Cherry tomatoes are some of the easiest tomatoes you can grow.
This article was first written for and published at Earth, Food and Fire.
If you are new to gardening, are short on time or perhaps short on space cherry tomatoes are the tomato you should be growing. Cherry tomatoes get their name from the size and shape of the fruit. Because they are smaller you can have gardening success no matter the space where you are growing.
There are many varieties of cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes, though not are all equal. It is good to know if your tomatoes are determinate or indeterminate when it comes to plant support and container size.
The Difference between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes.
Tomatoes have two growth patterns:
Determinate or bush tomatoes bloom and fruit and then die as their season is over. They can grow to 3-4 feet tall then set their fruit all at once. The plant then begins to die as it has completed its life cycle. Because they are smaller plants they do very well in containers.
Plants that produce taller vines which then flower and fruit all season long are classified as having an indeterminate growth habit. Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce all season until frost kills the plant. In a good growing season these plants will grow to many feet tall if support is provided.
Be sure to grow both kinds to have a fresh supply of tomatoes the entire season.
Planting and Caring for Cherry Tomatoes
Tomato plants have a few requirements for good growth and a successful harvest.
Choosing a container
Choose a planter that has adequate growing room. Look for 3 to 5 gallon containers, they are perfect for cherry tomatoes and will have enough room for any support the plants may need. As with any pot used for gardening, be sure your container has drain holes.
It is important to use amendments like peat moss, pearlite or vermiculite to give the soil good aeration and lighten up the soil and therefore the container. Using amendments give the roots room to breathe which aids in getting oxygen to the roots, feeds the plant and prevent soil compaction. Soil alone is heavy and plants can not grow in soil that is compacted.
What kind of soil should I use?
There are many kinds of potting soils on the market. Look for one that already has some amendments in the mix, such as peat moss, pearlite, compost, manure even worm casings. The addition of any or all of those to the potting mix you chose are all great options. Try and avoid using soil from your garden. It is heavy and will contain pests as well as weeds.
Supporting the plants
Tomato plants can get quite heavy with fruit and using some type of support is a good practise for all tomato plants. Tomato cages are perfect for cherry tomatoes, they last for many years and are inexpensive. They come in various sizes so you can have ones that will fit the containers you are growing in. They help support the branches and prevent breakage which without, could cost you tomatoes or the possibility of losing the plant if sever enough of a break.
Cage the plants at planting time, it is impossible to cage a fully grown plant and will result in many broken branches. This allows the plants to grow into the cage. Adjust branches as the plant grows for the best support.
An alternative to caging is to use any type of pole support. Bamboo poles are readily available and can be cut to custom fit the planters. Velcro garden tape is used to attach branches to the poles. It is adjustable and gentle enough to use on branches but with the strength needed to hold up branches full with tomatoes.
Best Location for Cherry Tomato Plants
Tomatoes prefer hot sunny locations, be sure to grow them in a spot with a minimum of 6 hours of daylight. With shorter bloom and ripening times you can be enjoying home grown cherry tomatoes in as early as 65 days from germination. And even earlier if you purchase started plants from a greenhouse or garden center.
Feeding and Watering Cherry Tomatoes
Growing plants in containers have a greater need for water, on hot days you may need to water in the morning and evening. Do expect to water all container cherry tomatoes daily unless it has been raining. It is good to use a water soluble fertilizer, a 20-20-20 general purpose will work though if you are investing in a fertilizer there are tomato specific brands available. Follow the strength recommendation on the packaging.
Harvesting Cherry Tomatoes
Determinate plants will be ready to harvest all at once. Check on the garden tag or seed container for harvest days.
Harvest your indeterminate plants as the tomatoes ripen. If the entire cluster is ripe use scissors to remove the bunch, keeping the tomatoes on the vine.
Store your tomatoes at room temperature.