Last Updated: June 20, 2023
Tomato flavor is a complex subject. Everyone has their preferred tomato flavor. Some like them more acidic, while others prefer pure sweetness.
I fall somewhere in the middle, but I do love a good sweet treat from the garden. Tomato sweetness is measured in Brix units, which measures the sugar density in a given liquid (in this case, tomato juices).
So, you probably want to grow sweeter tomatoes (I know I do). In this article, I’ll share 5 tips for growing sweeter tomatoes in your garden.
Good news! You’re off to a great start by growing your own tomatoes. Many greenhouse grown tomatoes are artificially ripened using ethylene gas, which has a negative impact on overall flavor. No wonder those store bought tomatoes don’t taste great…
1. Use The Right Fertilizer
Tomatoes use a lot of nutrients during the growing season. Nitrogen is important during the early growth stages, while potassium plays a major role during fruit set.
In short, make sure your soil is rich with both primary and secondary nutrients. Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen during fruiting, and supplement with bone meal for added calcium and phosphorus.
I recommend using slow-release nutrients, adding them to the soil early in the season. That way, they are present in the soil from day 1, and the tomato plants can use them as needed throughout the summer.
Compost is another excellent choice for amending the garden in early spring. It contains a wide range of nutrients and beneficial microbes. You can also top-dress with compost mid-season as your tomatoes are beginning to produce fruits.
2. Grow In Full Sun
Tomatoes love sunshine. Full-sun conditions mean at least 6 hours of sunshine per day. However, if you want the sweetest tomatoes, your plants will need more.
Our raised beds are on the South side of our property, with very few obstructions. That gives our plants around 13 hours of sunshine daily in the mid-summer months.
The result? Super sweet cherry tomatoes, vibrant red colors, and a huge tomato harvest every season.
It’s simple: more sun means more energy generated by the plant. That energy can be used to produce a larger crop, but also a more nutrient-rich fruit.
3. Allow Fruits To Ripen
There is a reason that vine-ripened tomatoes are so appealing. Under-ripe tomatoes can be forced to ripen off the plant by being near ethylene gas. This is why putting your green tomatoes in a baggie with an apple helps ripen them up.
However, they develop the best flavor when left to ripen on the vine. Wait until your tomatoes are at least halfway ripened before picking (pinkish in color).
As the tomatoes are ripening, there is a point when the tomato is sealed off from the main vine. After this, you can remove the tomatoes and allow them to finish ripening in a warm spot indoors.
I prefer to wait for the fruits to fully ripen (or close to it) before picking. It is true that they are more vulnerable to pests in their final few days of ripening, but the sweeter flavor is worth the risk!
4. Harvest During A Dry Period
Another important tip during the harvest window is to only pick your tomatoes during a dry period. Allowing the plants to dehydrate a bit can help concentrate the sugars in your tomatoes.
The result is a sweeter tomato. There is no need to starve your plants of water before harvesting. Just avoid harvesting during a rainy period or just after watering.
Instead, pick your tomatoes just before the next rain storm, or just before you irrigate. That way you’re most likely to have the best, concentrated sweet flavor in the fruits.
Tip: Another added bonus to harvesting tomatoes during a dry spell is that you’ll avoid split fruits. Sudden heavy rainfall or watering can cause ripening fruits to split on the vine.
5. Grow Smaller Varieties
Cherry tomatoes are naturally much sweeter than larger beefsteak types. If you eat tomatoes in salads, or like to pop them as a snack, then go for cherry or grape varieties.
There are a lot of choices, even within the cherry category. Here are some of the sweetest varieties I have tried so far:
Check out some of the most delicious tomato varieties to grow here. These are sure to satisfy your tomato sweet-tooth, right out of the garden!