Conventional wisdom says that to get the best out of a tomato plant you have to train it up a stake and pinch out all side shoots to maximise cropping.
And for large fruited varieties like Ox-Heart, Marmande or Grosse-Lisse that is largely true. Though I must say I prefer to let three stems grow from the one plant and use three stakes set out in a triangle format – this really does maximise cropping.
However smaller cherry sized varieties like Tommy-Toe, Sweet-Bite and Small Fry can often be best grown as a low bush. This means letting it do its own thing and not pinching out any side shoots.
The plant will naturally bush out but the downside is that you’ll lose a lot of fruit as it rots from contact with the soil. Nature doesn’t mind as it aids propagation, but us human harvesters we want to maximise crops into the kitchen.
The best way to do this is to make a deep bed of straw around the plant to keep the air-flow moving between fruit and soil. You’ll notice from the photos that I have also included a central stake, thats to help lift the heavy centre up a little by tie-ing off a few central stems – this creates a more bell-shape rather than a pancake-shape if left to its own devices.
The examples you see here are relatively early days, but recently I grew one Cherry Tomato over winter (in Sydney) and it took over the entire raised bed, 2.5m in diameter.
Fruiting was so intense that one family couldn’t eat them all and the neighbours were very happy as a result.
There will still be some self-seeding, that’s unavoidable, but in return you get a bountiful supply of one of nature’s best treats – cherry tomatoes.