How I Grow Sungold Tomatoes: An Early, Sweet, Burst of Color

Looking to grow an early tomato variety? Let me introduce you to the Sungold cherry tomato – an indeterminate, golden, colorful, and oh-so-sweet-tasting tomato that will light up your garden.

I highly recommend growing at least one early tomato variety every season. Nothing tastes better than those first tomatoes picked right off the vine. And the sooner, the better. Right?

Quick facts: Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Use well-draining soil, and cover the seeds lightly. Shift to a bright, cool spot once the first leaves sprout. Repot when roots show through the drain holes. Harden off your plants and move them outside when frost isn't a threat. Stake, prune, and water your plants regularly for a higher yield. Harvest when the tomatoes go golden.

Early varieties like the Sungold let you harvest early. Still, as it is an indeterminate plant, you can keep harvesting throughout the summer and well into fall.

Having too many tomatoes is a happy problem. Still, with some planning, you can harvest regularly throughout the season.

Sungold tomatoes are not difficult to grow. But there are a few details, like pruning and location, that you need to get right.

Sungolds - a burst of flavor and color
Ripe sungold tomatoes

I will take you from seed to harvest and cover indoor seed starting, pot-ups, transplanting, hardening off, plant care, harvest, and how to use the Sungolds.

So, find a comfortable seat, and let’s look at what I have learned over the years

Brief summary covering the main points:

  • Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your region’s last expected frost
  • Use pre-moistened, well-draining potting soil mix
  • Place seeds on top of soil, cover lightly, and place in a warm spot.
  • Cover the pot and keep it moist
  • Move pots to a cooler spot with plenty of light when the first leaves sprout.
  • Fertilize when you see two sets of true leaves
  • Potup when you see roots through drain holes
  • Harden off plants and move them outdoors when there’s no frost risk.
  • Sungold tomatoes are indeterminate; support them with stakes or trellises.
  • Water regularly and prune suckers and side branches to maintain one central stem.
  •  Harvest when tomatoes turn golden in color

Starting Right With Fresh Seeds

Use fresh, quality seeds from a trusted vendor. There are several easy ways to check for freshness:

Vendors are getting stingy with F1 hybrid [1] and heirloom seeds.

Seeds germinating and sprouting first leaves
First leaves sprouting

I got 5 seeds in my seed packet, but I was happy as they were all uniform in size and color. 

Contact vendor and ask for new seeds if they look damaged, dark, or tiny. 

You want your seeds to be:

  • Fresh:  Seed packets will show when seeds were packed and the last use date.
  • Large and same size:  You do not want seed dust or empty husks masking as viable seeds. 
  • Yellow to lightly tanned-colored: Dark seeds are most often duds.

Testing for viable seeds:

You can use the water-glass test or pre-geminate the seeds to ensure they are viable.

The water glass test will eliminate duds, but there is no guarantee that the seeds that pass the test will germinate. 

  • Place seeds in a glass of water overnight
  • If seeds float come morning, they are duds

Pregerminating seeds will show which seeds that are viable. But you will introduce a new step: transferring seeds with delicate roots into a pot.

I never pre-geminate tomato seeds as they germinate in 5-15 days, usually in about a week.

When & How To Start Sungold Tomatoes From Seeds

Sungolds are indeterminate, but I still start the seeds 6-8 weeks before my region’s last expected frost.

Let me explain.

I often start indeterminate tomato plants “late” as they are fierce growers. I know from experience that plants must stay indoors when outdoor temperatures remain cold longer than expected. 

This means housing large plants indoors for an extended period of time.

And I prefer to play it safe. (I should say “we” like to play it safe. My wife has helped me make this decision.)

But I do start my sungold tomato plants early as I grow them for early harvest. 

Also, sungolds are not as fast-growing as, for example, the Black Prince plants that develop thick stems and large leaves early on.

Seed starting in 5 simple steps

  1. Pre-moisten the potting soil or seed starting mix or before planting—aim for moist soil, not saturated. Soil should crumble if you make a ball and apply gentle pressure with your fingers.
  2. Pre-moistening is important and simplifies keeping the soil consistent without risking over-watering.
  3. Place seeds on the pre-moistened, well-draining potting mix, covering them lightly. Cover the pot with plastic or a humidity dome to keep it moist. Place in a warm spot (22-25°C/72-77°F) and mist with a spray bottle to keep the soil moist.
  4. Remove the cover when the first leaves sprout. Move pots to a cooler spot (18-20°C/65-68°F), preferably under a grow light.
  5. While a bright window sill can work, I use grow lights to start seeds in early spring in zone 7.
Monitoring soil temperature
Monitoring soil temperature
Related: Check out my preferred seed-starting tools.

