7 Tips To Grow Sweeter Tomatoes

7 Tips To Grow Sweeter Tomatoes

As a passionate home gardener for over 20 years, I’m always looking for ways to maximize the flavor of my tomato harvest each summer. And for me, there’s nothing quite like the taste of a juicy, vine-ripened tomato straight from the garden on a hot July day. The sweet, complex flavors are truly unmatched by bland grocery store tomatoes.

After countless seasons of trial and error along with extensive reading and research, I’ve discovered several proven tricks for coaxing the sweetest, most delicious tomatoes possible from a backyard vegetable plot or container garden. Follow these 7 simple tips if you want to experience true tomato bliss with every sun-warmed bite.

Choose the Right Tomato Varieties

Not all tomato cultivars are created equal when it comes to natural sugar content and overall flavor intensity. Typically, smaller fruited types like cherries and grapes pack a much bigger taste punch than larger beefsteak varieties. Through experimentation over the years, I’ve settled on a few personal favorite sweet tomato varieties that never disappoint.

Sungold

These tiny orange cherry tomatoes burst with an intense tangy sweetness unlike anything else. The flavor simply can’t be beaten, which is why Sungold is hands down my number one choice for enjoying tomato candy right in the garden. The plants are highly prolific, pumping out hundreds of petite 2-bite fruits perfect for salads or snacking. Be prepared to pop them like candy!

Sweet 100

Similar to Sungold, Sweet 100 produces masses of mini 1-2 inch red tomatoes with an addictive sugary flavor. A long-time classic, Sweet 100 is an excellent choice for salads, garnishes, sauces, or just eating fresh off the vine. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly this variety fills up a pint basket.

Sugar Rush Peach

A newer breed, Sugar Rush Peach has already secured a permanent place in my garden lineup thanks to its dazzling sunset-colored fruits and well-balanced, peachy-sweet taste. Ideal for slicing onto sandwiches or burgers, the meaty 4-6 oz fruits have a tender skin that doesn’t require peeling. This beauty makes a fine tomato salad with its marvelous blend of juicy texture and rich honey-kissed flavor.

The most important advice is to stick with proven smaller tomato varieties if you want knockout sweetness. Consider mixing it up and planting a few different types together so you can enjoy an array of colors and flavors. Cherry, grape, and plum-shaped tomatoes generally have the edge when it comes to sugar content over classic round-slicing cultivars.

Give Tomato Plants Full Sun Exposure

Like most fruiting vegetables, tomatoes need ample sunshine to reach their full sweet and flavor potential. When choosing the planting site, select a location that will receive at least 6-8 hours of direct hot sunlight per day. More is even better. The more solar exposure your tomatoes get over the course of a growing season, the higher their sugar production and overall quality will be.

Many gardeners (myself included) make the mistake of tucking tomato plants in less-than-ideal partially shaded areas, only to be disappointed by lackluster fruit later in the summer. For best results, put them where they’ll soak up the sun. For maximum light absorption, avoid planting near buildings, trees, or tall plants that will shade out your tomatoes for parts of the day.

Maintaining good airflow and sunlight penetration through the plant canopy is absolutely essential to growing sweeter fruits. The bottom line: tomatoes crave the sun, so give it to them!

Start with Nutrient-Rich, Well-Drained Soil

Providing tomatoes with fertile, well-balanced soil is one of the most important but often neglected factors when it comes to producing superior-quality fruits with intense sweetness. Before setting transplants out, I make a point of working 2-3 inches of aged compost into my garden beds to create the ideal soil environment.

Compost offers a slow-release feast of organic nutrients to fuel vigorous plant growth and abundant fruit production. The increased microbial activity also improves drainage and moisture retention in the root zone. Tomatoes thrive in loose, crumbly, compost-enriched soil. I top dress around my plants again mid-season for an added boost.

In addition to compost, I also blend a balanced organic vegetable fertilizer into the top few inches of soil before planting. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so giving them a complete diet right from the start prevents deficiencies during fruiting. For tomatoes, I rely on Espoma Tomato-Tone or Fox Farm’s Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer. Always follow label instructions carefully when applying any garden fertilizer.

One caution with fertilizing tomatoes – avoid overdoing it with nitrogen which can promote excess leafy growth versus fruit production. A little organic nitrogen is important early on but moderation is key. Also, be sure to do a soil test if needed so you know what amendments to add.

Water Deeply and Consistently

Uneven soil moisture triggered by inadequate or irregular watering is one of the quickest paths to poor-quality tomatoes. Fluctuating wetness leads to inevitable issues like blossom end rot, splitting, low yields, and inferior taste. For the best crop of sweet, juicy fruits, tomatoes require thorough, consistent irrigation.

Ideally, established tomato plants need around 1-2 inches of water per week from both rainfall and supplemental irrigation combined. I use soaker hoses snaked through my beds on a timer system to target the root zones evenly and minimize evaporation loss. Drip irrigation works extremely well too. The key is saturating the entire root ball at ground level. Mulching helps conserve moisture and reduces water needs.

