11 Reasons to Grow Tiny Tim Tomatoes This Season
Looking for a new cherry tomato variety to grow in your garden this season? Tiny Tim tomatoes may fit exactly what you are looking for! In this article, gardening expert Merideth Corhs looks at some of the reasons you'll love growing Tiny Tim tomatoes in your garden this year!
Growing tomatoes is an iconic summer activity for virtually every vegetable gardener I’ve ever met. Not only are they delicious and far more flavorful than anything you’ll find in the grocery store, but tomatoes are also one of the easier summer veggies to grow.
When I first learned about Tiny Tim tomatoes, I was intrigued. I grow all of my tomatoes on the deck of my townhouse, and planning optimal sun exposure can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle year to year. If I could grow a couple of smaller cherry tomato plants rather than one huge one, it would free up a significant amount of space in my deck garden.
After looking into this tiny heirloom, I’m sold. Let’s dive into what makes Tiny Tim tomatoes an excellent addition to your summer garden.
What Are Tiny Tim Tomatoes?
The University of New Hampshire first developed the Tiny Tim tomato in 1945. Victory gardens were still widely promoted during this time in history, and the plant’s small size made it easy to grow in almost any location, including indoors or outdoors in small spaces.
Tiny Tim tomatoes are a variety of cherry tomatoes known for being … well, tiny. The plant typically grows to a height of only 12 to 18 inches. This small stature is a considerable contrast to indeterminate cherry tomato plants that commonly reach heights of ten feet. They can be grown in containers as small as 6 inches wide or can be clustered together in a raised bed.
You may be concerned that these smaller plants won’t provide you with many tomatoes, but that fear is thankfully unfounded. These small tomatoes are prolific producers.
Why Grow Tiny Tim Tomatoes?
Tiny Tim tomatoes are almost adorable with their petite stature. These plants would be at home in books about Tom Thumb, Stuart Little, and the Secret of NIMH.
But while the plant size is attractive to those of us who garden in small spaces, it’s even more impressive that the flavor of the tomatoes stacks up to those of larger plants.
Here are eleven reasons to grow Tiny Tim tomatoes in your garden this season.
Mature Plants Are Only 12-18”
Tiny Tim tomato plants are true dwarves, and their mature height reaches a humble 12-18 inches. Its small stature is the biggest draw for most gardeners who choose to grow them. They will happily grow outdoors in window boxes and small containers and indoors under grow lights.
These small tomatoes may be the answer you’ve been looking for if you haven’t grown tomatoes in the past because you thought you didn’t have enough room.
They Grow Well in Tiny Pots
Because of its short height, you can grow Tiny Tim tomatoes in small containers. A 6-inch pot is large enough for the plant to grow, reach maturity, and produce fruit.
It’s remarkable when you think about it. We use 6-inch pots to transplant tomato seedlings when they’ve outgrown their starter pots. But this same size is perfect for this variety.
They Can Be Grown Indoors Year-Round
Since this variety is so small, they’re ideally suited for growing indoors. They’ll grow near a very bright southern-facing window or under grow lights. If you choose to use grow lights, ensure the light is movable so you don’t burn the upper leaves.
Place a fan nearby the plant to mimic outdoor breezes. The air movement will help the plant develop a strong stem and branches that can support the weight of heavy fruit.
They Taste Great
Tiny Tim tomatoes are juicy and plump and have a perfect balance of tart sweetness. The flavor is subtle and not as sweet as other varieties. The tomatoes have thin skins, allowing you to enjoy a nice pop when you bite into them.
This variety is known for producing one of the tastiest tomatoes on a dwarf plant.
Happiest grown in containers rather than a garden bed, Tiny Tim produces an abundant yield of cherry-sized fruit. The tiny 1-inch red tomatoes ripen quickly and can sometimes weigh down branches. It’s a good idea to give the plant a little staking support in preparation.
Seeds Are Widely Available
With the recent explosion of online seed retailers, home gardeners have an incredible amount of choice at their fingertips. Those options can be somewhat overwhelming when you’re just starting out. But it’s nice to have choices if you know what you’re looking for!
Tiny Tim tomato seeds can be found at virtually any online seed retailer. Burpee, Eden Brothers, and Hudson Valley are a few of our favorites. No matter which company you choose, this small tomato is easy to grow from seed.
They Are an Heirloom Variety
There is a little bit of debate over the heirloom designation of Tiny Tim tomatoes. As we mentioned earlier, the plant was first introduced in 1945, making it more than 75 years old. Most horticulturists consider any open-pollinated tomatoes more than 50 years old heirlooms.
