Cherry tomatoe, with their vibrant colors and sweet flavor, have become a favorite crop among farmers in Kenya. For Kenyan farmers seeking a high-value, profitable crop, cherry tomatoes offer a delicious opportunity. These bite-sized beauties are in high demand, both locally and internationally, fetching premium prices due to their vibrant flavor and convenient size. This guide will provide you with all the information you need to cultivate your own cherry tomato plants, from seed to harvest.

Cherry Tomato Farming in Kenya; A Complete Guide

Choosing the Right Varieties

Selecting the right cherry tomato variety is crucial for a thriving harvest. In Kenya, popular varieties include Sweet 100, Sun Gold, and Super Sweet 100. These varieties are known for their adaptability to the local climate and resistance to common diseases, making them ideal choices for farmers seeking a bountiful yield.

VarietySweet 100Sun GoldRed CherrySweet Million
Production per Hectare4,535 – 6,804 kilograms2,721 – 4,535 kilograms4,535 – 6,350 kilograms5,443 – 7,257 kilograms
Characteristics– Small, red, and round cherry tomatoes– Small, orange, and exceptionally sweet tomatoes– Small, red, and sweet cherry tomatoes– Small, red, and sweet, similar to Sweet 100
Ecological Conditions– Well-suited for warm climates with temperatures between 21-27°C– Thrives in full sunlight and warm temperatures; drought-tolerant– Adaptable to a variety of climates; prefers warm temperatures and ample sunlight– Well-suited for warm climates; thrives in full sunlight
Planting Time– Best planted during the rainy season or with irrigation available– Plant when soil temperature reaches at least 12.8°C– Suitable for planting in various seasons, with a preference for warm weather– Best planted during the rainy season or with irrigation available
Soil Requirements– Well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH– Prefers well-drained, fertile soil; adaptable to different soil types– Thrives in well-drained soil enriched with organic matter– Well-drained soil with organic matter content
Disease Resistance– Resistant to common tomato diseases such as Verticillium wilt and Fusarium wilt– Generally resistant to many diseases; minimal pest susceptibility– Shows resistance to common tomato diseases, providing a robust plant– Resistant to common tomato diseases
Growth Habit– Indeterminate growth; requires staking for support– Indeterminate growth; may sprawl without proper support– Indeterminate growth; benefits from staking or caging for support– Indeterminate growth; benefits from staking or caging for support
Flavor Profile– Sweet and tangy flavor, perfect for salads and snacking– Exceptionally sweet with a tropical fruity taste– Sweet flavor, ideal for fresh consumption– Sweet flavor, similar to Sweet 100
Harvest Time– Ready for harvest approximately 65-75 days after transplanting– Harvest when fruits are fully orange and easily come off the vine– Typically harvested 65-70 days after transplanting– Ready for harvest approximately 65-75 days after transplanting
Yield Potential– Moderate to high yield, depending on proper care and management– Good yield potential with proper care; continuous harvest throughout the season– High yield potential, producing abundant clusters of tomatoes– High yield potential, similar to Sweet 100

Ecological Requirements

Growing cherry tomatoes in Kenya is all about providing the right conditions for the plants to thrive. These little tomatoes like warm weather, ideally between 21-27°C (70-80°F). It’s important to keep this temperature range steady for the seeds to sprout, flowers to bloom, and fruits to develop.

In Kenya, where rainfall can be unpredictable, it’s smart to use extra water to keep the plants happy. Farmers often use drip irrigation systems to water the tomatoes precisely, especially when the plants are flowering.

Cherry tomatoes love the sun, so they need about 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. This helps them grow well, produce good-quality fruit, and gives a better harvest.

Choosing the right soil is also crucial. Sandy loam or loamy soil that drains well is best. This kind of soil prevents the roots from getting too wet, which can cause problems. It’s also good to make sure the soil isn’t too acidic or too basic—somewhere in the middle is just right (Ph 6.0 to 7.0) .

Adding natural stuff like compost or well-rotted manure to the soil is a good idea. This makes the soil better for the plants, helping them get the right nutrients. Farmers also check the soil regularly to make sure it has what the plants need.

Planting and Growing

You can start your cherry tomatoes from seeds or seedlings. Seeds are more economical but require longer maturity time.

