Kratky Method Notes and Progress

Today I want to document some successes, failures and observations about my Kratky method tubs.

Kratky Method Tomato
Kratky Method Tomato

Most of my plants are doing extremely well. I have noticed some distinct growth differences between the plants in the garden and the plants in the Kratky tubs. The plants in the Kratky tubs are much shorter, bushier and are blooming more profusely than the plants in the garden.

My garden tomatoes are about 3-1/2 feet tall. They are blooming really well and setting fruit. The Kratky tomatoes are blooming extremely well and are just beginning to set fruit as well. In the fruit-setting mode the two methods are about equal.

Something I’ve observed on the Kratky tomatoes is that they very eagerly

Air roots forming
Air roots forming

create air roots and are creating them very early. The garden tomatoes are not making air roots at all. The garden tomatoes are growing very well but do not have the heartiness and girth that the Kratkey method tomatoes have. In fact all the plants in the tubs are very robust and vigorous.

Even so, the garden tomatoes are doing very well. I think there are about eight varieties in the garden: Tappy’s Heritage, Riesentraube, Principe Borghese, San Marzano, Rutgers, Delicious, Costoluto Genovese, Dour Di Bue, Pantano Romanesco, Roma and St. Pierre. Okay. There’s ten varieties.

If I didn’t have the Kratky method tomatoes to compare to, I would be ecstatic about the development of the garden tomatoes.

The tomatoes are setting fruit.
The tomatoes are setting fruit.

As a point of review, what I mixed in the solution for the each Kratky tub was 1 teaspoon of MaxiBloom (5-15-14) per gallon (14.5 teaspoons) with a pinch (please forgive me – I took a guestimate) of Triple Super Phosphate and a pinch of Muriate of Potash. Plus one teaspoon of Azomite (t) and one tabelspoon of Epsom salts.

The garden has a half dose of Super Phosphate, a half dose of Triple Super Phosphate, two half doses of Muriate of Potash, some Azomite (t) and approximately weekly foliar feeds of Epsom salts at 2 tablespoons in 1 gallon of water. The fertilizers are on top of heavy amounts of sheep and horse manure applied as a mulch (not mixed into the soil). Also forty pounds of gypsum have been applied in one application on roughly 6,000 – 8,000 square feet of garden.

The garden is almost all drip irrigation on automatic timers which makes watering a breeze. At this time, the drip waters for thirty

Blue Lake bush beans in the Kratky tubs
Blue Lake bush beans doing very well in the Kratky tubs.

minutes every night at 1 AM. I will make another post exclusively on the drip system because it certainly warrants a discussion on its own.

Most of the problems I’m having with the Kratky method are mechanical. The plants are very top heavy and tip out of the solution. That causes the roots to dry and subsequently to rot. The plant then suffers quite a lot in the heat.

This is one of the two zucchini that tipped out of the solution for several hours. The roots, which had been a pristine white, turned gray. Oddly the plant immediately made some thick roots. I think those roots were emergency water roots. Then it began growing a whole new crop of maintenance roots. The second zucchini didn’t make it.

Zucchini that tipped over
Zucchini that tipped over

Today at about 4 pm I cut off all the gray roots so we’ll see how that affects the plant tomorrow.

I think I have resolved the plant tipping problem by securing the pots with bricks. We had some high winds that helped the plants to tip over, too. Having Kratky tubs in unprotected areas where the tubs can overfill with rainwater and high winds that can damage the plants is definitely a disadvantage.

An eggplant in the tubs is growing like crazy. Today it has 17 blossoms on it.

An Overly Eager Eggplant
An Overly Eager Eggplant

The bottom of the plant is producing many sprouts. I should probably trim those sucker off but I am not going to remove them to see what that result is. Again, this plant is shorter, has a heavier main stem and is much bushier than the eggplant in the garden.

Also today I planted four net pots with May Queen butterhead type lettuce. I believe it matures around 30 days.

One thing I’ve learned is that planting different plants in one tub is a mistake for the most part. At the plants mature, their water use increases proportionately. New or smaller plants wind up dying because their water supply is quickly taken away because the water level drops dramatically.

Another mistake was using plastic tubs that were somewhat translucent. These tubs let in too much light and algae grew in the tubs. I wrapped the tubs with black plastic and that seems to have quelched the problem. However, any additional tubs will be opaque.

Supporting the plants requires some ingenuity. Ideally, the tubs would be in a green house or some other protective structure where I could build some overhead support. As it is, the only support I have for the plants are some 2 x 2’s attached to one of the tubs to support the first tomato that I planted. It, too, has toppled out of the tub and is not doing well. I am leaving it to see if it recovers and if it does, how it does it.

Despite the problems, this method is very workable and produces outstanding, healthy plants.

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