Growing Cherry Tomatoes
Growing cherry tomatoes is becoming increasingly popular and it is no surprise when you consider just how versatile they are in the kitchen.
Not only are they among the earliest to ripen and sweetest taste, perhaps their most useful quality 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. Containers including large pots, hanging baskets and grow bags are also a great way to grow tomato plants that produce smaller size fruit.
Growing 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.
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 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.
Knowing which varieties grow best in your area is the first step to success. Another consideration is how much root space each variety needs, so below I have grouped the ones that I’ve grown into categories and can recommend for the following spaces.
Bush Determinate Varieties – Dwarf
Balconi Red, Minibel, Vilma, Sweet ‘n’ Neat and Micro Tom are excellent choices for the smallest of spaces and can all be grown in a 6 inch pot.
Dwarf varieties 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.
Hundreds and Thousands – 100s and 1000s will produce an amazing crop of tomatoes. Although they are a small cherry, their taste is excellent and well worth a try this season.
As a trailing variety, they are best grown in a high pot or hanging basket.
If you grow Tumbler (below) and Red Alert in a container that has plenty of room for their roots, you will be rewarded with a good size cherry.
Growing tomatoes upside down, as in 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!
Tips on 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.
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 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 and Micro Tom are small upright types.
Cherry Varieties Mature Early
One of the great advantages of cherry varieties is that they are more likely to ripen in a poor summer – they have less growing to do.
All of the above varieties are bush types but there are many other cherry tomato varieties available, especially among the tall/cordon varieties.
Tall Cherry Varieties – such as Sungold
These are known as cordon or indeterminate varieties because they grow to an indeterminate height – 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 wall or in the greenhouse.
Best Indeterminate Cherry Varieties for UK
Sun Cherry Premium and Golden Cherry are also around the same size and sweetness. Piccolo is another popular cherry variety and produces a huge amount of well flavoured tomatoes with a good sugar/acid balance.
Another good choice is Black Cherry which produces dark brown 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.
Large pots & containers are perfect for growing cherry tomatoes. In a large pot I would grow two or even three plants depending on their root requirements.
Micro Tom produces tomatoes the size of grapes and is very easy to grow on a sunny windowsill indoors.
Pruning Cherry Varieties
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.
Use stakes to support the main stem on bush varieties when they are laden with fruit.
So why don’t you have a go in 2015 … it is very rewarding!