Grow a rainbow mix of cherry tomatoes rainbow tomatoes

A colorful mixture of cherry tomato varieties is a popular item at farmers markets, farm stands, and supermarkets. Creating a rainbow mix elevates the humble cherry tomato to gourmet status and calls out for a taste comparison. Customers who buy a cherry tomato mix once will be back for more because these varieties really do offer different flavors as well as colors, and all of them are delicious.

At Johnny's research farm, we grew a mix of cherry tomato varieties that are all about the same size and ready to harvest simultaneously. The varieties we chose for our suggested mix are 'Black Cherry', 'White Cherry', 'Favorita', 'Sun Cherry', and 'Sun Gold'. All are indeterminate varieties and range 58 to 65 days to first harvest. All the fruits are about 1 1/4" in diameter, however, any selection of cherry or grape tomato varieties can be put in a mix.

The tomatoes were grown in a high tunnel with drip irrigation underneath ground cloth to eliminate weeds. Plants were spaced 12"to 14" in the row and pruned to create two vines. Suckers were pruned off the plants as they grew. String was tied to the high-tunnel purlins, and the vines were trained onto the string utilizing tomato clips. If you plan to keep any indeterminate tomatoes all season in a high tunnel, you should leave extra string after attaching it to the purlin. Tomato plants can get so tall you will need to let the strings down late in the season to harvest the fruits - unless you want to pick from a ladder.

In the Johnny's trial, the high tunnel tomatoes had few pest or disease problems. Nor was pollination an issue; just walking through the high tunnel vibrates the plants enough for them to pollinate themselves. The variety 'Sun Gold' is prone to cracking if it gets too much moisture, so we put a valve on the drip line to those plants and reduced the amount of water they received relative to the other varieties.

Labor is the biggest issue with cherry tomatoes. They need to be picked every day or two for maximum yield, which makes them time-consuming, pound for pound, compared to regular tomatoes. But, they are certainly an eye-catching produce item that pulls in customers.

Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market and the publisher of The Hoophouse Handbook.

Articles by Lynn Byczynski

About the author: Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992 and it has been published continuously since then. GFM is renowned in the market gardening world for realistic articles that give growers practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers. Lynn is now partnering with Johnny's to provide similarly useful information for the website and other publications. Lynn, her husband Dan Nagengast, and their two children have grown vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through a CSA, at farmers markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas. Lynn is also the author of several books about market farming: The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers ; The Hoophouse Handbook ; Market Farming Success