Growing cherry tomatoes in containers such as hanging baskets, large pots, 6 inch pots on the windowsill, upside down planters and grow bags is becoming increasingly popular. This it is no surprise when you consider just how relatively easy they are to grow and how versatile they are in the kitchen.
How Long Does It Take for Cherry Tomatoes to Grow?
One question that is often asked is how long it take to grow cherry tomatoes from seed. The answer is that cherry tomatoes are among the earliest to ripen and can be grown in just over three months – from seed to fruit – given good growing conditions, good weather and correct watering and feeding.
One of the great advantages of cherry varieties is that they are more likely to ripen in a poor summer than larger tomatoes – because they have less growing to do.
Cherry Tomatoes for Small Spaces
One of their most useful qualities is that they will grow in the smallest of spaces – depending on the variety. Even if you only have a balcony or window-box it is still possible to grow cherry tomatoes successfully.
It is possible to grow many dwarf varieties in a 6 inch pot. Hanging baskets and upside down planters are also a great way to grow small tomato plants that produce smaller size fruit.
Growing Cherry Tomatoes from Seed
Many cherry varieties are easy to grow from seed, and dwarf varieties such as Balconi Red and Sweet ‘n’ Neat won’t become leggy in periods of low light in the Spring. This means that they can be sown earlier without the seedlings becoming spindly.
Cherry tomato seeds are available everywhere that tomato seeds are sold.
Try Gardener’s Delight and Tumbling Tom – two easy to grow varieties that taste great!
Best Soil for Cherry Tomatoes
The best soil for cherry tomatoes is John Innes or multi-purpose compost/potting soil from the garden centre.
If you plant tomato plants directly into your garden soil, the plants will probably be wiil be attacked by all sorts of diseases and bugs that will nibble on the leaves and fruit.
If using a small container or hanging basket, it is good to add water retaining gel to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly in hot weather. Perlite and vermiculite are also very good for retaining moisture.
Best Cherry Tomato Varieties
Knowing which cherry tomato varieties grow best in your area is the first step to success. Another consideration is how much root space and container size each variety needs, so below I have grouped the ones that I’ve grown into categories and can recommend for the following spaces.
Varieties for a Six Inch Pot
Balconi Red, Pot Minibel, Vilma, Sweet ‘n’ Neat and Micro Tom are excellent choices for the smallest of spaces. These are dwarf bush/determinate varieties that can all be grown in a 6 inch pot. Micro Tom produces tomatoes the size of grapes and is very easy to grow on a sunny windowsill indoors.
Hanging Basket or High Sided Pot
Hundreds and Thousands – 100s and 1000s will produce an amazing crop of tomatoes. Although they are a small cherry, sometimes called a grape tomato, their taste is excellent and well worth a try this season. As a trailing variety, they are best grown in a high sided pot or hanging basket.
Large Pots for Root Growth
If you grow Tumbler or Red Alert in a container that has plenty of room for their roots, you will be rewarded with a good size cherry. Some varieties need more root room than others.
Growing Cherry Tomatoes Upside Down
A Topsy Turvy Planter, is ideal using trailing varieties. Tumbling Tom would be a good choice and it comes in both red and yellow types!
Growing Cherry Tomatoes Indoors
Of all the varieties available, dwarf varieties that produce cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow indoors. They can also be grown indoors over the winter months with a little extra light from a grow light.
There are a number of hydroponic set ups on the market that are perfect for growing small cherry varieties that are of a bush habit.
Of course most varieties are started indoors then put outside when the weather is right. However, because of their smaller size – both plants and fruit – bush cherry tomato plant may be grown inside on a sunny windowsill or conservatory throughout the summer.
This extends the season at the beginning and end making tomatoes available for a longer period.
Tips for Growing Cherry Tomatoes in Hanging Baskets and Containers
Tomato plants are very clever and will work hard to flower and produce fruit – especially when their roots tell them that they are running out of space!
This means that if you put too many plants in a hanging basket or small container, your tomatoes may ripen smaller than expected because of the limited room. So If you are growing cherry tomatoes or even grape/cocktail size tomatoes, you may end up with very small fruit indeed, so always use a container with plenty of root space.
Trailing or Upright Bush Tomatoes
Trailing varieties are best grown in high sided containers and off the ground. Tumbling Tom, Tumbler F1, Maskotka are trailing types.
Upright bush tomatoes are suitable for any type of container.
Balconi Red, Vilma, Heartbreaker and Micro Tom are small upright varieties.
All of the above are bush varieties but there are many other cherry tomato
varieties available, especially among the tall/cordon types.
Tall Cherry Varieties
These are known as cordon or indeterminate varieties because they grow to an indeterminate height – to any height that the growing conditions will allow.
Of the tall varieties, Sungold is among the sweetest. It can be grown in grow bags up against a sunny wall or in a greenhouse.
Best Indeterminate/Cordon Cherry Varieties for UK
Suncherry Premium and Golden Cherry are also around the same size and sweetness. Piccolo is a professional cherry variety and produces a huge crop of well flavoured tomatoes with a good sugar/acid balance.
Another good choice is Black Cherry, a favourite with gardeners, which produces dark brown/purple coloured tomatoes. It yields a good amount of fruit on a tall, vigorous plant but it can be a little difficult to know when the fruit are fully ripe because of the colour (but don’t let that put you off), I’ll grow it again this year!
One of the best and most balanced for taste (acid/sugar content) is Gardener’s Delight. It is a red cherry and has truly delighted gardeners for many years … very dependable.
Pruning Cherry Tomatoes
Bush varieties do not need to be pruned or have the growing tip removed.
Tall indeterminate plants do need their side shoots removed and the growing tip removed above the top truss. It is usual to grow between four and seven trusses on a cherry variety.
Staking and Supporting Cherry Tomatoes
Use stakes or thin canes to support the main stem on bush varieties when they are laden with fruit. The overall weight of a plant that has no support may damage the main stem.
Owning to the amount of tomatoes on a truss, a truss support may be needed to stop the truss from coming away from the main stem.
Cherry Tomatoes in a Salad
One of the best uses for cherry tomatoes is in a salad. Cut in half, the different colours available of red, yellow, orange, purple/brown and green when ripe. These make a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Another use is in a curry – cherry tomato halves are fantastic added raw to any spicy food.
So why don’t you have a go at growing cherry tomatoes in containers this season … it is very rewarding!