10 Tips for growing cherry tomatoes, a garden staple.
By Joanne Washburn
There’s nothing quite like enjoying fresh-from-the-vine cherry tomatoes. Healthy, tangy and thirst-quenching, these bright little tomatoes are a must-have in any home garden.
Luckily, cherry tomatoes are easy and simple to care for, even if started from seeds. This guide gives you a run-through of the many cherry tomato varieties, including tips on caring for the plant from seed to fruit.
Cherry tomatoes and their varieties
- Sweet Million – These bright red tomatoes boast a good balance of sweetness and tartness. Expect to harvest bucketfuls of the fruits after each growing season.
- Sunsugar – Sunsugar tomatoes are more sweet than tart but still possess that true tomato flavor. The tomatoes themselves also appear more orange or golden than the usual red.
- Black cherry – Beautiful black cherries look like large, dark purple grapes. They have a very rich and complex flavor profile and the plants themselves produce huge clusters of tomatoes.
These three are called “indeterminate” varieties, meaning the plants will continue to grow tall and bear fruit until a hard frost kills them.
Tips for planting and caring for cherry tomatoes
Once you’ve chosen your variety, it’s time to put on those gardening gloves. Here are some of our pro tips to help you get started:
Choose a sunny spot
Tomatoes prefer direct sunlight and a lot of heat, and cherries are no different. If growing them indoors or on a patio that lacks full sun, leave the plants in their containers on a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of sun, like on a windowsill.
Use rich and slightly acidic soil
Cherries prefer well-drained, rich and acidic soil. If in doubt about your soil’s nutrient content and pH level, do a soil test before sowing or transferring seedlings. If poor drainage affects soil conditions, grow the tomatoes in raised beds or in containers.
Practice crop rotation
Crop rotation helps return nutrients to the soil without the use of fertilizer. The process also helps deter pests and discourage soil-borne diseases from spreading.
Keep the soil moist
Cherry tomatoes need moist soil to avoid blossom end rot. This condition is neither a bacterial rot nor a soil-borne disease. Instead, blossom end rot occurs when the plant is in need of calcium even as it produces fruit. Two common causes of blossom end rot are insufficient watering and over-fertilization.
Plant in late spring
Cherries are sensitive to cold temperatures, so it’s best to wait until late spring to sow them outdoors. Once the temperature hits 60 degrees Fahrenheit, go ahead and plant them. Planting before that mark will put the seeds or seedlings in danger of a late spring frost.
Allot enough space for each plant
Tomatoes don’t mind a little humidity. But planting them too close to each other or neglecting to prune them can affect air circulation and place them at risk of sharing soil-borne diseases. Make sure to allot ample space for each plant for better airflow. Providing a trellis also gives them ample space for climbing.
Regularly fertilize the soil
If you’re working with nutrient-poor soil, make sure to prepare it before sowing with at least 2.5 pounds of organic fertilizer per 100 square feet. Once planted, cherry tomatoes will need regular fertilizing every two weeks or so. Don’t over-fertilize to avoid root rot, stunted growth and weak plant structure.
Start from seedlings
Cherry tomatoes can take at least 60–70 days to bear fruit. Starting the plants from seedlings can help reduce that maturation period for an early harvest.
Choose bush-type varieties for container gardening
If growing cherry tomatoes indoors, opt for dwarf or bush varieties, such as Fantastico, Patio, Better Bush and Gold Nugget. Follow these tips for growing them in containers.
Harvest cherry tomatoes before they crack or drop
Most cherry tomato plants should start flowering in about a month. In a few weeks, those flowers will turn into cherry tomatoes ready for harvest. You’ll know it’s time to harvest them if the fruit comes off the stem easily. If left on the plant for too long, the tomatoes will crack or split, which will make them rot faster.
Healthy, juicy and tangy cherry tomatoes are a favorite among gardeners. Use this guide to help you get started on your cherry tomato plants.