Aim to give plants a good deep soak 2-3 times per week depending on your climate, adjusting as needed based on rainfall. Tomato roots grow deep, so light sprinkling doesn’t cut it. Only thorough watering encourages extensive root development and stable fruit growth. Irrigate early in the morning to give foliage time to dry out during the day, preventing disease issues. Proper soil moisture management makes all the difference!

Allow Tomatoes to Fully Vine Ripen for Maximum Sweetness

This is perhaps the most critical advice when it comes to achieving the ultimate tomato flavor. Allow your fruits to fully ripen on the vine before harvesting for peak sweetness and complex tastes. Once separated from the mother plant, tomatoes will not get any sweeter or more flavorful. Their sugar development depends heavily on adequate vine maturation.

I know it takes extreme patience, but wait until tomatoes are completely colored up and slightly soft to the touch before plucking. Use the bumpy blossom end on the bottom as a guide – it should be noticeably giving when ripe. Some wrinkling of the skin near the stem is another great indicator to start checking for readiness.

Apply the thumb test by gently pressing on the fruits. A ripe tomato will yield to pressure but still feel firm. If your thumb leaves an indentation, it’s time for picking! Avoid the urge to harvest too early while fruits are under-ripe. Vine-ripened tomatoes always have higher sugar content and fantastically nuanced flavors.

If growing in colder regions, carefully plan plantings so fruits have ample warm weather to properly ripen before fall frosts hit. There’s nothing more tragic than green tomatoes wiped out by an early freeze. Time it right and you’ll be rewarded with a bounty of sweet tomatoes.

Harvest Tomatoes Early in the Day for Peak Sweetness

Research shows that tomatoes harvested in the cool morning hours retain the most sugar compared to fruits picked in the hot afternoon sunlight. The science is simple – exposure to heat degrades sugars and other flavor compounds quickly after picking. Refrigerating also diminishes taste over time.

For the best results, venture out to your garden early in the day to collect ripe fruits before the sun gets too intense. Gently twist or clip tomatoes off the vine, taking care not to damage plants. Place directly into a basket or vented plastic bag. Move freshly picked tomatoes out of direct sun immediately to stop the flavor deterioration process.

Ideally, enjoy your harvest that same day for maximum sweetness and unbeatable garden flavor. If that’s not possible, let tomatoes ripen gradually on the counter out of sunlight until ready to use. Just 2-3 days at room temp is usually enough to complete the ripening process. Proper post-harvest handling preserves the fragile sugars and tastes.

Grow Tomatoes in Containers

Limited on garden space? No problem at all! You can still fill up on homegrown tomatoes by planting them in pots or other containers. With the right techniques, container tomatoes can yield sweet, delicious fruits just like plants in-ground beds. The main advantage is you aren’t restricted on placement – give them full sun on a patio, front steps, balcony…anywhere you have a few square feet.

Use at least a 5-10 gallon pot with drainage holes and quality tomato planting mix. Add compost and granular organic fertilizer to provide nutrition. Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist but not soggy. Some varieties better suited for containers include Patio Choice, Mountain Magic, Sweet ‘n Neat Cherry, and Multipik. Try different types for a varied harvest.

Pay close attention to staking, pruning, and sun orientation. Crowding causes disease and poor fruit quality. Let those vines spread out! Rotate pots periodically to ensure even sun coverage. A bit more work than garden planting but extremely rewarding once vibrant fruits start ripening on your patio.

Consider Adding Some Heirloom Varieties

For an extra boost of flavor complexity, I always try to make room for a few heirloom tomatoes in my annual garden plan. Heirlooms are cherished open-pollinated cultivars that have been passed down intact for generations thanks to their exceptional eating qualities.

These old-fashioned tomato varieties are seeing a major resurgence lately as people rediscover their unbeatable tastes compared to some modern hybrids. If you ask me, heirlooms offer the ultimate tomato experience with their dazzling diversity of colors, shapes, textures, and flavors.

I’ve found the thinner skins and flesh of most heirlooms allow for superior sugar transport and fruit ripening. Even the ugly ducklings like Cherokee Purple taste amazing! For ideal results, intersperse a few heirlooms among your modern tomatoes. The diversity keeps your palate excited and harvest bountiful.

Start Tomatoes from Seed Indoors

To maximize your warm weather tomato growing season, I highly recommend starting seeds indoors around 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Tomato seeds germinate best at consistent temperatures between 70-80 F.

I begin my seed starting process in late March or early April. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in sterile seed starting mix. Keep evenly moist until seedlings emerge, then grow under lights or in a sunny window. Harden off plants for about a week before transplanting outdoors in late May or June.

This head start allows fruits to start ripening weeks earlier in summer. Just be sure your transplants are stocky, green, and healthy before putting them outside – no purpling or legginess. Use row covers or hot caps to protect newly planted tomatoes if chilly nights persist. The season extension really pays off around mid-July when everyone else is just seeing their first green fruits!

