One juicy reward of gardening is biting into a plump ripe tomato. There are many different types of tomatoes to choose from, but most gardeners like to include at least one bush of scrumptious cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow and even “black,” and they’re equally sweet and delicious when they ripen on the vine. Read on for tips on how to grow cherry tomatoes.
Before Planting Cherry Tomatoes
It’s a good idea to know the basics of how to grow cherry tomatoes before you get started.
In early spring, whether you’ve started your seeds indoors or purchased seedlings, be sure there’s no more chance of frost by planting day. Tender seedlings will die if they get too cold. Wait until your little plants are 6 to 10 inches tall (15-25 cm.), and be sure you leave at least a couple feet between planting holes. Cherry tomatoes can grow big and bushy.
As you plan your garden, keep in mind that tomatoes are happiest in well-draining soil with a pH balance of 6.2 to 6.5, and they require four to six hours of sun each day.
Look at your cherry tomato seedling in its little container. You can pluck all the small stems and shoots from the bottom of the seedling’s main stalk up to a few inches above its current soil line. When you remove it from its small pot, gently ruffle the existing roots. To plant, bury most of the bare stalk deeply in the soil, right up to the first remaining stem. This will give the plant a chance to make lots of extra roots and become strong and robust as it grows.
To prevent some common problems when growing cherry tomatoes, sprinkle a handful of lime into the bottom of each hole, and use a little tomato fertilizer to give your plants a strong start. Well-rotted manure works good too. Once they are established, you can fertilize them on the side with homemade compost or a 10-20-10 plant food, depending on your soil content.
How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes
Continued care involves pinching off the suckers that pop up when growing cherry tomatoes. Look at where the branches meet the stalk and form a “V.” Removing the small suckers at these junctions and at the bottom of the main stalk will let your plant to use more of its energy to make fruit.
If your cherry tomato plant starts to become bushy, you may want to sink a stake a few inches away for support, and to keep the fruit from lying on the ground. Tie the plant’s main stalk gently to the stake with a piece of yarn or soft string, and plan to rearrange it as the plant grows.
Cherry tomatoes are happiest with a heavy weekly soaking rather than frequent light watering. They also thrive when the ripe fruit is picked every day or two.
Picking Cherry Tomatoes
Depending on your weather, it should take about a couple months for your cherry tomatoes to ripen. Pick them when they’ve turned their expected color. When they’re ready, they’ll come away with the gentlest tug. Every day or two in peak season you’ll have more ripe cherry tomatoes to harvest.
Picking fresh ripe cherry tomatoes for salads, snacks and hors d’oeuvres is definitely one of the highlights of gardening.