How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes
Tiny, tasty, and remarkably easy to grow, cherry tomatoes offer everyone the chance to channel their inner farmer. Whether you tend to an acre of land in the country or a container on a patio in the city, you can grow these colorful gems and enjoy your own farm-to-table produce. Cherry tomatoes are relatively fuss-free as long as you follow a few simple rules, so with varietal names such as 'Golden Sweet', 'Isis Candy', and 'Black Cherry,' your hardest job will be in choosing which one to plant.
When to Plant
Plant cherry tomatoes in the spring after all threat of frost has passed. You can also start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your area's projected frost date and then plant the seedlings outside when they are anywhere from 3-6 inches tall with 2-3 sets of true leaves.
Where to Plant Cherry Tomatoes
Your first step in growing cherry tomatoes is to decide on your garden spot. Whether you grow in the ground, in raised beds, or opt for container gardening, the needs of the plant remain the same. Tomato plants love warmth, so choose a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. The soil should be slightly acidic, loose, and well-drained. Loam and sandy loam soils are best for tomato production but, except for heavy clay, these plants will grow in almost all soil types. If your garden spot has a lot of clay, you may want to amend your soil with sand, sawdust, peat moss, or other matter.
Use a fertilizer labeled for tomatoes at the time of planting and continue to fertilize throughout the season, following label instructions.
How to Space and Support Cherry Tomato Plants
Tomato plants need good air circulation with room to spread out. If you purchased plants from a nursery, check the plant tags for spacing requirements. These guidelines give the ideal distance from the center of one plant to the center of the next. If you started from seeds and don't have a plant tag as a guideline, the rule of thumb is to space long-vined, indeterminate varieties about 3 feet apart, while bushier determinate plants can be spaced 2 feet apart.
As tomato plants grow and spread, they require a support system, such as stakes, a cage, or trellis. Decide which system you will use before you set out your plants, then place that support when you plant. This will allow the tomato plant to grow up and around the stake or cage instead of you trying to fit a support around an overgrown, mature plant, damaging roots and vines as you go.
How to Water Cherry Tomato Plants
Like all plants, tomatoes need consistent moisture; keep the soil wet enough to prevent wilting but not so wet that the roots remain soggy. Garden tomatoes require generally 1 to 2 inches of water per week, but that can change depending on weather conditions (such as excessive drought) and the size of the plant. When the plants are young, drip irrigation is best because it can help avoid strong streams of water that erode the soil. As the tomato plants mature, water more slowly and deeply. Consistent water is especially important in the summer heat when irregular moisture swings and dry soil can lead to problems such as blossom-end rot and fruit splitting.
If you grow tomatoes in containers, pay close attention to your watering schedule because containers will dry out more quickly than garden soil.
How to Prune Cherry Tomatoes
Not all gardeners choose to prune their tomatoes but it is an extra step that can help the plants produce more fruit. Pruning simply means you remove the suckers, or small stems, growing from the main stem. Suckers tend to produce foliage but not a lot of fruit, so without excess foliage the plant can focus its energy and nutrients on the fruit-bearing stems. You should also prune off any stems that drag on the ground, as they are susceptible to diseases and pests.
How to Harvest Cherry Tomatoes
Your hard work in the garden will pay off around 50 to 65 days after planting, when the color on the tomatoes turns from green to a rainbow of orange, red, yellow, or purple, depending on the variety. Ripe tomatoes will easily detach from their stem. Check your plants every other day for more harvestable fruit. If left unharvested, over-ripe tomatoes may split, rot, and fall to the ground.