Control Pests and Diseases

Nothing takes the fun out of tomato growing like insect pests and plant diseases. An ounce of prevention through proper cultural practices goes a long way toward keeping your crop healthy and productive. But even the most diligent gardeners sometimes need to intervene when trouble strikes.

Here are my organic recommendations for common tomato afflictions:

  • Row covers block many early-season pests like hornworms, flea beetles, and leaf miners. Use prior to major pest arrivals in your area.
  • Pick off hornworms, cabbage loopers, and Colorado potato beetles by hand early before populations explode. Check under leaves often.
  • Remove badly infested or diseased leaves promptly. Clean up all fallen debris around plants.
  • Improve airflow and direct water to soil-level to prevent many fungus and mold issues.
  • Try Serenade fungicide spray for early blight, gray leaf spot, and other common fungal diseases. Reapply after rain.

The goal is to keep tomato foliage healthy through the entire ripening process so plants can fully nurture their fruits. Pay close attention to signs of stress and trouble. Be prepared to gently intervene at the first sign of infestation. An ounce of prevention truly pays off when it comes to harvesting gorgeous tomatoes.

Wrapping up

When it comes to coaxing supersweet tomato flavor out of your garden or containers, small consistent steps make a huge cumulative difference over the season. Focus on giving your plants what they crave while letting their natural gifts shine through.

Patience and care are required, but the reward is phenomenal juicy fruits brimming with sunny flavor. That first BLT of the season with a real homegrown tomato is a little taste of summer heaven. With the right approach and varieties, you’ll be amazed at the candy-like sweetness achievable from vine-ripened tomatoes.


Share post on
Mohsin
By Mohsin

Hi, I’m Mohsin, creator of Tomato about website. I have over a two decade of gardening experience and I love helping others growing healthy tomatoes!


Tomatoabout is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Growing

The 5 Best Upside Down Tomato Planters For Home Gardeners

Growing tomatoes can be a fun and rewarding experience for any home gardener. However,...

By Mohsin
Updated
Growing

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes

Growing luscious, vibrant tomatoes is a fulfilling endeavor for gardeners of every skill level....

By Mohsin
Updated
How to Start an Indoor Tomato Garden: 2 Methods for Growing Tomatoes Inside Growing

How to Start an Indoor Tomato Garden: 2 Methods for Growing Tomatoes Inside

Key Takeaways Enjoy fresh, homegrown tomatoes year-round with an indoor tomato garden, escaping weather...

By Mohsin
Updated
Growing Tomatoes Upside Down: The Complete Guide You Need Growing

Growing Tomatoes Upside Down: The Complete Guide You Need

Key Takeaways Upside-down tomato gardening is a space-saving solution for growing fresh tomatoes in...

By Mohsin
Updated
The Complete Guide to Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes in Pots Growing

The Complete Guide to Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes in Pots

Key Takeaways You can grow delicious beefsteak tomatoes in pots on your patio or...

By Mohsin
Updated
Growing Roma Tomatoes in Pots the Right Way Growing

Growing Roma Tomatoes in Pots the Right Way

Roma tomatoes, also known as Italian or paste tomatoes, are a popular variety perfect...

By Mohsin
Updated
18 Amazing Tomatoes That Grow in Clusters Growing

18 Amazing Tomatoes That Grow in Clusters

Key Takeaways Clustered tomatoes, also known as tomatoes on the vine (TOV), are perfect...

By Mohsin
Updated
10 Tips to Speed Up Tomato Growth Growing

10 Tips to Speed Up Tomato Growth

Nothing beats the taste of a homegrown tomato picked fresh from the vine. But...

By Mohsin
Updated

Latest Posts

Tomato Problems

The 14 Most Common Tomato Pests

Growing tomatoes is a beloved pastime for many gardeners, but it's not without its...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Guide

The 7 Best Soils for Tomatoes

If you're an avid gardener or simply someone who loves the taste of fresh,...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Varieties

The Campari Tomato: A Sweet and Savory Delight

Have you ever bitten into a tomato so flavorful and juicy that it simply...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Varieties

The 7 Best All-Purpose Tomato Varieties for Your Home Garden

As a passionate home gardener, I know the struggle of trying to cram all...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Varieties

The 15 Best Tomato Varieties to Grow for Canning

Whether you're growing cherry tomatoes for fresh snacking or massive heirloom slicers for your...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Varieties

The New Girl Tomato: A Sweet and Sturdy Addition to Home Garden

If you're a home gardener and are in search of a delicious and reliable...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Guide

4 Proven Methods For How To Peel A Tomato

As you know, Tomatoes are a versatile and essential ingredient in many dishes ranging...

By Mohsin
Updated
Tomato Varieties

The 10 Best Tomatoes for Sauce

Tomatoes are the backbone of countless culinary creations ranging from the humble grilled cheese...

By Mohsin
Updated