Caring For The Tomato Seedlings

It is important to care for your seedlings.

Strong, compact seedlings develop into healthy, high-yielding plants.

I focus on: 

  1. Providing sufficient light
  2. Maintaining airflow and temperature
  3. Keeping even soil moisture
  4. When to apply a light dose of fertilizer

But as a rule, if your seedlings look green and happy- you are doing just fine. Do not invent problems. Take a step back and let the process unfold.

1. Providing sufficient light

I use grow lights when I start seeds indoors. 

Grow lights help me control the growing environment by setting the timer to 16 hours on and 8 hours off. 

If you live in an area with abundant sunlight, shorten the time to 8-10 hours of light.

Tomatoes come in many colors
Black, red, and orange-golden tomatoes

Your seedlings grow leggy and spindly if they do not get enough light. And this is where most home gardeners go wrong.

And sure, leggy tomato seedlings can be managed by repotting seedlings deeper. But they are harder to look after as they fall over and get tangled up. It is a lot easier to care for compact growing seedlings.

So no, you do not need to grow lights to start tomatoes from seed. But without grow lights you need to wait for more natural sunlight. For me here in zone 7, I would say April at the earliest.

2. Airflow and temperature

I recommend sowing one seed per cell or pot.

Seedlings need space, and crowding them restricts airflow and can lead to damping off and other problems with mold and fungi. [2]

At this stage of growth, seedlings are usually fine with normal room temperature. Aim for 18-20° Celsius /65-68° Fahrenheit.

If you are comfortable, chances are pretty good your plants will be fine as well.

3. Keeping even soil moisture

Do not let the soil dry out.

You want an even level of soil moisture. Keep in mind that the soil dries out faster when the plants are larger and the cover is removed. 

Water at the base to avoid wetting the leaves. A spray bottle or a fine-tip watering can make wearing easier. You do not want to flood the pot.

4. When to apply a light dose of fertilizer

Soilless seed-starting mixes lack nutrients. Add a water-soluble balanced liquid organic fertilizer when you see two pairs of true leaves.

I started some plants in coco coir this year, and here I added half the recommended dosage of a 3-part fertilizer when I saw 2 pairs of true leaves.

If you use potting soil with low levels of nutrients. You can give half the recommended dosage or postpone fertilizing until you pot-up the seedling.

Transplanting seedlings into nursery pots

Transplant your tomato seedlings into nursery pots when they are about 2-3 inches tall. The seedling should have several pairs of true leaves at this stage.

For some reason, many home gardeners worry about hurting the plants when potting up or transplanting.

Compact tomato seedlings
Healthy re-potted tomato seedlings

And if you only remember one thing, always re-pot tomato seedlings deeper than they were growing.

It is a very straightforward process. 

  1. Water the pot 
  2. Remove seedling from pot
  3. Plant deep in new pot; up to the first set of true leaves

Removing the first leave makes it easier to plant the seedlings deep.

Watering the pot helps keep the root system intact in one lump.

This buried stem trick rescues leggy seedlings – but avoid leaf-to-soil contact when planting deep.

Feed your tomato plants a balanced organic fertilizer every two weeks. Be ready to pot up if they outgrow the nursery pot.

Check under the pot; if white roots peek through the drainage holes, it’s time for a larger pot.

Transplanting and potting up is a process. Gradually increase the pot size to avoid moisture control challenges. Moving too fast into a large container with a lot of soil makes it trickier to manage soil moisture. Take it one step at a time.

Sungold Cherry Tomato Plant Care

After a couple of pot-ups, your tomato plants will be ready to move outside.

Do not rush to move the plants outside; pay attention to temperature and always harden off your plants.

Here are the main areas to ensure a bountiful harvest.

1. Temperature Considerations

Move your tomato plants outdoors when the temperature hits a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius / 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And yes, this includes nighttime lows.

Avoid exposing your plants to cold nights or strong winds.

2. Choosing the Right Spot

Opt for a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Sungold tomato plants thrive in temperatures ranging from 21-27 degrees Celsius / 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whether you grow your plants in pots, containers, grow bags, or in-ground, ensure you use well-draining soil rich in organic matter.

3. Plant Spacing

Space plants 60-90 cm / 2-3 feet apart.

Give plants more room if you do not prune side stems.

4. Watering 

Always water at the base to prevent leaf-related issues.

Keep the soil evenly moist.

Water deeply once or twice a week for even soil moisture.

Mulching the bed will help control soil moisture and regulate soil temperature. 

