Do you want to ensure the proper growth of your tomato plants? Are you looking for the best fertilizing techniques for tomatoes? Caring for tomatoes is relatively easy. However, you need to be clear about its needs, like how often to fertilize tomatoes, water, etc.
If you get the right water and nutrient content along with enough sunlight, your tomato plants are sure to thrive. Still, you cannot add too much fertilizer or water, as it may ruin the plant’s health. If you want to learn about tomato fertilization frequency, you are at the right place.
In this article, you will get a comprehensive guide on fertilizing your tomatoes and other tomato growing tips. Remember, tomatoes are heavy feeders which is why they require nutrient-rich soil.
Basic Facts of Growing Tomatoes
Before going ahead with the nitty-gritty of growing and fertilizing tomatoes, here are some essential facts you must remember.
- Tomato plants require considerable amounts of energy in the form of nutrition as they produce lots of fruits.
- You can pick a commercial fertilizer based on its nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (NPK) content.
- Tomato roots usually extend up to 6-7 inches. Therefore, do not add fertilizer in extra-large amounts.
- Remember, no tomato plants are entirely perfect. Factors such as weather are inevitable.
- If you pick up problematic signs early, you can save the tomatoes. Make sure to visit your plants every day.
General Care Routine
To get a bumper crop, you will have to ensure you meet all its water, sunlight, and nutrient requirements. It starts from picking the right varieties to choosing the correct tomato fertilizer for each stage.
Though the exact maintaining requirements may vary according to your choices, here are some general tips and information for tomato gardening.
- Do not crowd the seedlings as it may hamper the growing process.
- Tomatoes love warmth, and a warmed-up soil bed is perfect for the quick growth of this fruit.
- If you start the tomato seedlings inside, make sure they get plenty of sunlight or artificial light.
- Make sure you do not add fertilizer onto the leaves. It may cause them to deteriorate.
- Irregular watering leads to blossom end rot. Read the next section for information about the best ways to water tomatoes.
Best Ways to Water Tomatoes
From the seeds stage to flowering and fruiting, tomato plants require enough water to keep the soil moist. However, you must not water it so much that you see standing water.
In-Ground Plants: Water the tomato seeds whenever the top layer of the soil appears dry. Once the seedlings pop out and start growing, water them once daily. However, during high temperatures, increase the watering to twice a day. You can try to give 1-2 inches of water per week.
Potted Plants: The soil in containers can heat up relatively fast and requires more water. You must add water until it starts to drain out from the holes. It reflects that water has reached all the parts of the soil. You may even water it twice if the upper soil feels dry.
Tomato Plant Feeding
Before getting to the process, you must remember that you need to consider a few things when you choose a fertilizer. The best way is to conduct a soil test on your garden soil. Once you are aware of the soil quality, pick a chemical fertilizer or an organic tomato fertilizer.
In most cases, the best fertilizer is the organic one, as it encourages symbiosis. It causes various fungi to reach the roots to give them phosphorus in exchange for starch and sugar. It is the best way of tomato gardening if you want organic tomato for consumption.
You can also choose to prepare organic fertilizer at home with the manure of farm animals like cow manure or chicken manure. You can then add potassium sources like wood ashes, tea or coffee grounds, and bone meal for phosphorus. Moreover, pet and human hair are slow-release nitrogen sources. Therefore, you can add these as well.
1. Tomato Seeds
You might often think that seeds require fertilizers too. However, that is not true as seeds have enough nutrients themselves. They can feed the soil with the essential elements and only need water and sunlight for thriving.
2. Tomato Seedlings
Unlike seeds, once a seedling sprouts up, you need to start adding the correct fertilizer. They grow relatively fast and begin bearing fruit within four months of planting. To ensure healthy growth, feed them nitrogen and potassium for foliage, growth, flower, and fruit production.
3. Tomato Plants
The plant stage is relatively tricky as it requires special attention to determine the right type of fertilizer. Still, it may also depend on other aspects like soil condition, environment, type of tomato, etc.
The next section explains the varying types of nutrients required by tomato plants at different stages. The right amount of analysis and action is all you need to feed the correct tomato fertilizer.
Essential Nutrients Required by Tomatoes
Tomatoes require three prime nutrients—nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Each of them has vital responsibilities of meeting the nutrient needs of varying plant parts.
