No store-bought tomato will beat homegrown and freshly picked ones from your garden. And who doesn’t enjoy the fruits of their labor? Literally!
Tomato plants are a good addition to any vegetable garden, especially because most of us use them every day.
If you are looking to grow tomatoes in your garden, black cherry tomatoes might be what you need. Their ease of growth and productivity are traits that any gardener will appreciate.
Here, we’ll cover the best practices for planting black cherry tomatoes for you to grow a bumper harvest.
How Do I Grow a Black Cherry Tomato Plant?
Although they are small, the bite-size black cherry tomatoes are indeterminate plants. Their size might be deceiving, so they need tall and sturdy cages to support them to maturity.
The heirloom tomato black cherry features a dark color, round shape, and has a sweet and rich flavor.
Mature black cherry tomatoes measure about 1.5 inches.
You can start growing black cherry tomato seedlings indoors or outdoors. But, to be on the safe side, it is better to start them indoors. More so when the forecast shows a likelihood of frost.
Allow the seedlings to germinate for between 6 to 8 weeks as you wait for favorable weather. Then, transfer them outdoors after the last frost, once the temperature is reliable. A black cherry tomato plant will do best in temperatures between 50°F and 95°F.
Once you are ready to transplant, find a spot with full sun as they can withstand the heat. For you to harvest fruits bursting with flavor, ensure they get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day in nutrient-rich soil.
The three primary nutrients your plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Space your plants approximately 36 inches apart. When planting, pinch and remove the lower leaves to allow you to set about two-thirds of the plant underground.
Supporting Your Black Cherry Tomato
As mentioned before, the small size of the black cherry tomato fruit can be deceiving. Their plants grow to a height of 5-7 feet at maturity.
For this reason, you need a proper support system to hold the vines up as they grow. The reasons for supporting your plant as it grows are:
- Keeping plants and fruits off the ground, which prevents fruit rot or sunburn.
- Making it easy to spray, dust, and care for them.
- Ensuring the fruits get the full sun, helping them acquire a rich flavor.
- Making harvesting easier as a supported plant is easier to navigate.
There are two common methods of supporting tomato plants as they grow – caging and staking.
Caging is an easier option. With this type of support system, the cages are made from the wire used to reinforce concrete.
Black cherries tomatoes grow really tall so the cages will need to be at least 5 feet high. The good news is that you can buy cages from most gardening stores.
Caged plants should be set 3 feet apart and a cage placed over each.
For protection from wind and cold, use plastic wrap around the bottom of the cage. Approximately 18 inches from the ground will be enough to offer the required protection.
Adding black plastic mulch to your tomato garden will offer additional protection and help them bloom early.
For caged tomatoes, prune them up to the fifth main fruiting branch. Pruning reduces competition between the vegetative and fruiting parts. Thus, it ensures you have bigger and better fruits earlier.
As with most farming methods, caging has a downside – tomatoes don’t ripen as early as they do when staked.
Still, caging prevents the majority of these delicious tomatoes from cracking or burning.
Staking calls for the use of wooden or metal stakes measuring between 5 and 6 feet. While you need wooden stakes about an inch thick, you can use thinner metal stakes as they are stronger.
If you decide to use wooden stakes, make sure the wood is not treated with chemicals.
Metal stakes are the best option (rebar rods are an excellent start) if you want a long-lasting solution.
Should you choose to stake your cherry tomato black plants, set them 18 to 24 inches apart. Next to each plant and about 3 inches from the base, drive a stake through the ground until it’s firm.
Note: cut your stakes about a foot longer to give you an allowance to drive into the ground.
Because they keep growing, you’ll need to regularly prune them to keep their growth in control. Otherwise, they will grow too bushy, weigh down the plant from the stakes, and produce less fruit.
To reinforce staked plants, run a polypropylene cord from the first stake to the last as shown in the video below. Tie the cord on the first stake about 6 inches from the ground. Then, wrap it around the next stake at least once as you move along to the last one.
Common Problems When Growing Black Cherry Tomatoes
Statistics show that 95% of American gardeners have tomatoes in their garden. This number would be a perfect 100% if the other 5% had tasted a homegrown tomato.
Anyone who has tasted homegrown tomato fruits and compared them to store-bought will tell you how much you are missing out. The flavor profile is vastly different, and so is the feeling when you are feasting on either.
Even better, when you grow your own, you decide what pesticides and fertilizers to use on your plants.
Still, growing a cherry tomato plant can be frustrating. They might not set fruit or they might ripen and get unsightly and spongy black spots on the bottom.
And that’s not all. Tomato plants might look healthy one night, only to be a skeleton of themselves the next morning. Often, this happens when there is frost.
Which makes identifying common tomato plant problems a must-have skill for any gardener.
The heirloom tomato black cherry withstands more than the regular plant. Yet, they are still vulnerable to common tomato problems.
Some of these problems include:
Extreme moisture levels prevent plants from absorbing enough calcium from the soil. When this happens, fruits start rotting from the bottom up.
Other triggers of this condition include soil with high acidity or too much nitrogen. To prevent blossom end rot, test your soil pH and nitrogen levels.
A simple preventative measure is to mulch your plant to help the soil retain enough moisture.
Flower drop occurs when blossoms fall off the plant without the fruits developing. Which is why this condition is also known as blossom drop. One of the biggest causes of blossom drop is a change in temperature.
When night temperatures go lower than 55 or higher than 75 degrees F, plants lose their flowers.
Insects, water deprivation, lack of pollination, and lack of or too much nitrogen also cause blossom drop.
Obviously, you can’t change the weather. What you can do is strengthen your plant by adding fertilizer or organic pesticides such as neem oil. You can also plant milkweed and cosmos to draw pollinators.
How Do I Harvest and Store Black Cherry Tomatoes
At about 64 days, your plant will have grown to the point where fruits should be ready for harvest and starting to ripen. When they ripen to perfection, cherry black tomatoes will have a deep burgundy color and will be firm to squeeze.
To pick ripe fruits, grab them gently to avoid squishing and twist them off the stem. Alternatively, use a pair of clippers to cut them from the vine.
As they continue to ripen after picking, you can pick them and place them in a bowl while you wait for them to ripen fully.
The best place for tomato storage is indoors and at room temperature. When you refrigerate these delicate fruits, the result is a loss of flavor. Temperatures under 50°F break down their flavor compounds, thus changing their taste.
To increase their shelf life without altering their flavor, pluck them from the main branch with the stem and cap on. Store them with the stem and cap until it’s time to eat.
The earlier you pick them, the longer they will last on your countertop. However, their shelf life will depend on how ripe the fruits are by the time you pick them. When they start to ripen, using them within a week ensures you get peak flavor and nutrition.
There are many other fruits and vegetables you can grow in your garden, but tomatoes are among the easiest.
Do you want to know more about planting tomatoes? Gardening Channel is the perfect blog for you. Learn all about tomato planting and so much more to make the most of your garden.
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