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How to plant cherry tomato from seed.

Planting cherry tomatoes from seeds is a straightforward process. Here’s a simple guide to help you get started:

Materials Needed:

  1. Cherry Tomato Seeds: Choose a variety suitable for your climate and preferences.
  2. Seed Starting Mix: A sterile, well-draining mix is preferable.
  3. Seed Trays or Small Pots: For germinating and starting the seeds.
  4. Watering Can or Spray Bottle: To keep the soil moist without disturbing the seeds.
  5. Plastic Wrap or Dome: To create a mini greenhouse effect for germination.
  6. Grow Lights or Sunny Windowsill: Provide adequate light for seedlings.

Steps:

  1. Fill Seed Trays or Pots:
    • Fill the seed trays or small pots with the seed starting mix. Ensure the mix is moist but not waterlogged.
  2. Plant the Seeds:
    • Plant 2-3 seeds per cell or pot. Bury the seeds about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in the soil.
  3. Watering:
    • Water the soil gently after planting to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Use a watering can or spray bottle to avoid displacing the seeds.
  4. Cover for Germination:
    • Cover the trays or pots with plastic wrap or a dome to create a humid environment, promoting germination. Place them in a warm location.
  5. Provide Light:
    • Once the seeds sprout, move the trays or pots to a location with plenty of indirect sunlight or under grow lights. Ensure the seedlings receive about 14-16 hours of light per day.
  6. Thinning:
    • If multiple seeds germinate in the same cell or pot, thin them by removing the weaker seedlings, leaving only the strongest one.
  7. Transplanting:
    • When the seedlings have developed a couple of sets of true leaves and are sturdy enough, transplant them into larger containers or directly into the garden. Ensure the danger of frost has passed if transplanting outdoors.
  8. Hardening Off:
    • Before transplanting seedlings outdoors, gradually expose them to outdoor conditions (hardening off) over a week to acclimate them to the sun, wind, and temperature changes.
  9. Planting in the Garden:
    • Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Plant the seedlings at the recommended spacing for the chosen cherry tomato variety.
  10. Watering and Care:
    • Water the plants regularly, and consider using mulch around the base to retain moisture. As the plants grow, provide support with stakes or cages.

Providing Support for Your Cherry Tomato Plants in Kenya

Cherry tomato plants need proper support to thrive and produce abundant fruit. While some varieties remain relatively compact, others can grow tall and sprawling, requiring additional assistance to climb and maintain their structure.

  1. Tomato Cages: Tomato cages are a popular and readily available option, typically made of wire or plastic in various sizes. Choose a cage tall enough to accommodate your expected plant height and wide enough for ample growth.Benefits:
    • Easy to install and use.
    • Provides good support for most cherry tomato varieties.
    • Affordable and readily available.

    Drawbacks:

    • May not be suitable for very large or heavy plants.
    • Can be difficult to access the plants for harvesting and maintenance.
  2. Stakes: Stakes are a simple and economical option, especially for smaller cherry tomato varieties. Choose sturdy stakes made of wood, bamboo, or metal, at least 4 feet tall.Benefits:
    • Affordable and easy to find.
    • Allows for easy access to the plants for harvesting and maintenance.
    • Can be used for climbing varieties with the addition of twine or string.

    Drawbacks:

    • May not provide sufficient support for large or heavy plants.
    • Requires regular tying of the plant to the stake as it grows.
  3. Trellises: Trellises are ideal for supporting large or sprawling cherry tomato varieties. They can be made of wood, wire, or other materials and come in various designs, including vertical, A-frame, and lean-to trellises.Benefits:
    • Provides strong and secure support for even the largest cherry tomato plants.
    • Allows for optimal air circulation and sunlight penetration, reducing the risk of disease.
    • Can be used for multiple seasons.

    Drawbacks:

    • Can be more expensive and time-consuming to build compared to other options.
    • May require more space than other support methods.
  4. Natural Supports: If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly approach, you can use natural materials like branches, twigs, or even tall grasses to provide support for your cherry tomato plants.Benefits:
    • Eco-friendly and readily available.
    • Adds a natural aesthetic to your garden.

