If you’ve ever popped a cherry tomato in your mouth right off the vine while it’s still warm from the sun, you know why these flavorful, bite-sized delights are one of the most popular garden crops.
Cherry tomatoes are fairly easy to grow even if you are new to gardening. They also need fewer days to mature than regular tomatoes, which is a big advantage if you live in a cold climate where the growing season is short, or if the temperatures in your zone get too high too early for the fruit to set during the summer.
Cherry tomatoes come in different shapes: round, elongated (also known as grape tomatoes), and pear-shaped. There are many different cherry tomato varieties and colors to choose from: red, yellow, orange, and blackish-purple.
|Botanical Name||Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme|
|Common Name||Cherry tomato|
|Mature Size||Five to eight feet height|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||6.0 to 6.8|
|Native Area||South America|
How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes
Generally, cherry tomatoes are grown the same way as regular-size tomatoes. Most cherry tomato varieties are indeterminate and tend to sprawl even more than hybrid and heirloom tomatoes. This means to control them, you need to provide good support for the vines, and keep after them with regular pruning.
Plenty of sunlight is crucial to successfully grow cherry tomatoes. They need full, direct sun for at least six to eight hours per day.
The soil for tomatoes needs to be slightly acidic, well-drained, rich, and loamy. To determine the nutrient level in your soil and its pH, it’s important to do a soil test.
If your garden soil is heavy and has poor drainage, you are better off growing tomatoes in raised beds or containers.
Make sure that you practice crop rotation, which prevents diseases from spreading, and also avoids excessive nutrient depletion of the soil. Do not plant tomatoes in the same location where other members of the nightshade family (potatoes, eggplants, and peppers) were grown the year before.
Tomatoes must be watered deeply and regularly. At no time should you let the soil dry out. During the time of fruit development, keeping the soil moist helps preventing blossom end rot. Overwatering, on the other hand, will cause the cherry tomatoes to split.
Drip watering is best, as overhead watering can lead to the spread of tomato diseases such as blight.
Temperature and Humidity
Tomatoes are highly cold-sensitive. Wait until there is no more danger of a late spring frost and the soil temperature has reached at least have 60 degrees F before planting your tomatoes. And make sure to harden off the seedlings before transplanting them in the garden.
Tomatoes are not bothered by humidity but one thing to keep in mind is that the lush foliage of tomato plants stays wet longer in humid weather. If tomatoes are planted too densely or not properly pruned, and disease hits, poor air circulation will make it spread faster. When planting, remember to be generous with space. A little extra space is better for air flow and also for access when picking.
At least two weeks before planting your cherry tomatoes, add 2.5 pounds complete fertilizer per 100 square feet. Once the tomatoes are planted, they need regular fertilizing throughout the growing season, about every two weeks.
Cherry Tomato Varieties
There are numerous cherry tomatoes, both heirloom and hybrid varieties. Here are just a few popular ones:
- ‘Black Cherry’ – Purple-black heirloom variety.
- ‘Fantastico’: Determinate grape tomato, crack-resistant, late blight tolerant.
- ‘Golden Sweet’: Yellow grape tomato, crack-resistant, resistant to Fusarium wilt and leaf mold.
- ‘Isis Candy’: Heirloom variety, bicolored pale red with golden streaks.
- ‘Juliet’ – Red grape tomato, crack-resistant.
- ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ – Deep red heirloom variety that originated in the wild in eastern Mexico.
- ‘Sun Gold’ – Orange-colored cherry tomato, resistant to fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus.
- ‘Supersweet 100’: Red cherry tomato, resistant to fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.
- ‘Yellow Pear’ – Yellow pear-shaped heirloom variety.
Growing Cherry Tomatoes from Seed
It’s fairly easy to grow cherry tomatoes from seed by following these detailed steps. But unless you want to grow a lot of cherry tomatoes of the same variety, or if you want to grow more unusual varieties that are only available from seed companies, buying healthy tomato seedlings from your local garden center might be the more convenient way to go.
How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes in Containers
For container growing, choose a determinate, dwarf or bush-type cherry tomato variety, such as ‘Fantastico’, ‘Patio’, ‘Better Bush’, ‘Gold Nugget’, or ‘BHN 968’. Follow these tips for growing tomatoes in containers.
Harvesting Cherry Tomatoes
Once the cherry tomatoes start ripening, check your plants at least every other day. Cherry tomatoes are ripe when they easily detach from the stem. If left on the plant for too long, they will crack or drop off the stem.
A heavy rain can make cherry tomatoes crack or split even more so pick any ripe tomatoes before the rain. Or, if that’s not possible, right afterwards because cracked tomatoes rot quickly.