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Written by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

red tomato clusterThere’s only one sure way to get delicious tomatoes – that’s to grow your own! And spending some relaxing moments in the Square Foot Garden is certainly an easy tradeoff for getting juicy fruits full of flavor that you just can’t find at the supermarket. 

Follow these tips to grow the most flavorful tomatoes you’ve tasted in years: 


1. Grow From Seed 

Homegrown tomato seedlings

Homegrown tomato seedlings will bring flavorful fruits.

One of the most important steps in growing delicious tomatoes is to start your own plants from seed, so that you can choose varieties that please your palate. 

Whether you are an aficionado of “old fashioned tomato flavor” or you like these summer veggies with an acidic twang, growing your own gives you more options than you’ll find at your local nursery or big box store. 

Plus, it’s not just your imagination, heirloom varieties really do taste better than commercial hybrids. The tomatoes at the grocery store were bred to make harvesting easier, but these same breeding choices unintentionally (and unfortunately!) sacrificed flavor. 

2. Provide Full Sun

While small fruited tomato varieties can thrive with part sun, anything larger than a cherry tomato needs full sun to produce a healthy, flavorful harvest. 

Locate your garden where plants will get six to eight hours of direct sun a day for the juiciest, most delicious tomatoes.

compost closeup

Straight compost can be used as a low cost alternative to Mel’s Mix.

3. Fertilize With Compost

Using the right fertilizer is your next step to flavorful summer veggies. 

Compost – whether as one of the ingredients in your Mel’s Mix or as the sole growing medium in your raised beds – is required to nourish your tomato crop, and is the only fertilizer you will need! 

4. Provide Vertical Support

Since tomatoes sprawl, you’ll keep them healthier with vertical support. 

Using tomato cages or a trellis will keep these plants upright and allow plenty of air flow. In fact, this is one of the most important step to take to prevent fungal diseases! 

delicious tomatoes on vine

Bush types can be grown with a cage while vining types can be trellised.

5. Water Properly

Speaking of fungal diseases – there’s a right way to water and it doesn’t involve a sprinkler. That’s because overhead watering puts plants at higher risk for disease spread. 

So if rainfall isn’t keeping your summer garden hydrated, water at the base of the plants, directly on the Mel’s Mix or compost. 

Water deeply and infrequently rather than often and lightly for best results. 

6. Protect Plants From Heat Waves

Summer temperatures are getting hotter – so you may need to take steps to prevent plants from overheating to ensure a bountiful harvest. 

Place a layer of mulch an inch or two thick on the surface of the Mel’s mix to help insulate plant roots. 

And if needed, use shade cloth to help plants acclimate to hot weather or survive a heat wave. 

basil in a square foot garden

Basil makes an excellent companion plant for tomatoes.

7. Grow Companion Plants

Diseases and heatwaves aren’t the only risk to your tomato plants – pests can also be a problem. 

You can keep pest populations in check and protect your tomato crop by growing companion plants such as basil, cilantro, dill, marigolds, and cosmos. These plants will repel pests and attract beneficial insects to keep your garden healthy. 

8. Rotate Crops

Another way to produce a bountiful harvest by reducing loss to pests and diseases is to rotate your crops. 

Keep track of your raised bed designs from year to year and move plant families around from one growing season to the next. 

This will lesson your chance of exposing plants to overwintered pests or diseases. 

delicious tomato harvest from square foot garden

Harvest fruits when they have fully changed color and yield slightly to the touch.

9. Know When to Harvest

You’ve picked your favorite varieties, provided the ideal conditions – now you just need to harvest at the right time. A perfectly ripe tomato is the most delicious, one that’s neither underripe nor too far gone. 

Wait until fruits have a uniform color, and give them a gentle squeeze – when ripe, they will have a slight give to them. Be sure to pick them before they start to get mushy!

10. Store Your Harvest Properly

Your harvest will taste best if stored at room temperature, with the stem up, and out of direct sunlight. 

If you don’t have time to eat these fresh tomatoes within a couple of days, you can place them in the refrigerator for another three days to prolong their life. 

After fridge storage, you may want to let them return to room temperature before enjoying them for the best flavor. 

If you have too many tomatoes to use at one time, you might also consider dehydrating them! 

Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a small permaculture-style farm in the high desert of Utah, USDA Hardiness Zone 5b. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, holds a Certificate in Native Plant Studies from the University of North Carolina Charlotte Botanical Gardens, and a Landscape for Life certificate through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden. Kristina strives to create gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles, and has been using Square Foot Gardening as a guiding light since 2012.

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