    Drawbacks:

    • May not be as strong or durable as other support methods.
    • Requires more frequent maintenance as the natural materials decompose.
  5. String or Twine Method: The string or twine method is a flexible and customizable way to provide support for cherry tomato plants. Install sturdy posts at each end of the row and stretch twine horizontally between them. As the plants grow, gently tie them to the twine using soft material.Benefits:
    • Highly adaptable and cost-effective.
    • Allows for easy access to the plants.
    • Can be adjusted as the plants grow.

    Drawbacks:

    • Requires regular monitoring and adjustments.
    • May not provide as much support for heavy fruit-laden plants.
  6. Combination Methods: Combine different support methods based on your garden layout and the specific needs of your cherry tomato plants. For instance, use a combination of stakes and string for added stability or a trellis along with natural supports for a unique aesthetic.Benefits:
    • Tailored to the specific requirements of your cherry tomato varieties.
    • Provides multiple points of support.

    Drawbacks:

    • Requires careful planning and coordination.
    • May involve a bit more effort in setup.
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Remember to regularly check your cherry tomato plants as they grow and adjust the support structures accordingly. Proper support not only prevents plants from collapsing under the weight of the fruit but also promotes good air circulation, reducing the risk of diseases. Choose the method or combination that suits your garden, and enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious cherry tomatoes in Kenya.

Production Of Cherry Tomato Farming

The time it takes for cherry tomatoes to produce and the production per vine can vary based on several factors, including the variety of cherry tomatoes, growing conditions, and care provided. However, I can provide you with a general overview:

cherry tomato farming in kenya

Time to Production:

  1. Germination and Seedling Stage:
    • Cherry tomato seeds typically germinate in 5 to 10 days. After germination, seedlings are usually ready for transplanting in 5 to 7 weeks.
  2. Transplanting to Harvest:
    • After transplanting seedlings into the garden or larger containers, it generally takes about 50 to 85 days for cherry tomatoes to reach maturity and start producing fruit. This timeline can vary based on the specific variety and growing conditions.

Production per Vine:

  1. Yield per Plant:
    • A single healthy cherry tomato plant has the potential to produce a significant number of tomatoes. On average, each plant can yield between 50 to 100 or more cherry tomatoes over the course of the growing season.
  2. Production per Vine:
    • The production per vine depends on the variety and the care provided. On average, a well-maintained cherry tomato vine can produce around 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kilograms) of tomatoes throughout the season.
  3. Medium-Sized Tomatoes:
    • Medium-sized tomatoes, such as those commonly used in salads, sandwiches, or slicing, can produce approximately 20 to 40 tomatoes per plant.
  4. Beefsteak Tomatoes:
    • Beefsteak tomatoes, known for their large size, may produce fewer fruits per plant compared to smaller varieties. On average, a beefsteak tomato plant can yield around 10 to 20 tomatoes.

Harvesting Cherry Tomato

Cherry tomato harvesting in Kenya is a crucial stage in the cultivation process, requiring careful attention to detail and adherence to optimal practices to ensure a bountiful and high-quality yield. The harvesting process is influenced by various factors, including the variety of cherry tomatoes, climatic conditions, and market demands.

Ripeness Indicators:

The timing of cherry tomato harvesting is crucial for achieving the best flavor and quality. The primary indicators of ripeness include color, firmness, and overall appearance. Cherry tomatoes should display a vibrant and uniform color, whether it’s red, yellow, or another variety-specific hue. The fruit should also exhibit a slight give when gently squeezed, indicating that it is ripe and ready for harvest.

Gentle Harvesting Techniques:

Cherry tomatoes are delicate, and proper harvesting techniques are essential to prevent damage to the fruits and the plant. Clean and sharp scissors or pruning shears should be used to cut the stem, leaving a small portion attached to the fruit. This minimizes the risk of introducing pathogens and helps maintain the freshness of the tomatoes.

Morning Harvests:

Timing plays a significant role in cherry tomato harvesting. Morning harvests, when temperatures are cooler, are generally recommended. During this time, the fruits are less stressed, and their flavors are more concentrated. Harvesting in the morning also allows for a more efficient and comfortable working environment for farmers.

