Introduction to Growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically
The Cherry Tomato is one of the most popular crops to grow hydroponically. It’s a good idea to know the basics of how to grow Cherry Tomatoes hydroponically before you get started. Cherry Tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow, and even “black,” and they’re sweet and delicious when they ripen on the vine. Hydroponics gardening is a technology for growing plants in nutrient solutions (water and fertilizers) with or without the use of the artificial medium such as sand, gravel, vermiculite, rock wool, peat, coir, and sawdust to provide mechanical support. In this article we also discussed the following topics;
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes growing conditions
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes growing medium
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomato problems
- Hydroponic systems for growing Cherry Tomatoes
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomato yield per plant
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes production
- Varieties of Cherry Tomatoes for hydroponics
- Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes nutrients
A step by step guide to growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically
Hydroponics is an efficient and popular way to grow several vegetables due to numerous advantages. This system allows plant production in water, which has essential plant nutrients dissolved in it. You can grow plants in controlled conditions without any fear of insects, weeds, and soil-borne diseases. Moreover, Cherry Tomato plants not only grow faster in hydroponics but also produce a higher yield.
Different varieties of Cherry Tomatoes for growing Hydroponically
The Cherry Tomato plant is an ideal choice for a hydroponic garden. The sweet million Cherry Tomato is a prolific producer, providing gardeners with a petite, sweet, and crack-resistant tomato. The sweet gold tomato is not as productive as the sweet million, but the tomato is slightly larger. The sun gold cultivar is orange and has a fruity flavor. A newer Cherry Tomato variety is the sakura. The sakura does not yield a lot of tomatoes, but the fruit is firm and keeps well. Favorita Cherry Tomatoes have an excellent flavor and nicely shaped. The Conchita Cherry Tomato is a newer variety and has a firm fruit and a long shelf-life. There are many Cherry Tomato cultivars available for the hydroponic system. They are;
- Sweet Million’
- ‘Sweet Gold’
- ‘Sweet Orange’
- ‘Mini Charm’ and
Best hydroponic systems for Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes are hardly enough to work with a wide range of hydroponic techniques. But as they are heavy feeders, the level of maintenance required can be a problem for some methods. For example, in the fruiting stage, these tomato plants can take massive amounts of potassium and micronutrients. If you are using a recirculating system, the pH range can get altered pretty quickly. Even in passive systems, the pH range of the water needs to be monitored closely. But in recirculation, constant vigilance is required to ensure that no deficiencies occur.
That being said, Cherry Tomatoes can be grown using any of the following methods;
- Nutrient Film Technique
- Deep Water Culture
- Drip System
DWC Hydroponics systems work well for growing Cherry Tomato plants. Deepwater culture hydroponics is a simple system for Cherry Tomatoes and other small plants. In this system, you place the tomato plants in a net pot fitted in the reservoir with the roots submerged in the water. An air pump oxygenates the water constantly to ensure plant roots get an adequate amount of oxygen.
Ideal temperatures for growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically
As warm weather crops, Cherry Tomatoes do well in temperatures between 18-25°C during the day. They can also survive between 12-29°C. At night, the temperatures have to be maintained at a lower level, ideally between 12-18°C.
Difference between tomatoes and Cherry Tomatoes
The main difference between tomatoes and Cherry Tomatoes is that the former is bigger than the latter. Tomatoes are visibly oval while Cherry Tomatoes are perfectly round. While regular tomatoes are sweet plus tangy in flavor, and Cherry Tomatoes belch a slightly tart and sour taste.
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Cherry Tomato Nutrient and pH Requirements for a Hydroponic system
Cherry Tomato plants are veritable nutrient hogs. They need nearly a dozen different elements, in proper order, for best yield results.
You can probably get by using a general plant nutrient mix designed for the hydroponics system. But if you want to maximize crop yields, many brands do sell specific mixes aimed at tomatoes. Cherry Tomatoes need high levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. As for pH level, the plants thrive in a slightly higher than average pH of around 5.8-6.3. EC levels need to be maintained between 2.0 to 3.5 milliMhos. This can be achieved by ensuring the correct mix of nutrients. If there are any deficiencies in the nutrient levels, pH level, or EC, the results can be easily seen on the plants. Check for the following symptoms;
- Yellow color leaves are a sign of high pH or low quantity nutrients
- Red stems or curled up leaf tips indicates low pH
- Leaf tips curling down that shows a higher than the necessary nutrient level
- Early flower falls are a result of potassium deficiency
- Two-part nutrient mixes are the best for Cherry Tomatoes. With these, it is easier to achieve the desired level of nutrients.
Growing media of Cherry Tomatoes for growing Hydroponically
Tomatoes can deliver high yields with the right kind of support from the growing medium. The option of growing medium is also connected to the technique that you plan to use for hydroponics.
So you have a lot of choices here, as Cherry Tomatoes can thrive in any of the different hydroponics techniques.
- Expanded clay pellets – deep water culture, NFT, Drip systems
- Coco coir – passive hydroponics
- Rockwool – Drip, Flood and drain systems
- Perlite/Vermiculite – NFT, Drip system, also used with other growing media such as Coco Coir
Lighting requirements for growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically
Light is an important growth influencing factor. During the vegetative stage, tomato plants produce a healthy supply of leafy vegetation that will later go on to feed and support the product yielded during their flowering stage. When starting a Cherry Tomato seed, you can supply 24 hour light through to the early vegetative stage. During the vegetative state, mature Cherry Tomato plants thrive on 16 to 18 of direct light per day and eight hours of darkness for respiration.