Use soil moisture meters for accurate watering signals.

5. Hardening Off Process

Never skip this step.

Gradually acclimate your plants to their outdoor environment over a week. 

  • Place pots in the shade for a couple of hours on the first day
  • Gradually increase the time spent outdoors over 2 days.
  • Expose plants to indirect sunlight on day 3
  • Increase time and exposure to sunlight from day 4 and on.

6. Staking Before The Plant Needs It

Indeterminate plants are vigorous growers. Sungold tomato plants will keep growing and producing fruits all season long.

Stake and support your plants from day 1 to ensure they have sturdy support.

Use trellises, stakes, or cages.

Don’t wait until they desperately need it.

7. Pruning For Healthy Plants

Prune for improved air circulation and energy allocation.

Remove suckers and side stems.

Time to top prune my plants
Time to top prune my plants

I prune my plants in 3 ways:

  • Suckers and side stems: All suckers and side stems are removed.
  • Bottom pruning: I clear the bottom 30 cm / 1 foot of the main stem from all growth on mature plants.
  • Top pruning: I top prune mature plants. I usually wait for some fruits to start maturing and then cut all new forming tops and flowers. 

I have learned that these will consume energy but not yield ripe tomatoes. My season is too short.

8. Fertilizing Plants

Fertilize every two weeks with a high-quality organic fertilizer. 

Use a nitrogen-heavy complete fertilizer during the vegetative stage. Increase the dosage of potassium and phosphorus when the plant enters the flowering and fruiting stages.

Flowering stage calls for phosphorus and potassium
Fertilize by tomato plant growth stage

A balanced fertilizer will also work —it’s all about your level of ambition.

9. Pests and Diseases

My tomato plants get attacked by leaf miners, aphids, and leafhoppers every season.

Other common pests include thrips, spider mites, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies.

Whatever the pest, early detection is key. Remove infected leaves and consider natural remedies like Neem oil, soap, and water solutions.

10. Harvesting Sungold Tomatoes

Sungold tomato plants produce and ripen fruits all season long.

It is important to harvest fruits when they are ripe. You are looking for orange golden tomatoes. Sometimes, tasting is your best guide for perfect ripeness.

I have found that sungold tomatoes split if left too long on the vine.

Why Grow Sungold Tomatoes?

For me, it comes down to taste, color, and a guaranteed early harvest.

Need more convincing?

The F1 hybrid seeds I bought had a high resistance to nematodes, fusarium and verticillium wilts, and the tomato mosaic virus.

It is hard to explain how sweet sungolds are. They are sweet and fresh in a good way. Not in a sickly "a tablespoon of sugar way".

The golden color is another plus; most tomatoes tend to be red.

The taste and color, coupled with the early harvest, puts this tomato ahead of other early varieties like the Bajaja and Early Girl.

This leads us to my favorite section: How to use sungold tomatoes.

My 3 Favorite Ways To Use Sungold Tomatoes

Snacking Straight-Up Off The Plant:

Eat like candy straight from the vine for a burst of sweet, tangy flavor.

Or why not mix sungold tomatoes with other cherry varieties for a colorful snack bowl?

Add Color and Texture to Salads:

Toss Sungold cherry tomatoes into salads to add color and a sweet contrast to leafy greens.

Create a simple, oh-so-delicious Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil, and sungold tomatoes.

Ovenroast to Perfection:

Roast sungold cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, and your favorite blend of herbs for a flavorful side dish.

Serve on crusty bread or mix them into pasta for a tasty and nutritious meal.

Summary and Key Points

  • Grow Sungold Tomatoes for an early harvest, color and a unique flavor profile
  • Key Steps: Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before frost. Prune, stake, fertilize, and support for healthy growth. Harvest when tomatoes turn golden.
  • Seedling care: Keep soil moist, provide sufficient light, and proper spacing. Transplant when 2-3 inches tall, burying stems for stronger root systems.
  • Moving Outdoors and Care: Harden off plants and move outdoors to sunny spot at 15°C/60°F. Pay attention to spacing, watering, pests, water at base, and mulch for moisture. Support plants.
  • Pruning and Fertilizing: Prune for air circulation and more ripe fruits. Fertilize every two weeks with balanced organic fertilizer.
  • Pests and Harvesting: Watch for pests, use natural remedies. Harvest ripe tomatoes to prevent splitting.
  • Benefits of Sungold: Sweetness, golden color, and early harvest. F1 hybrid seeds resist diseases.
  • Ways to Use Sungold: Snack fresh from the vine. spice up salads, or oven-roast for flavorful dishes

Helpful sources:



Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.