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The Tiny Tim tomato: A miniature delight for small space gardeners
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Looking for a tomato plant you can plant in a small flower pot? It’s time to try growing Tiny Tim Tomatoes!
The Tiny Tim Tomato plant is a dwarf heirloom with stocky vines covered with delicious cherry tomatoes. These cheery, bushy little plants are typically grown in pots and are covered in bright red cherry tomatoes after only a few months! Tiny Tim tomato fruits have a nice balanced sweet-tart flavor and are perfect for eating fresh in salads or on an appetizer plate.
Read on to learn all about Tiny Tim tomatoes.
The Tiny Tim tomato
The Tiny Tim Tomato is an heirloom tomato cultivar developed by the University of New Hampshire and introduced in 1945. The University bred this plant specifically to be grown in containers such as pots, windowsill gardens, and even indoor containers. Tiny Tim is an open-pollinated tomato variety.
“Another is Tiny Tim, a very small fruited type, capable of being matured in a 5-inch pot for purposes of Christmas decorations, and not recommended for field growing.”New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, “Agricultural research in New Hampshire, 1944, Bulletin, no. 354” (1944). NHAES Bulletin. 316.
Tiny Tim dwarf tomato plants typically grow to be about 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) tall. The foliage is dense, dark blue-green, and somewhat crinkly in appearance. Plants are bushy, often about 12 inches wide.
These small plants are perfect for year-round growing, hydroponics, small-space gardening, and other non-traditional growing systems. Tiny Tim tomatoes are bright red in color, and typically in the range of 1/2″ – 1″ (1.5-2.5 cm) wide when ripe. The tomatoes are ready to start harvesting between 45-55 days after the seedling is transplanted out into its full-size growing location.
Tiny Tim tomato plants can be grown in pots as small as 5 inches (13 cm) wide. That said, these plants are often grown in 10-inch (25 cm) wide pots, where the roots have more room to expand and the increased amount of potting mix leads to more retained water.
Full sunlight conditions will help keep the plants bushy. Tiny Tim tomato plants growing in small containers will require very frequent watering (daily or more) during hot weather. And while these Tiny Tim tomatoes are typically grown in small containers, they can also be planted in larger grow bags (perhaps a 5-gallon volume bag), or even directly in the ground.
“Tiny Tim: This is a determinate cherry variety that only grows up to about 18 inches tall and can be grown in pots as small as 6 inches, making it perfect for sunny spots in a window or on a porch.”The Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply — Including Heirloom Tomatoes, by Cherie Everhart
Tiny Tim tomato plants are typically quite stocky, with very strong vertical stems. They seldom require staking. Unlike typical determinate varieties, these dwarf plants tend to fruit over an extended period of time. Tiny Tim plants tend to yield quite a lot of fruit given their relatively small size.
Tiny Tim tomato seeds
Tiny Tim Tomato seeds are sold by some (but not all) seed companies in North America. Here are some seed companies that offer seeds for this variety:
What does Tiny Tim tomato taste like?
The Tiny Tim Tomato has a balanced sweet-tart flavor typical of old-fashioned cherry tomato varieties. The tomatoes are juicy, with a pleasant subtle taste. The tomatoes are nicely thin-skinned, giving a bit of a pop. Tiny Tim is perhaps the best-tasting variety of cherry tomatoes that grows on a truly dwarf plant.
Are Tiny Tim tomatoes heirloom tomatoes?
The Tiny Tim Tomato is often (but not always) considered to be an heirloom tomato.
The Tiny Tim Tomato was bred by the University of New Hampshire and introduced in 1945, making the variety over 75 years old. Some tomato enthusiasts consider any open-pollinated tomatoes bred before 1950 to be heirlooms. Others consider any open-pollinated tomatoes that are over 50-60 years old, or 2 generations, to be heirlooms. By both these measures, the Tiny Tim tomato is considered an heirloom tomato.
A few tomato lovers, however, consider 1940 to be the cutoff date for heirloom tomatoes. And, some consider heirlooms as family varieties bred by amateurs and handed down through generations (not bred at an Agricultural Research Station or commercial seed company). By these measures, Tiny Tim might be excluded from some heirloom lists.
“Heirloom: My personal guideline is based on the release date of Burpee’s Big Boy (1949). This event represented a major change in tomato variety development by seed companies. Prior to Big Boy, companies sold open-pollinated varieties; going forward, the vast majority of new varieties were hybrids. Given this, to my thinking, heirlooms are open pollinated varieties that originated before 1950, whether they came from families in the United States or overseas, or from commercial ventures.”Tomato Seed Types, Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier
How to grow Tiny Tim tomatoes?
Fortunately, Tiny Tim Tomatoes are not hard to grow.
Tiny Tim tomatoes can be grown at home from seed or can be purchased as potted seedling plants from a plant nursery. If growing from seed, order your Tiny Tim tomato seeds in the winter (or early spring) and plant them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Potted Tiny Tim Tomato plants are generally sold in March-June (depending on your local climate).
Tomato seeds are generally sown indoors in February-April, depending on the climate. Tomato plants are very sensitive to cold. Don’t put them outdoors until the threat of frost has passed. While hardier than some other cultivars, Tiny Tim plants can be damaged at temperatures below 40°F (4°C), and will certainly be killed by frost.
Plant your Tiny Tim plants in nutrient-rich soil that drains water easily. Place Tiny Tim in a sunny spot where their leaves get direct sunlight for at least 6-8 hours per day. This will help stop the leaves from turning yellow. Use an LED plant light if growing the tomato plant indoors. Ensure they are close to a water source so they will be watered frequently, as the small containers can dry out quickly.
Tiny Tim tomato plants generally do not require pruning. If the foliage is becoming very dense on the Tiny Tim plant, pinch out a few suckers to open up the center of the plant and increase air circulation. Pinching out a few branches will reduce yields of fruit, but may also lessen foliar disease. If the plant is growing under a kitchen cabinet or another height-limited situation, the top can be pinched out as well when the desired maximum height is reached.
Tiny Tim tomato plants may require added nutrients when planted in containers or nutrient-deficient soil. Start by top-dressing soil with some homemade compost (or store-bought organic compost if you don’t have homemade). For an extra nutrient boost, use an organic tomato fertilizer product.
“As young seedlings, the stems are very thick and far shorter when compared with those of indeterminate and determinate tomato seedlings. They retain this characteristic throughout their lifetime, behaving like slow-growing indeterminate tomatoes. The foliage is very dark, nearly bluish green, and quite crinkly looking; the term for this is rugose. The ratio of foliage to fruit is quite high, meaning that dwarf varieties possess a greater potential for excellent, full flavor than determinate varieties.”Growth Habit: Dwarf, Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time, by Craig LeHoullier
How tall do Tiny Tim tomato plants get?
Tiny Tim Tomato plants typically grow to be about 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) tall. That said, it may only grow to 8″ tall if watered infrequently and grown in a small pot. The plants may grow slightly taller if planted in the ground outdoors and watered consistently.
How long do Tiny Tim tomatoes take to ripen?
Tiny Tim tomatoes are typically ready to start harvesting between 45-55 days after the seedling is transplanted. In cool growing conditions, the plants may take as long as 60 days (2 months) to set fruit.
Saving seeds from Tiny Tim tomatoes
Tiny Tim Tomatoes are perfect for seed-saving! This is an open-pollinated variety (not a hybrid) and can produce seeds that are true to type in the right conditions. Here is a detailed guide on how to save tomato seeds.