It’s an exciting time in our household! We have babies! Jalapeño babies, that is.
Here is our primary Jalapeño plant; we have two plants but this guy here is definitely the largest. He is 15″ (40cm) tall from base to highest leaf. Typically Jalapeño plants will grow to be about twice that height, so my little guy is only a teenager. The plant is often called an annual, however if kept in ideal temperatures (not exposed to frost) they will keep growing and producing.
Over the last couple weeks our Jalapeño plants have been flowering. Since we are growing indoors with no bees or insects to pollinate, I have to do it myself. An old toothbrush head on the electric toothbrush really helps save the day; the vibration is just enough to get the pollen shaking loose.
As the flower gets older, it starts to wilt. But its what emerges from beneath the aged flower petals that’s the most exciting part:
I aided this guy by very gently removing the old petals; only a couple petals were left attached, and the fruit was mostly visible. You can see some of the left over pollen on the fruit. Each fruit appears to be about 1.5-2cm in size (0.5″ give or take).
We have multiple fruit starting to appear. I count four peppers so far, with several older flowers that are beginning to bulge. I don’t want to go disturbing the flowers yet in case I break them off, or ruin the chance for them to bear fruit.
I think my San Marzano tomatoes are one of our most highly anticipated crops, and also probably the most difficult to grow so far. Last time I posted I mentioned how they had just started flowering, and fruit was beginning to develop, as well as how we were fighting an edema issue.
The tomato bushes are now massive – actual bushes. I cant even get a proper photo of the entire plant in my grow room; the camera doesn’t have a wide enough lens.
Can you believe that I cut off a whole armload of branches off this plant every couple days?! Its insane just how fast they grow new leaves.
Fighting Blossom Drop
The tomato is still flowering, a lot. The biggest issue is I have blossom drop. There are a couple reasons for blossom drop such as incorrect temperature and humidity, or that they are not pollinating correctly.
I have checked my temperature, and the grow room is sitting in the ideal range. So I suspect that perhaps the flowers aren’t pollinating as well. I did get sick and stop using the electric toothbrush method as often, so in the future I am going to be a bit more precise in application – vibrate those leaves until you can see the pollen dust emerging from the flower heads.
In the last post we had the subtle-hints of fruit emerging. Well it’s safe to say that they have emerged!
We have about 14 tomatoes growing so far. Not as many as I had hoped for, but as mentioned above we had an issue with blossom drop. There are plenty of flowers on the plant with many more emerging regularly, so hopefully we will be getting more fruit over the coming weeks.
I have a lot of greenery growing, but not enough fruit… yet. Two weeks ago I planted some Strawberry seeds; the Temptation variety. I mean… I’m very tempted to eat strawberries… (bad joke, I know).
They don’t look like much, but these seeds are currently a 7 week effort to get growing!
A while back I learnt that some seeds won’t germinate at warmer temperatures, and in fact need to experience freezing temperatures in order to leave dormancy. You can mimic these temperatures by storing your seeds in the fridge. This process is called stratifying. So for the last month I have had a variety of strawberry seeds just chilling away in the fridge, literally.
To see the seeds actually germinating is really quite rewarding. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be able to grow any. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how these grow over the coming weeks.
I just realised that I forgot to write a post for last week, oops. Sorry about that. Guess the jump of growth between the last post and this one is going to be significant. This post is going to be big (not just plant growth), but because I discuss edema, flowers and fruiting too.
Lets look back at week 4 growth:
I was so proud of how big they were growing… and how fast – each day seemed to produce another branch, another leaf, or another inch or two of height… little did I know that the plants would keep growing at such a speed, even two weeks later. I have created a monster; a gorgeous, hopefully soon to eat yummy, monster:
Its getting huge! We have two of the trellis supports already installed, and tonight I will be putting in the third. Thats a trellis each week…
The Curious Case of Edema
Would you believe that I have actually been cutting branches off? We’ve actually been having a problem with how fast this plant is growing. So fast that it’s actually becoming a serious problem and risk, for the plant itself.
See those little green spots on the tomato leaves? That’s edema. Its what happens when the plant is absorbing too much liquid… Is that even possible in a hydroponic system? Yeah it is. Edema causes the cellular structure on the leaves to swell up as they absorb moere and more liquid, to the point that they will rupture, often killing that leaf. Often you will also see crusty spots on the leaves from dried sap and water.
In mild cases its not usually an issue, but more and more of our tomato branches were becoming effected. It tends to effect the lower branches or leaves first, slowly effecting more of the plant if the environment remains unchanged.
There are a couple reasons why it can happen:
There isn’t enough airflow around the plant and the plant isn’t transpiring enough (sort of like you getting hot and sweaty without a cool wind). This can also happen if the plant leaves is too dense and thick, restricting airflow around inner branches. This is the most common reason.
The nutrients are unbalanced; the plant is sucking up too much liquid to try and get enough of one or more nutrients.
The water is too warm whilst the leaves are cooler, causing the plant to activate drinking mode. Sort of like when a plant is growing in a hot region – when it rains the upper plant becomes cool and signals to the roots that fresh water is being supplied.
I will write a blog post covering edema bit more and ways to resolve this. It affects all plants, not just tomatoes.
In our situation, the foliage was becoming too dense. The constant but small airflow that we had in the room wasn’t reaching the inner branches and leaves, so the plant wasn’t able to lose the excess liquids through sweating.
For now our solution was to maintain a slightly more average temperature in the grow room rather than cooler at night and warmer during the day. We are still researching the ideal fan for our grow room as some people have had issues with the common oscillating fans causing leaf burn due to overexposure of wind.
It’s not all bad news; our “hard work” is paying off. The tomato plant is only 6 weeks old, and yet we have been getting flowers now for nearly two weeks!
San Marzano are an indeterminate tomato plant variety, meaning they will continuous flower, fruit and grow indefinitely as long as the environment is ideal. So it makes sense that not all the flowers are opening at once. I did a count of the flower buds that I could see – both opened and unopened. There was over 35 flower buds!
The average San Marzano tomato weighs around 120-140grams (4.2-5oz). Assuming all 35 flowers produce tomatoes, thats a minimum of 4.2kg (9.2lbs) of tomatoes! I’m so glad that I have bought some canning equipment so I can bottle up these delicious tomatoes.
Have you preserved your home-grown or store bought tomatoes? Whats your favourite way to use tomatoes? Mine is definitely pizza sauce. Let me know in the comments below.