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February 2008
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Growing cherry tomatoes

A cherry tomato is a smaller garden variety of tomato. It is marketed at a premium to ordinary tomatoes, and is popular as a snack and in salads. Cherry tomatoes are generally considered to be similar but not identical to the wild precursor of the domestic tomato. They are often sweeter than standard tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are sometimes shunned for not offering the rich old-fashioned flavors that you get with larger fruits, but they definitely have a few advantages of their own.
Cherry tomatoes have a way of thriving with less in the way of attention and care from the gardener. Many of them will grow perfectly fine without staking, are more tolerant of drought and weather fluctuations, and less prone to the cracking and blossom end rot that frequently afflict full sized tomato varieties. Another advantage of cherry tomatoes is that they will mature and ripen earlier in the season and continue to bear ripe fruits throughout the summer and into the fall months. The creative gardener may even find ways to nurture a crop indoors over the winter. Most cherry tomato varieties are incredibly productive, yielding hundreds of ripe fruits from a single plant.
Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow in containers on a deck or a patio and require minimal care, so they’re perfect for even unambitious gardeners. Buy an organic potting mix instead of using dirt from the garden to avoid transferring diseases or pests to your plant. Check the soil daily to see if it’s dry, and keep it consistently moist. Position the pot so it gets at least six hours of sun daily. Use a pot that holds four to six gallons of soil. Plastic, fiberglass, and foam work well (these materials won’t let water evaporate quickly from the roots), but any kind of container will do, from a terra-cotta planter to a garbage can. Just be sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.
Buy cherry tomato seedlings from your local nursery for planting after the last frost date in spring. Look for heirloom varieties, or for fun, try the pearl variety. Two plants will produce plenty of fruit, unless you’re feeding an army.
Choose a site with full sun. Work in plenty of compost or other organic matter if your soil is clay or sandy. Dig a hole large enough to fit the base of the plant. Remove the plant from its container. Using the tip of a garden trowel, dig gently into the root ball at the bottom of the plant and “rough it up” so that dirt falls out into your hole and the roots hang down.
Water generously, but not so much that dirt flows out of the hole. Water approximately once every two days. Fertilize every two weeks with liquid fertilizer.

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