Days to germination: 7 days
Days to harvest: 60 to 80 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Well fertilized, loose, lots of organic matter
Cherry tomatoes are a very popular vegetable to grow for folks who are short on yard space. These little bushy plants are ideal for balconies, patios or even windowsills. Average cherry tomatoes are about an inch across, but there are varieties like Tiny Tim that produce tomatoes about half that size. Not only do cherry tomatoes take up less space, they also mature quicker than full-sized tomatoes.
Most people grow bush varieties, but you can get vining cherry tomatoes such as Gardener’s Delight. Vining cherry tomatoes can grow fairly large, and may require as much space as a typical tomato, so do a bit of research into the many varieties before making any purchases of seeds or seedlings. For small plants, stick with the bush.
Tomatoes are eaten raw or cooked, but the smaller cherry tomatoes are more often eaten raw just because of their size. They are high in vitamins A and C, and are great sources for potassium, vitamin K and even fiber.
Starting from Seed
You’ll need 2 or 3 months of warm (even hot) weather for your tomato plants to thrive if you start them as seeds in the garden. If your growing season can accommodate, then you can just sow out your seeds. Otherwise, plan on getting some seedlings started about 6 weeks before you expect the last frost date to pass.
Wherever you plan on growing your seedlings, it should be at least 70F and have plenty of sun. A typical windowsill is probably not suitable for tomatoes but it does depend on how big your windows are. Tomato seedlings that don’t get enough sun will be tall and spindly, which will make for weak plants once they go outside. If this is the case for you, either get a grow-light, or only keep your seedlings inside for 2 to 3 weeks.
Whether you are planting seedlings or seeds, you will have to wait until your frost date is past by at least a week.
Choose a location for your cherry tomatoes that will get a full day’s sun, and not be shaded by other plants. The soil should be loose and fertile, so dig it well before planting. Add your preferred form of natural fertilizer while you are digging it up.
Vining tomatoes plants can be planted closer together than bush varieties, so double-check what you are growing. Vining plants (also called indeterminate) can be planted about 1 foot apart in row, while bush types (determinate) will need about 2 feet between them. Bush cherry tomatoes will be sturdy enough to stay upright on their own but indeterminate plants will need some support.
Get your string, stakes or tomato cages in place right at planting time. If you wait until later, you are much more likely to damage your plants.
If you have planted seeds, water them enough to keep the soil constantly moist until they sprout and have developed a few leaves. After that, you can water them just like any seedling.
Keep your seedlings watered at least twice a week with a good soaking.
Tomatoes are heavy-feeders, though cherry tomatoes need less fertilizer than standard ones. Give your plants a feeding with standard mix fertilizer once a month to keep them growing well.
For vining tomatoes, trim off extra sprouts and branches that start to grow off from the main central stem. A little bit of pruning will keep your vines productive. You don’t need to do this with bush tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes are immensely popular as container plants, and people probably grow them in pots more often than in the garden.
Just remember that cherry tomatoes do have large root systems and shouldn’t be kept in very small pots just because the tomatoes are small. You should keep each plant in at least a pot with 18 to 20 inches in diameter. A pot that’s 2 or 3 gallons is better.
Keep your potted tomatoes well-watered and well-fed. Giving them a bit of fertilizer with every watering isn’t a bad idea, especially if you can get one of those formulations designed for tomatoes.
Pests and Diseases
Though insects can be a problem, fungus tends to be the biggest threat to home grown tomato plants. There is a whole list of wilts, spots and blights that can kill your plants. You can try to get varieties that are naturally resistant to some of them, but your selection can be limited with cherry tomatoes.
General symptoms include yellowing leaves, moldy blotches or dark spots. Sometimes you’ll find these problems on the stems as well as the leaves, but it depends on the type of fungus. The fungus spores can survive for years in the soil, so if you’ve had a problem with your tomato plants, be sure to plant something different in that patch next year. And that includes their close relatives, like eggplants and peppers.
If you see any possible symptoms, pick the leaves off immediately and spray your plants with fungicide. Once its spread through your plant, it’s not likely you’ll be able to save it. Pull it out to keep the infection from spreading to other plants.
Aside from fungus problems, you still need to be on the lookout for potato beetles and stink bugs that will chew the leaves off your cherry tomatoes. Hand-picking can help with a few of them, and natural insect sprays can also repel these pests.
Harvest and Storage
You can harvest any of your cherry tomatoes when they are slightly soft to the touch and have turned color from their original green. Most will be deep red, but some types of cherry tomatoes are yellow or orange. Give the fruit a twist and don’t pull on the vine or you can hurt the rest of the plant.
Slightly green tomatoes will finish ripening in the windowsill, which can be handy when frost time comes around. If your plants are still producing tomatoes at the end of the season, you really need to pick all the fruit before a frost. Even a light frost can ruin any growing tomatoes.
A cherry tomato bush will have a harvest of all its tomatoes at once, but a vining one tends to produce its fruit staggered for a longer period of tomato picking. Fresh tomatoes will last up to a week in the fridge, and can be frozen, canned or dried for longer storage.