This week I’m going to be waxing lyrical about Cherry Tomatoes. Waxing lyrical about tomatoes is nothing new – I do it every year. Choosing which tomato varieties to grow is a highlight of every season’s garden planning and I exasperate my co-gardener every year by raising more tomato seedlings than we have room for and then insisting that we find space for all of them.
Moving from the sunny Bay of Plenty to the much colder Central North Island has definitely affected our tomato growing timetable – last year I was still sowing seed while others were planting out their plants, and then when the wet weather hit in January it ruined our whole crop before we had really had any tomatoes ripen. This year, we have a greenhouse, so the seeds have been sown and I have great hopes for a better tomato harvest. Today when I checked the seeds sown last weekend, the first tomato seedlings have just popped up through the soil. Tomatoes do need heat to germinate so the tomato seed tray has been on a heat pad, which seems to have done the trick. The next step will be to move them into a position with plenty of light so that the seedlings have good growing conditions. Now that we can keep them a little warmer in the tunnel house, we have great hopes for our tomato plants this year.
There is a lot of choice when deciding which cherry tomato you would like to grow. It’s good to mix it up and sow some good performing old favourites alongside some of the new exciting varieties. This year one of the new varieties we are growing is Tomato Indigo Gold Berries - for the first time.
I’m excited because it is a yellow/golden cherry tomato with the same purple/indigo blushing on the shoulders as one of my other favourite (non-cherry) tomato varieties – Indigo Rose. It looks to be a really beautiful cherry tomato and I’m really looking forward to seeing it fruit. Good looks are not enough, though – it has to taste good as well, and this one is said to have a very sweet, rich flavour. I can check back later in the season to report back but I am really looking forward to this one.
However, if you want additional cherry tomato varieties to grow, Kings Seed has twenty different options, so there are plenty to choose from. If you want to have some interesting colours, you could choose Tomato White Cherry, Tomato Black Cherry, Tomato Orange Cherry or Tomato Bicolour Cherry. There are even striped options – Tomato Black Cherry Striped or Tomato Sunrise Bumble Bee are both striking!
If you want to add some variety to your cherry tomato harvest, you could also grow Tomato Artisan Blush, which is an elongated variety and is golden with a pink blush. Whether you are growing for farmers markets or just for yourself, it’s nice to have produce in a variety of shapes, colours and flavour.
If you want to have some tried, true and tested cherry tomato varieties included in your garden this year, some of our really popular varieties are Tomato Gardeners Delight, Tomato Baxters Early Bush, Tomato Sungold F1, Tomato Ladybug F1 and Tomato Sun Cherry F1. All of these produce large crops and are deservedly popular with growers.
If you are after a good container variety, for wonderful pots full of cherry tomatoes by the barbecue this year, Tomato Window Box Red (pictured on the left) is a variety specially developed to do well in containers. Another good option is Tomato Siderno F1 (pictured on the right). And remember that you can get creative with container growing. If you don't have space to plant in the ground, you can grow cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets or window boxes - even in the city!
Some of the other options are Tomato Gold Nugget, a really nice early golden cherry tomato, Tomato Matt’s Wild Cherry for prolific quantities of tiny sweet little tomatoes.
The other factor to consider will be the size of the plant. The tomatoes may be small but the plants may grow very tall – look at each variety you are considering and see whether it grows on a dwarf plant of 45cm tall or an indeterminate variety that grows to 2m tall.
Once you’ve chosen your varieties, sow the seeds into good seed raising mix and remember that tomato seed needs warmth, not light, to germinate. You can help them along by providing warmth by using a heat pad or putting the seed tray in the hot water cupboard until the seeds have germinated. Remember to check that the seed tray doesn’t dry out under these conditions, and once the seeds have germinated, ensure they are in a position with good light.
Plant them out only when it is warm enough – Labour Weekend is traditional but it can be done earlier in some areas, and must be done later in others (here for instance!). Plant your plants into rich soil and keep them fed through the growing season. Keep your tall plants well staked and consider staking the smaller plants as well – a really fruitful cherry tomato plant can have quite a weight of tomatoes and even the smaller plants may need support when heavily laden.
Enjoy your harvest! I wish you a glut of cherry tomatoes this season!