Cluster Harvesting:

Cherry tomatoes often grow in clusters, and a strategic approach involves harvesting the entire cluster if most of the tomatoes within it are ripe. This method minimizes handling and potential damage to the plant. Inspecting the clusters thoroughly ensures that all ripe tomatoes are harvested, contributing to an efficient and productive harvest.

Protective Gear:

Farmers engaged in cherry tomato harvesting are advised to wear gloves, particularly if they have sensitive skin. Some individuals may experience skin irritation due to the compounds present in tomato plants. Protective gear enhances the comfort and safety of the harvesting process.

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Post-Harvest Handling:

After harvesting, the cherry tomatoes should be handled with care to maintain their quality. Avoiding overripeness is crucial, as overripe tomatoes can lead to issues such as splitting and may attract pests. Post-harvest handling involves storing the tomatoes at room temperature, allowing them to ripen further and enhancing their sweetness and flavor.

Fertilizer and Nutrient Requirements

Essential Nutrients:

Cherry tomato plants require a balanced mix of essential nutrients for optimal growth. The primary nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), often represented by the N-P-K ratio on fertilizer labels. In addition to these, secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, as well as micronutrients like iron, zinc, and manganese, are crucial for overall plant health.

Fertilizer Application:

Cherry tomatoes benefit from a steady and balanced supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. The fertilizer application can be divided into different stages:

  • Pre-Planting: Incorporate well-rotted compost or organic matter into the soil before planting. This enhances soil fertility and provides a slow-release source of nutrients.
  • Pre-Flowering: As the plants begin to establish, apply a balanced fertilizer with a higher ratio of nitrogen to promote vigorous vegetative growth. A general recommendation is a balanced N-P-K fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 formulation.
  • Flowering to Fruiting: Once the plants start flowering, transition to a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus content (the middle number in the N-P-K ratio). Phosphorus promotes flower development and fruit set, essential for a bountiful harvest.
  • Throughout the Season: Consider using a slow-release fertilizer or applying fertilizers in smaller, regular doses to provide a continuous supply of nutrients. This prevents over-fertilization and reduces the risk of nutrient imbalances.

Organic Fertilizers:

For those practicing organic farming or seeking natural alternatives, various organic fertilizers can be used. Compost, well-rotted manure, and organic amendments such as bone meal and fish emulsion contribute to soil fertility and provide a rich source of nutrients.

Calcium Supplementation:

Calcium is particularly important for preventing disorders like blossom end rot in tomatoes. If your soil test indicates a calcium deficiency, consider adding calcium-rich amendments or using specialized fertilizers containing calcium.

Foliar Feeding:

In addition to soil application, foliar feeding can be a supplemental method to provide nutrients directly to the leaves. This is especially useful if there are signs of nutrient deficiencies or during critical growth stages.

Take Away

In conclusion, cherry tomato farming emerges as a promising and rewarding endeavor, especially in regions like Kenya with conducive climates for tomato cultivation. The success of cherry tomato farming hinges on several key factors, starting with the careful selection of suitable varieties such as Sweet 100, Red Cherry, and Sweet Million that align with local conditions and market preferences.

Establishing a solid foundation through proper soil preparation, incorporating organic matter, and maintaining optimal ecological conditions, including proper irrigation and sunlight exposure, sets the stage for robust plant growth. Throughout the farming cycle, from planting to harvesting, the meticulous application of fertilizers tailored to the varying needs of the cherry tomato plants plays a pivotal role in ensuring healthy vines and flavorful fruit production.

Effective support systems, whether through stakes, trellises, or natural supports, contribute to the structural integrity of the plants, facilitating easier harvesting and minimizing the risk of damage.

The harvesting phase requires a keen understanding of ripeness indicators, gentle harvesting techniques, and strategic timing to deliver the freshest and most flavorful cherry tomatoes to the market. Additionally, continuous monitoring, adaptation to market demands, and a commitment to sustainable and organic practices further enhance the overall success of cherry tomato farming ventures.

As a versatile and high-demand crop, cherry tomatoes not only offer economic benefits to farmers but also contribute to the local food supply, providing consumers with a delicious and nutritious option for culinary enjoyment.

Overall, cherry tomato farming in Kenya stands as an integral part of the agricultural landscape, embodying the potential for both economic prosperity and the fulfillment of nutritional needs within the community.

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