- Nitrogen: It is quintessential to provide the foliage required by tomato plants. However, excess of this mineral in fertilizers can lead to bushy plants and less fruit.
- Phosphorus: The plant roots necessarily need this element for healthy growth and development. Additionally, it is also essential for fruits, and therefore, you must add it in the initial and final stages.
- Potassium: It supports the overall growth of plants, leading to flower and fruit production. Potassium is even more vital for photosynthesis and disease protection.
Though these three elements make for the most-required ones, tomato plants need other nutrients as well.
- Calcium: It is essential for the flawless growth of tomato plant leaves and roots. Also, it helps in producing wholesome, firm tomatoes.
- Boron and Zinc: These elements encourage flowering and balanced ripening of fruits.
- Magnesium: It helps maintain the green color of plants while supporting flowers and fruits’ health and quality.
As discussed above, the tomato plant needs different nutrients at different stages of its life. Therefore, maintaining the soil quality is quintessential throughout plant life. Make sure to track your tomato plant to determine the correct fertilizer required. Read on for information on nutrients, fertilizing timings, and tips.
Fertilizing Frequency for Tomatoes
So, how often to fertilize tomatoes? When is the best time to fertilize tomato plants? Here is all the fertilizer and feeding information you need.
1. Adding Phosphorous to Seedlings
It is the very first stage of fertilizing tomatoes. Once your seeds turn into seedlings, you can transplant them to the ground. Prepare the garden bed by adding phosphorous through bone meals or fertilizer spikes.
Bone Meal: It is a type of organic fertilizer made with the ground bones of farm animals. They may be in different ratios, with the phosphorous content being the highest. Bone meal fertilizer also contains calcium that prevents tomato blossom end rot. It also aids in strengthening cell walls to eliminate splitting and cracking.
Fertilizer Spikes: Another excellent way of adding phosphorous is by planting fertilizer spikes at some distance from the seedlings. You need to ensure that these spikes also have a higher content of phosphorus.
2. Feeding Nitrogen at Pre-Flowering Stage
This mineral provides the tomato plant with chlorophyll, giving them their green color. Thus, they aid in photosynthesis and other genetic materials. Though the soil may have enough of it, the yellowing of leaves reflects a lack of nitrogen.
3. Potassium Requirement
While nitrogen is a vital tomato fertilizer for flowering, potassium is even more essential. You must add it in double proportion to that of nitrogen. For example, the ideal fertilizer would be 6-24-24 or 8-32-16. Alternatively, you can also add a self-prepared fertilizer to get organic tomatoes.
Compost Fertilizer Tea: One of the natural sources of potassium is banana peel. It is a slow-release fertilizer that provides potassium to the soil gradually. Collect several banana peels beforehand and store them in an air-tight container. Cut into small pieces and bury them almost 1-2 inches below the soil.
The best timing for fertilizing tomato plants is when you transplant the seedlings. Next, you must fertilize it before the flowering stage begins to encourage big and beautiful flowers. The third stage is fertilizing when the tomato fruit is as big as a golf ball.
Once your tomato plant is at the growing stage, you can harvest it lightly every two weeks. That said, keep a check on the garden soil to track the nutrient content and other problems before fertilizing.
Fertilization Timings for Tomatoes In Pots
One of the biggest mistakes in tomato gardening is using the same techniques for fertilizing tomatoes in a pot. As container tomatoes require a considerably large amount of water, it drains the pot’s nutrients. That is why you must be thorough in feeding tomatoes in a container.
The best way to fertilize these types of tomato plants is frequent feeding in small amounts. However, it greatly depends on factors like tomato variety, weather, soil health, and more. Still, you must feed a potted tomato plant once in two weeks.
If your tomato plants do not receive enough fertilizer, they may turn yellow due to a lack of foliage. In such cases, you can increase the feeding frequency to once a week. On the contrary, you will know that you have overfed the tomato plants if you see more leaves than fruits. That is an indication to reduce the amount and frequency of feeding.
Keep a close check on your plant’s health to ensure you feed the right amount of fertilizers. You must also remember to provide a fertilizer with more potassium and not too much nitrogen. Additionally, organic fertilizers will be the best fertilizer for your potted tomato plants.
1. Do Banana Peels Help Tomato Plants?
Banana peels are excellent tomato fertilizers as they contain high amounts of potassium. Moreover, they do not have nitrogen which is even better as too much nitrogen reduces fruit production chances.
