No matter your location, if you have access to even moderate sun, growing cherry tomatoes in pots is for you. With the right varieties and soil nutrients, you can have fresh tomatoes to eat all summer long, and if you have enough space, you can even grow enough to preserve.
My North-facing condo in the Washington, D.C. metro area was not the most ideal place to grow tomatoes, and yet, for about 10 years, I had a lot of success growing cherry tomatoes in pots on my tiny balcony, about 60 feet in the air. Each spring, I would start tomatoes from seeds under lights, then, when frost had passed, I would transplant them in hanging containers on my balcony (did I mention I lived on the top floor?) and watch as the seedlings turned to mature plants, heavy with fruit.
Even after years of growing slicing, paste, and other tomatoes on our homestead, I’ve still had the most success growing tiny cherry tomatoes in our garden. But growing them in the ground has not been as successful as in containers, so this year, I’m returning to growing cherry tomatoes in pots on my front porch, just as I did all those years ago. Whether you live in a rural area, suburbia, or an urban farm, growing cherry tomatoes in pots is for you.
Deciding How Much to Grow
If you’re wondering how many plants you’ll need, I like to grow 1 or 2 cherry tomato plants per person for fresh eating. If you want to preserve your cherry tomatoes, then 3 or 4 large plants per person is a good place to start.
Most cherry tomatoes are indeterminate, which is perfect for a balcony farmer, since you will be able to have fresh vegetables all summer long (Indeterminate means the tomatoes don’t all ripen at the same time. Rather, the plant will continue to grow and produce fruits as long as you harvest the ripe tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes stop growing at a certain point, and set fruit, which ripen at the same time).
When it comes to varieties of cherry tomatoes, choosing a bush variety is a good idea, especially if you don’t have too much space. Growing cherry tomatoes in pots is easier if you don’t have vines everywhere, and you will be able to keep more plants in a small area if you choose a bush variety. They also look neater, so if you have a strict HOA or fussy neighbors, they are less likely to complain.
In the past, to ensure my plants became bushy, I pinched off the tops of the plants, which caused them to set more stems. I had a lot of success with Sweet 100, which is a hybrid. If you want to go with an heirloom variety, black cherry tomatoes are a good and flavorful option.
Choosing a Good Pot Size
When planting vegetables in pots, one of your main considerations should be the size of the pots. Cherry tomatoes do best when given enough room to grow. A container 14-inches in diameter is the minimum width necessary for growing cherry tomatoes in pots. Containers up to 20-inches in diameter is ideal, and they should be able to hold at least 5 gallons of soil for the best results.
One type of pot I liked to use were hanging planters since I could lift them off the ground, away from most pests, and they looked attractive. My homeowners association also did not object to hanging planters, but they had a problem with 5-gallon buckets.
If you plan on growing cherry tomatoes in pots, be sure to use one pot per plant. Since overcrowding can lead to poor air circulation, you’ll run a higher risk of your plant getting a disease, such as early blight. If there’re too many plants in a container, the plants might also shade each other, which can result in spindly plants that don’t set fruit.
If you’re wondering how to care for tomato plants, then making sure they have the right ratio of the primary nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, is vital to getting a good harvest of cherry tomatoes. The nitrogen ensures that your cherry tomato plants will grow well, while the phosphorous will help the plants deal with environmental stresses as they grow. Potassium will aid in fighting diseases, and it improves the quality of the fruit that will set.
When you plant your tomatoes, use a high-quality soil and compost mixture to ensure the plant has enough of these primary nutrients. When the plant starts to flower and set fruit, you will want to side dress with additional compost. Simply add compost around the base of the plant and allow it to mix naturally with the soil. The plant roots will be able to absorb the nutrients in the compost as you water it. Look for a compost that is low in nitrogen, high in phosphorus, and that has a medium amount of potassium.
How to Use Cherry Tomatoes
Once your cherry tomatoes ripen, you have several options for using them. You can eat them fresh on a salad for example, or if you have enough, you can preserve them. One option is making tomato sauce from scratch, which is easy to do with cherry tomatoes. Another option is to pickle them, or to can them for soups, stews or other meals.
Growing cherry tomatoes in pots is easy, and perfect for any backyard farmer. If you have a free corner in your home, consider filling it with a cherry tomato plant. For more gardening articles, visit my homesteading blog, FrugalChicken.
Do you have success growing cherry tomatoes in pots? If so, what is your favorite variety?