time to do it. Our goal is to create a permaculture where nature does part of the work. Plants will produce their young or at least seed. Livestock will produce and rear their own offspring. We are finding it impossible to do all things ourselves in a self-sufficient scenario and is that really self-sufficient anyway?

A new experiment idea has sprung up from these neglected tomatoes. The plan is to clone a few of these tomatoes which I know is much faster than starting from seed. A past experiment showed that these cloned tomatoes are smaller than the ones started from seed. Handy when they are needed in the window sills.

 So far the plant size of the tomato plants cut back to nubbins and a few leaves is smaller yet but is it because of the depleted soil? I do know that nubbins, and cloned size works best under my grow lights. The started from seed plants reach at least 4 to 6 inches taller than the cloned and nubbin plants. My sun room plant stand has four horizontal shelves stacked high. It is the same type of shelves I use in the food room to put my canning jars on. Though adjustable, the height between shelves is limited.

My theory has proven correct that the plants started from the nubbins will produce more quickly than the cloned ones. Stands to reason since they have their root system established. Will they produce as many tomatoes as those cloned still remains to be seen. I did notice that even when taken care of the tomato plants after producing their tomato crop naturally die back.

Cloning tomatoes this year will have to wait as I lack room under the grow lights. The transplanted tomatoes, I plan on putting in front of the south windows later in the winter when the sunlight hours increase and they are too tall for the grow light area. 

My next hurtle is figuring out a way to keep this indoor garden going. I must coordinate when we need this garden most, when I an available to do the heavier work load times, and the cycle of the plants. That will be by far the hardest part of this self-sufficient project.

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