Apart from that, banana peels contain multiple other nutrients that are beneficial for tomatoes. They consist of calcium that prevents blossom end root diseases, while manganese aids the process of photosynthesis.
Other elements like sodium improve the water flow between tomato cells, while magnesium and sulfur help in chlorophyll production. Thus, using banana peels as a tomato fertilizer is beneficial from several aspects.
2. Do Crushed Egg Shells Improve Tomato Plant Growth?
Yes, eggshells prove to be highly beneficial for tomato plant growth as they contain large amounts of calcium carbonate. Besides exceeding the amount of nitrogen, one reason why your tomatoes might fall prey to blossom end rot is lack of calcium.
While preparing the tomato beds, dig a planting hole for the tomato plant. Before installing the plant, cut its bottom leaves and bury almost half the stem in the soil. After that, crush about half a dozen eggshells and spread over the root ball, followed by soil.
Though in small amounts, tomatoes need plenty of calcium for healthy growth, and eggshells are perfect for providing that. Resultantly, you can say goodbye to blossom end rot forever.
3. How Does Baking Soda Affect Tomato Plants?
Baking soda contains helpful nutrients that prevent diseases and enhance leaf growth in tomato plants, thus, acting as a tomato fertilizer. It has lots of sodium carbonate that helps in controlling various plant problems.
These include fungal diseases, leaf spots, mildew, early tomato blight, and more. However, you must know that it does not really kill the fungi completely. Instead, baking soda changes the plant foliage’s pH balance, eliminating the chances of fungal growth.
You can use the baking soda spray to apply on plants once a week or once every two weeks. If your tomato plant is already infected, you can spray it as often as every five days.
4. Growing Tomatoes In A Pot vs. In the Ground?
If you choose gardening over potting, you are providing relatively larger space for the roots to spread out. They can gain more oxygen, and the soil can sustain the same temperature over a prolonged period.
On the contrary, planting tomatoes in a pot mostly drains nutrients from the soil due to excess water requirements. Resultantly, you may have to pay more attention to the fertilizer content. Also, the roots will not have enough space to spread out.
While both have varying benefits, growing tomato plants in-ground is the best option. Given, you use enough fertilizer as tomatoes are heavy feeders.
5. Do Coffee Grounds Help Tomato Plants To Grow?
Yes, coffee grounds are among the best tomato fertilizer. They help keep insects like snails and slugs away while also providing nitrogen and acids to these plants. Though tomatoes need relatively less of this mineral, they require some quantity of acid.
Therefore, adding coffee to your tomato plant is one of the best gardening tips you can get. Irrespective of the season, you can add a scoop of used or new coffee grounds to your plants once a week.
6. Do Tea Bags Benefit Tomato Plants?
Tomatoes need some amounts of acid in the soil to grow well, and tea bags are rich in acid and minerals. You can add used tea leaves around the plant roots to keep pests at bay, add nitrogen and other nutrients.
Though tea is an excellent fertilizer, you must remove the leaves from the bag and let them dry. You can also use this fertilizer by making a planting hole around your tomato plant.
7. Do I Need To Remove Yellow Leaves from Tomato Plants?
Yes, you need to remove the yellow leaves from your tomato plant. It will help prevent the problem from spreading onto other sections of the plant. However, it greatly depends on the season. If it is in the late season, you need not worry. But, if it is early in the season, the yellowing is due to deficiency or excess of nitrogen in the soil.
It can also be due to blight formation or other diseases. The best way is to check the soil and use fertilizer to balance the nutrient content. You can use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer like coffee grounds and tea leaves or chemical fertilizers.
Growing and fertilizing a tomato plant is not a challenging task, given you devote enough time to care for it. Some of the essential factors here include choosing the correct fertilizer for each stage and planting in the right season. Additionally, opting for organic fertilizers over a chemical fertilizer is one of the best tips for growing tomato plants.
Even if you do not have a compost pile, you can use several daily food items for fertilizing tomatoes organically. These include coffee ground, fish emulsion, eggshells, banana peels, compost tea, manure of farm animals, animal bones, etc.
In this article, you get all the information for fertilizing tomatoes, including the frequency of using tomato fertilizers. That said, one thing you need to be careful about is not adding too much fertilizer as it can hamper fruit production.
Test the soil regularly, and fertilize your tomato plant once a week for the best results!
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.