There are a few tomato purists, however, who consider 1940 to be the cutoff date for a plant to receive the heirloom designation. They also tend to think heirlooms are only tomatoes bred by families and handed down through the generations. They feel that commercial breeding disqualifies any plant from heirloom status.
So, while the controversy still exists around Tiny Tim’s designation as an heirloom, most would categorize it this way. Regardless, it’s a great choice if you’re looking for non-GMO seeds.
They Are Easy to Grow From Seed
All tomato varieties are pretty easy to grow from seed. Growing healthy tomatoes from seed require a little bit of preparation. Minimally, you’ll need materials and equipment like seed starting trays, sterile soil, and a sunny window.
If you want to go all out, you can invest in a heating mat, grow lights, and reusable seed starting trays with plastic domes.
Seed starting can be as minimalist or complex as you want it to be. If you’re a brand-new gardener, we recommend keeping it simple. If you know you’ll be growing many plants from seeds season after season, go ahead and invest in some tools to make the process easier.
Tiny Tim seeds have strong germination rates, so you should be able to start several plants at one time.
If you’d rather stagger your tomato harvests and have a continuous flow of ripe cherry tomatoes, consider succession seeding your seeds. A good rule of thumb is to sow every 2-3 weeks for a nice continual harvest.
They Grow Quickly
Growing tomatoes is an enriching experience. Home gardeners wouldn’t do it year after year if it weren’t! With that said, there is generally a very long wait time between planting a young tomato plant and harvesting ripe fruit.
Tiny Tims can be a great choice if you’re a bit impatient when it comes to harvesting the fruits of your labor. You’ll be able to pick ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes from this plant about 45-55 days after you transplant your seedling. In cooler growing conditions (e.g., if you’re growing indoors), the plant may take as long as 60 days to set fruit.
Whether it’s 45 days or 60, you’ll be enjoying your first tomatoes long before your neighbors!
Easy to Save Seeds
One of the benefits of growing open-pollinated heirloom tomatoes is that you can collect the seeds and use them to grow more tomato plants. Since Tiny Tim isn’t a hybrid, the seeds from its tomatoes will produce plants that are true to this type of tomato.
Saving tomato seeds for future sowing requires a process called wet fermentation. Fermenting the tomato seeds removes the gelatinous coating used to keep the seed from germinating too early in nature. Once that outer layer is removed, you can dry and store the seeds for later sowing.
Start by slicingthe tomato through the middle so that the blossom and stem end are separated. This will expose the seed cavities better than if you slice it the opposite way.
Add a cup of water and any juicy tomato pulp to a bowl or jar. If you have any mason jars, this is a perfect vehicle. Set the jar with water, tomato pulp, and tomato seeds in a warm, out-of-the-way spot. Cover the top with cheesecloth to keep out any fruit flies. The mixture will need to rest for two to four days to allow fermentation to occur.
Check the mixture every day. Eventually, you’ll see a mold layer on top of the seeds and pulp. Don’t be alarmed; this is precisely what we want to see.
The fermentation process is complete when bubbles start rising from the mixture, or the entire layer is covered with mold. Generally, you’ll notice that the seeds will have sunk to the bottom of the jar.
Remove the seeds at this stage so they don’t start to germinate in the liquid. Strain the seeds into a colander and rinse thoroughly. You want to ensure there is no remaining tomato juice or mold on the seeds.
Drying Out the Seeds
Spread the seeds onto a plate to dry. Do not use a paper towel since the seeds will get stuck to it. Place the dish in an out-of-the-way warm area. Shake up the seeds a few times a day to allow for even drying. Do not add heat, thinking you’ll speed up the process. This can kill the seeds and make the entire process worthless.
Once fully dry, store your seeds in a cool, dry location. An envelope is an excellent idea since it can be closed and labeled.
They Don’t Need Frequent Pruning
If you’ve ever grown tomatoes before, you know that pruning is a part of the game. Sprawling indeterminate cherry tomatoes require a lot of attention when it comes to pruning. Suckers and non-fruiting branches should all be removed to encourage the plant to focus on proper growth and fruiting.
But with the small Tiny Tim plant, pruning isn’t as much of an issue. You can certainly trim back a branch here and there to give it a neat look, but more than that isn’t necessary. Since Tiny Tim is a bushing tomato, it will grow to maturity, then stop growing to produce fruit.
Tiny Tim tomatoes are an inspired choice if you want to grow tomatoes in a small space or indoors. Its compact growing habit and abundant yield will ensure you will have tomatoes to enjoy all season. And if you want to grow indoors, you can enjoy summer-fresh tomatoes even in the coldest winter months.
We hope that after this article outlines all the fantastic benefits of growing Tiny Tims, you’re inspired to try them yourself!