This popular heirloom variety from Russia is a great choice for the UK grower. Black Russian tomatoes are semi-sweet with some acidity to balance, coupled with a slightly smoky flavour. Its slightly better tolerance to cooler conditions and interesting deep mahogany colour makes an attractive, delicious and interesting choice for a near beefsteak sized tomato. One of our favourites for flavour and interest at Grow Sow Greener.
- Pack size: 20 seeds
- Type: Indeterminate, Cordon
- Time to germination: 7-21 days
- When to sow inside: February - March
- When to sow outside: March - April
- Spacing: 100cm +
- Soil preference: Fertile, well-drained
- Light preference: Full sun
- When to harvest: July - October
How to grow Black Russian Tomatoes from seed
Tomatoes belong to the same family as aubergines and peppers and should be grown in much the same way. They require heat, light and well-drained, evenly moist soil and should be grown under glass for best results.
Sow your Black Russian Tomato Seeds shallowly and aim to keep warm - 18 degrees is ideal. After germination, place on a sunny windowsill, or as we recommend, underLED lights to grow on and develop in 8cm thin-wall pots before planting out in late spring, pot and all.
We start our tomato seeds under lights to ensure a compact, healthy seedling. If your plant does become leggy, it's fine to remove most of the leaves and plant, so just the crown is above the soil surface. The bonus here is an early, supercharged root system, as roots will grow from the buried stem. We plant along the north wall of the greenhouse to avoid shading out smaller specimens. Black Russian Tomatoes have thin skin, enhancing the eating experience; however, it is more prone to cracking if watering is erratic. As with all tomatoes, regular measured watering will result in consistent soil moisture levels and happy thriving plants.
The Black Russian is a cordon or indeterminate variety, which means it will continue to grow and fruit throughout the growing season up until the frosts. Due to their tall vining nature, we recommend training up garden twine. It’s a commercial technique, far superior in time/labour, effort, and effectiveness to staking and tying in. Simply secure a length of twine above and let it hang down to your seedling. Wind the main stem around the twine as it grows. If you must stake, drive the stakes in at an angle, well clear of the root zone.
What to feed your tomato plants
Tomato plants enjoy free-draining soil loaded with plenty of organic matter. As they are heavy feeders, add a few handfuls of fish, blood and bone meal with some volcanic rock dust and some kelp powder to give them a rich, balanced and diverse diet for strong organic growth and cropping over the season. This diet will also help the plants to form strong, well-developed immunity.
By preparing the hole/soil with the above organics before planting and applying a side dressing of phosphorus-rich bone meal or wood ash just before fruiting, you feed the whole soil ecosystem, which provides your tomato plants with a much broader diet. Off the shelf bought chemical fertilisers are limited in their scope and kill life in the soil web, trapping the gardener into spending more time and money repeatedly fertilising. If you are worried or breaking the habit is hard, apply a seaweed or comfrey liquid fertilizer instead. Throw some seaweed or comfrey leaves in a water butt or large bucket and let steep.
Keeping pests away
Black Russian Tomatoes are an open-pollinated type, so we encourage you to save your own seeds. By doing so from your best plants, your toms acclimatise to your particular microclimates and disease vectors year on year. Generally, fairly pest and disease resistant, tomatoes should be rotated every couple of years and given plenty of space as they don’t like humidity. It's for this reason that we plant them near to the open greenhouse door, leaving the moisture-loving cues to thrive in the humid back corners.
Tomatoes are susceptible to fungal issues and blight. Plant spaciously, remove the yellowing older leaves and remove side shoots regularly to increase airflow around your plants. The side shoots are the new growth at 45 degrees between the main stem and fan leaf; their removal will also increase yields.
When ordering Black Russian Tomato Seeds from Grow Sow Greener, you will receive free nasturtium seeds. A beautiful plant that add interest and beauty in its own right and is a great companion for tomatoes. Growing nasturtiums a distance away from your veg will help lure aphids away, whilst giving you delicious red flowers and peppery young leaves for adding to salads.