Tomatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can eat and have been cultivated for centuries in the Americas. They were originally native to Central America, but were taken to the old world by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.
Their primary health benefit comes from an antioxidant called lycopene which is rare in other types of food. They are also rich in vitamins A and C, folic acid and beta-carotene.
You may be familiar with regular tomatoes, but the tiny versions are great options for salads or snacking and really easy to grow in a garden or outdoor area.
Best of all, they will bear fruit during the entire growing season until the chill sets in later in the year. All you need to do is harvest them every few days, and set back and enjoy, while saving a little money in the process.
Here is what you need to get started.
- 1 cherry tomato plant
- 1 tomato cage
- 1 20-quart bag of potting mix
- 1 bottle or bag of tomato food
- 5-gallon planter
A tomato cage is a wire mesh you place around your tomato plant to support it as it begins to grow taller. They can get as tall as 10 feet.
Growing in Garden
Tomatoes love sun and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The best time to plant them in a garden is in early to mid-spring after any potential freezing weather has passed.
Before planting, prune any of the lower leaves halfway up the stem of the plant. Then dig a hole twice the size of the planter and bury it up to its first two leaflets on the stem. Pack the soil in and around the plant,
After planting, place pine straw or mulch around the area to help the soil retain moisture and discourage weeds. Tomatoes love moderately acidic soil in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.0.
Training Your Plant
Tomato plants get tall and heavy, thus requiring the support of a cage as they grow. These will act as ladders as the plant begins to climb.
As the plant grows, thread the limbs through the cage to insure they are well-supported.
Initially, you may need to support the plant with a wooden stake until it is established. Simply tie the stem to the stake with gardening twine.
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Growing in a Planter
If you are planting your cherry tomatoes in a planter on your deck, you can use a specific planting bucket designed for that type of activity, or you can make your own.
Before you fill the bucket, use a power drill with a ¼ inch bit to drill several holes in the bottom of the bucket to allow excess water to drain. If you bought a planter, the holes will already be present.
Cherry tomatoes love full sun so you need to make sure that wherever you place them on a deck or other outdoor patio, they receive at least 8 hours of full sun.
Before you fill the planter, place your tomato cage inside with the pointed ends down first, then fill the bucket will potting soil. As you add potting soil, add water until you reach about an inch below the rim of the planter.
Using your hands, scoop away a small amount of soil and place your tomato plant inside. Move soil around the plant making sure not to cover the top of the base.
All that is left to do is water it every few days and fertilize according to the insert provided with the plant.
As the tomato plant starts to get bigger, the small limbs will begin to emerge from the cage. Support them by threading them through the cage so that there is no drooping. Once the limbs begin to bear fruit, they will become much heavier so this supporting cage is essential.
If you planted your tomatoes in early spring and expect a frost to occur, simply cover them with plastic to protect them.
When to Harvest Cherry Tomatoes
You can expect your first flowers to emerge about a month after planting. That will be followed by small, green fruits.
In a few weeks, those will ripen into cherry tomatoes and be ready for harvest.
Most can be picked easily off the stem at this point. Over the course of the next several months, they will continue to ripen so they should be picked every few days. It should produce until cold weather sets in.
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Common Varieties of Cherry Tomatoes
The best place to find cherry tomatoes of all varieties is at a local nursery. Some of the more common types include:
Sweet Million – produces an extra sweet tomato red in appearance
Sun Gold - produces a lite orange tomato that is very sweet
Lemon Cherry – produces a mildly sweet tomato on a big plant.
Cherry Falls – produces a sweet cherry pink tomato on a compact plant good for hanging baskets
Black Cherry – produces a full flavored tomato that is dark red in appearance
I love tomatoes of all varieties. They are one of the so-called super foods that fight free radicals in the body. I dice them and eat them with everything, including omelets or anything stir fry.
Cherry tomatoes are particular useful to create great looking salads or even add to pasta dishes. They are delicious and provide the same health benefits of normal sized tomatoes.
If you apply any pesticides to your plants, be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating them. Before I eat anything with a skin like a tomato or an apple, I wash it under running water using dish washing liquid. Yeah, I know that isn't designed for food, but if it is good enough for plates, I'm fine with it. Just rinse it clean.
If you are looking to start a garden, growing cherry tomatoes are a great option. They are easy to grow and will encourage your new hobby because they produce all year long.