Cherry-type tomatoes do very well in sunny patio containers and hanging baskets. Be sure to offer plenty of light, and monitor moisture; plants in containers can dry out faster than those planted in the ground.
Plant cherry tomatoes in the garden 3 feet apart in rows. Each row should be spaced 48 inches apart. It's very tempting to put them closer at planting time, but if you get them too close you'll only increase the chance of disease.
Some other planting tips:
- Choose a sunny location (6+ hours of sun) and dig a hole about two times as wide as your pot.
- Remove your plant from the pot by loosening the soil and tipping it out into your hand. Place your plant in the soil deep – up to the top two leaf nodes. Each of the hairs on the stalk has the potential to set root, which will help stabilize your plant in the soil.
- Refill the space around your plant with soil and press lightly to compact the dirt, keeping your plant firmly in the ground.
- Water immediately to settle the soil, and add more soil as needed, bringing it level to the rest of your garden.
You'll need stakes or wire tomato cages to support the plants and keep the fruit off the ground where it might rot.
Water cherry tomatoes thoroughly but not too often (twice per week should suffice at first increasing to every other day in summer) and try to water early in the day so that plants will dry off before evening. This helps to reduce disease problems. Use drip or soaker hoses whenever possible. Water is used more efficiently this way and the leaves don't get wet.
Cherry tomatoes prefer regular feeding once the fruit sets, but too much early in the season will grow a large plant but with fewer cherry tomatoes. Use slow-release fertilizer at planting time.
Mulching helps ensure an even supply of moisture is available to the plant.
Cherry tomatoes can be harvested when they begin to show color, as they will continue to ripen. However, the closer you can get to vine-ripened the better the flavor will be.
Bird damage usually becomes a concern at this stage. Birds love to peck holes in the fruit. Some gardeners say they're after water, so try placing some pans of water in the garden. Others claim red ornaments will fake the birds out and they will go away. Putting plastic owls in the garden (move them around every few days) and covering the plants with bird netting (just before harvest time) are other techniques to try.
Fresh ripe cherry tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, refrigeration renders them tasteless and turns the flesh to mush. Flavor and texture begin to deteriorate when the temperature drops below 54°F. Temperatures above 80°F cause cherry tomatoes to spoil quickly. Store cherry tomatoes at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, away from direct sunlight until ready to use.
Refrigeration also slows ripening of cherry tomatoes. Refrigerate only extra-ripe cherry tomatoes you want to keep from ripening any further. To reverse some of the damage, bring chilled cherry tomatoes to room temperature before serving raw or simply add to cooked preparations.
To ripen cherry tomatoes, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process. Depending on how under ripe they are, cherry tomatoes may take one to five days to ripen. Check progress daily.
Cherry tomatoes are a great addition to salads and party trays. They are also delicious sautéed, grilled and stewed.
Tomatoes originated in the South American Andes in a region that now makes up parts of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Eventually tomatoes were planted throughout Central America and into Mexico where Spanish explorers found them growing in Montezuma's garden in the sixteenth century. The Spanish introduced tomatoes to the world.
Recently scientists learned the lycopene content of tomatoes was especially good for maintaining a healthy heart. This extremely nutritious vegetable is now considered America's favorite vegetable.