LED grow lights are becoming increasingly popular to grow hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes. They emit a powerfully mixed spectrum of light that uses about 1/3rd to 1/2 the energy compared to High-intensity discharge (HID) lighting. They produce a minimal amount of heat, so they can safely be placed as close as within 30 cm of the plants. Plants respond more vigorously to the clean, cool, intense light emitted by LED grow lights, experiencing increased growth rates over HID so be sure to keep an eye on nutrients.
The process of growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically
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Hydroponics systems are suitable for indoor or greenhouse environments. They need precise control to function properly, so they should be set up somewhere closed off from other rooms and the outside. Then, this allows you to set the temperature and humidity to accurate levels needed for best growth.
Cherry Tomatoes grown hydroponically in the greenhouse are at least 10 days earlier than full-sized tomatoes. Start the seeds in pre-soaked jiffy pellets in early to mid-March using a metal-halide light and a constant temperature of 28°C for germination. Once the seedlings are about 3 cm high, reduce the night temperature to 20°C. The Jiffy pellets are flood-irrigated with one-quarter strength all-purpose (20-20-20) fertilizer 3 times a day.
The seedlings are transplanted in 2 to 3 weeks into six cm. peat pots filled with a vermiculite/perlite medium. After that, the peat pots are transplanted out to the greenhouse. The Cherry Tomato plants are about 10 cm. in height at this point, and have two to three real leaves. The lip of the peat pots must be torn off from around the plants so that the pots do not wick away moisture. Then, transplant the peat pots into doubled white plastic garbage bags, which are filled with a 1:1 ratio of medium-grade vermiculite/perlite medium. The roots will grow right through the peat pots and into the medium of the bags.
Each kitchen garbage bag holds about 12 liters of vermiculite or perlite medium. Each bag has two plants and transplanted into it by making a slit in the top and setting the plant down into the medium. The bags are pre-soaked about a week ahead of time and the day before transplanting, cut three cm. slits around the base of each bag. from the floor for drainage. Each plant has one spaghetti line feeder at the base of the stem, held in place with a weight. When first set out, the Cherry Tomato plants are watered twice daily until they are well-established. Then, the plant bags are kept warm with a system of hoses beneath the bags in which warm water is circulated.
When the plants reach a height of 10 cm, attach each plant to an individual string, which is attached to the rafter above and tied around the base of each bag. The Cherry Tomato plants are attached to the strings using tomato clips, one under each fruit truss. This helps support the plant as well as the trusses of fruit and if you wrap your plants around the string instead of using clips, always wrap the plants clockwise. Tomato plants grow quickly in this climate-controlled setting and will reach a height of about one meter in only 6 weeks. After a few months, when the greenhouse is winding down, Cherry Tomato plants are trying to grow higher than the three-meter rafters. Then, trim the growing point of each plant as it reaches the rafter, encouraging the formed fruit to ripen before winter sets in.
Problems with Hydroponic Cherry Tomato growing
Some of the most easily identifiable problems with Hydroponic Cherry Tomato growing are;
Hydroponically grown Cherry Tomatoes can experience problems from viruses and insects. Basic sanitation is necessary to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Common problems for growing Cherry Tomatoes include bacterial canker, bacterial spot, tomato leaf curl virus, and tomato mosaic virus. Insects that can plague hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes are several species of whiteflies, leaf miners, pinworms, cabbage loopers, and two-spotted spider mites.
Blossom-end rot is one of the easiest problems to cure, but most new growers will find some degree of this in their first growing year. This is a calcium deficiency most commonly caused not by lack of available calcium, but rather by irregular watering practices. Tomatoes cannot be dried out to the point of withering, and then be watered profusely. Then, this will almost ensure that whatever fruit is forming will have blossom-end rot. Ensure regular watering and also watch for blocked water lines.
Yellow foliage – indicates a nitrogen deficiency.
Purple tinge indicates a phosphorus deficiency. This can occur when temperature level dip below 15°C for extended periods.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus – plant seeds that are resistant to this nasty virus. This virus is not treatable and the entire plant must be removed immediately.
Cherry Tomato harvesting in Hydroponic system
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The flavor is the ultimate test of a good quality hydroponic Cherry Tomato. Though other factors determine the overall quality that means color, texture, firmness, shelf life, and nutrient levels are all important quality indicators. The single most important factor in all these issues especially flavor is the genetic makeup of the plant, so careful selection of the proper cultivar for the growing conditions is necessary.
Cherry Tomato plants offer yields for a total of 210 to 240 days a year; each plant produces 3 to 4 kg over the period. The crop yield may be less than that if your tomato plants lack the proper care and nutrients.
Commonly asked questions about Hydroponic Cherry Tomato
Are Cherry Tomatoes better than regular tomatoes?
The health benefits can vary between plant types. For example, Cherry Tomatoes have higher beta-carotene content compared to regular tomatoes. High fruit and vegetable intake are linked to healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and lower weight.
How long does it take to grow Cherry Tomatoes from seed?
It takes around 6 to 8 weeks to grow tomatoes from seed to plantable seedlings. Start tomato seeds indoors for the best results. In 5 to 12 days your Cherry Tomato seeds should germinate.
Why are my Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes wilting?
A lack of elements such as copper, chlorine, and magnesium will cause wilting, often starting with just a few plant leaves. Hydroponic plants are completely dependent on the nutrients you provide for them, proper balance is also essential.
How often should I water my Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes?
If your Cherry Tomato plants wilt just after watering than you are watering too much, and you should allow a little more time in between watering. A good general rule of thumb is to start plants being watered 2 to 3 times a day and increase as plants show signs of needing water.
What is the best pH for Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes?
Hydroponic tomatoes are at their best in more acidic conditions, ideally with a pH level of 5.8-6.3.
Why do Hydroponic Cherry Tomatoes split?
Cherry Tomatoes split because of fluctuations in the amount of water they get. Hydroponic growing eliminates the issue of too much water or too little because the plants have constant access to exactly the amount they need.
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