Growing tomatoes is a great way to enjoy fresh, delicious produce all year long. Growing cherry tomatoes in pots can be a fun and easy alternative to traditional gardening methods. This post will provide you with the steps needed for a healthy, robust container garden filled with fresh ripe cherry tomatoes.
Start with the right type of cherry tomato plant.
The best cherry tomatoes are labeled as “patio” “bush” or “determinate.”
Patio or bush-type tomatoes grow to a height of about 12 inches and will not need staking. These make an excellent option for smaller gardens or window-sill gardens. A perfect tomato for small pots and baskets is Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim is a prolific little cherry tomato plant that bursts with a surprising amount of tomatoes for such a small plant – perfect for small sunny patio gardens!
Determinate tomatoes grow to a height of 18 inches and do not need staking, making them ideal for containers only 12 inches tall or smaller. They stop growing when the days become shorter in late summer, which is perfect because you can harvest all your cherry tomatoes at once.
Make sure you choose the right size pot.
Different varieties of cherry tomatoes will require different size pots.
You can use a pot as small as 8 inches in diameter for the smaller patio type of plants. However, for the large “bush” and “determinate” kind of plant, you will need a pot at least 10-12 inches wide and deep.
Terra cotta pots are excellent for growing tomatoes and can be found in many styles, shapes, and colors at garden centers. Terra cotta pots can dry out faster, but You can also use them year after year.
But any right-sized container with adequate drainage will do the trick.
You can container grow everything from kale, carrots, onions, pumpkins, blueberries, lettuce, strawberries, etc., (you get the point) so long as you have the correct size containers in the right spot!
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What type of soil should I be using?
When growing cherry tomatoes in pots you can use garden soil, but you must mix in some compost or aged manure to ensure enough nutrients are provided over the long growing season.
You may also want to use potting soil with fertilizer already mixed in if the plant will need lots of nutrients and water and frequent fertilization.
We use Promix for all our growing needs. For our container-grown tomatoes, we like to use Pro-Mix For Vegetables.
How often do I need to water my containers?
You will need to water your container-grown cherry tomatoes every day at the height of summer, but more often when it’s hot and dry.
One of the disadvantages of growing cherry tomatoes in containers is that the containers tend to dry out faster. Therefore, you need to closely monitor your soil to ensure it doesn’t constantly dry out.
The chronic cycle of bone-dry soil and a giant water drench can lead to blossom-end rot. So try to keep the water moisture level constant.
Learn More: Are your tomatoes suffering from blossom end rot? Check out our article on how to manage tomato rot.
Growing cherry tomatoes in pots will require a lot of water. Plan to give them about an inch of water per week and more during hot weather or when plants are actively fruiting or flowering (during this time, they need about one gallon of water per day).
Are your tomatoes splitting?
Over-watering and under-watering are both causes of cracking and splitting in tomatoes, but there are other reasons. If you are having issues with split tomatoes, check out our troubleshooting guide to help you prevent tomato splitting in the future.
How much sun do cherry tomatoes need?
Cherry tomatoes require full sun. They can handle a bit of afternoon shade but will perform best under full sun conditions.
How long do cherry tomatoes take to grow?
Growth time varies with the cultivar, but most cherry tomatoes can grow a few weeks after transplant.
Do I need to stake my cherry tomato plant in my containers?
If you plant the larger bush types, you may need to stake them. Heavier-producing plants can tip over during the growing season, so be sure to verify how tall your plant will be at maturity.
How often do I need to fertilize my cherry tomatoes?
Fertilize your plants with a water-soluble fertilizer, such as Pro-Mix Tomato Growing Formula, or nutrients designed for container gardening. Fertilizer should be applied every four to five weeks during the growing season.
We also like to use a few handfuls of worm castings around the plants a few times a season. The plants seem to love it.
For more info chek out our full guide to fertilizing pepper plants!
How to harden off your cherry tomato seedlings before planting.
Tomato plants need to be “hardened off” before being planted outside in containers or the garden.
To harden off your plants, place them outside for about an hour with the temperature at 60 degrees or more.
Next, bring the plants back inside and allow them to adjust before being placed outside again. Continue this process until they can stay out in the full sun all day long without wilting or showing any signs of stress.
If you do not harden off your cherry tomato seedlings, they could die when exposed to high winds or bright sunlight.
How to plant cherry tomato seedlings in containers.
Snip off the leaves with a clean set of gardening sheers to plant a tomato seedling. Then, remove all but the top 3-4 leaves. If your seedling is very large, you can leave 5-6; leaves on top.
Dig a deep hole in your soil and place the seedling in the container deep enough to cover the exposed stem. The top leaves should be close to soil level, about an inch between the bottom leaf and the soil.
Be sure to water the plant very well.
How to harvest cherry tomatoes
Harvesting cherry tomatoes in a container garden is very easy because the fruit will be close to ground level and easily accessible. Pluck or pick them off at any time when they are ripe enough for eating, cooking, jam-making, etc. (tomato jam is a beautiful thing!)
How to store and use cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are best stored in a plastic container on the counter and out of direct sunlight. This will allow them to stay fresher longer, up to two weeks. Keep an eye on them because they can lose sweetness quickly if you don’t use them all right away.
You can also cut them in half and dehydrate them to use as sundried tomatoes ( I do this every single year!). They add a big boost of flavor to soups, appetizers, and pasta dishes, and they stay fresh for up 12 months if stored in a cool, dry place. Moisture is the enemy of dehydrated tomatoes, so make sure they are dehydrated before storing them.
Cherry tomatoes also make the BEST tomato soup. Although seeds in larger tomatoes can sometimes add a bitter taste to soups, cherry tomatoes do not tend to have this problem, so you can blend your cherry tomatoes with your blender seeds and all and make the best tomato soup ever!
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