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What do you fertilize tomatoes with throughout the season?

July 7, 2018

I'd love to hear your routine for fertilizing your tomatoes starting with planting and throughout the growing season. I've been growing tomatoes for 30+ years but I do not have a routine I do all the time. I have switched to completely organic and that's good. I usually plant 6-7 plants and have varying degrees of success from really great to poor. I do rotate the site every 2-3 years and of course amend the soil with store bought compost. I plant a few heirlooms and the rest old standards.


Comments (20)
  • lgteacher

    My healthiest tomato is growing in the ground where I used to have a compost bin. It doesn't get anything supplemental. My others in raised beds are fertilized about once a month with a balanced fertilizer, Dr. Earth or something else organic. The plant below is a Brandywine which gave me over 40 pounds of tomatoes last year. Of course, my location and the weather played a big part.

    ginjj thanked lgteacher
  • CindyMac

    I use TomatoTone. First application about a month after planting and then every 2 weeks for the next month.

    Pulled most of my plants today. Kept a few Sun Golds. Had a nice harvest, but all good things come to an end.

    May 23...

    June 7....

    ginjj thanked CindyMac
  • digdirt2

    If you browse though many of the many previous discussions here about what to fertilize with (search will pull them up) you'll find that everyone has their personal favorite brand to use. The crucial point is regular applications. And any one of a hundred different well balanced sources will work - depending on if you are growing in containers or in the ground.

    I grow organically and prefer the various Earth Juice products. Granular and dry organics work well in the ground but not so well in containers so I prefer the liquid supplements. Plus I prefer to use fertigation - diluted liquid supplements fed each time I water with my drip irrigation system. The only problem with organics is it may take several different products to provide all the needed nutrients and they have to be fed more frequently as they all tend to be very low dose. So for me that is approx. every 4-6 weeks for in ground plants and weekly for container plants.



  • ginjj

    Thank you for the link. I have loved GardenWeb for 15+ years but since it became Houzz searching has become difficult. I really appreciate you sending me to that information which I looked for (quickly) but didn't find!

  • windberry

    I don't fertilize my Tomatoes at all. When planting I add a lot of compost to the planting hole and mulch the plants with grass clippings. The mulch provides shelter, and compost and mulch together provide food for the micro-herd in my soil. The soil organisms provide fertilizer. I like naturally grown fruit and vegetables.

    ginjj thanked windberry
  • digdirt2

    "I like naturally grown fruit and vegetables."

    That does not mean you can't use fertilizers. There are any number of organic fertilizers available that can provide all the nutrients and micro nutrients lacking with just compost and grass clippings.


    ginjj thanked digdirt2
  • windberry

    @digdirt2 All the nutrients are provided, in right proportions, by my soil organisms http://pnwsteep.wsu.edu/DirectSeed/conf2k2/dscclapperton.htm

  • digdirt2

    Assuming you also know that much research done since 2002 has disputed and even disproven their claims (which is based on specific Canadian soil) and even challenged their methodology. Also recognizing that even they advocate many other steps in addition to the use of compost, then the choice is always yours to make. But what may work for you does not work for most.

    Being well informed requires hands-on comparative experimentation with more than one approach. And in depth understanding of the life cycle of various soil organisms, how they differ, and how they may or may not perform is also helpful.


    ginjj thanked digdirt2
  • windberry

    Yes, you can learn more at this website: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/biology/ Also note a little rectangle there on the left with links to more detailed information on soil biology and the soil organisms.

    ginjj thanked windberry
  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX)

    That link says next to nothing, except maybe that soil organisms are essential to aid organic decomposition. To the extent compost has a lot of nutrients, decomposition can fertilize. But it doesn't. At least compared with real fertilizers. That doesn't mean you can't grow with just compost as a fertilizer. Just that it's kind of a crummy fertilizer, and you can do much better if you add real nutrients.

    ginjj thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX)
  • windberry

    @daninthedirt: I posted the link since digdirt2 wanted to know more about the soil organisms. Looks like you read only the overview. If you read all the information on the website you could learn a lot about soil and soil health. There are no healthy plants without healthy soil.

    As for fertilizers, if you want to use them go for it, the choice is yours.

  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX)

    That's correct that there are no healthy plants without healthy soil, and soil organisms are important for keeping the soil healthy, but with applied nutrients, you really don't need many organisms. That's how container gardening works. My point is that it is largely a myth that compost is an effective fertilizer. It is a fertilizer, but not a particularly good one.

  • windberry

    Looks like something wrong with your compost. Based on that it is not a good idea to generalize.

    As for me, I usually have between 60 to 70 kg (132 to 154 lbs) of tomatoes from my 10 plants, neither need nor want any more :-) And never spray them, too.

  • marcantonio

    i can only tal from my own experience and after gardening since childhood this is my own experience, soil preparation is much more important than the side dressings(not that side dressings dont help. another thing i found to be very important is oxigen in the soil, the lighter and fluffier the soil the better the plant growth and production. peat moss seems to do wonders so does horse manure compost, and very light fluffy compost. some of that bagged cow and steer manure i find to be counter productive because it is so dense almost clay like. i use that to add to sandy soil along with compost. for side dressing i use any organic fertilizer with a nitrogen ratio no higher than 6. makes very little difference which i use. if i find rose food on sale i'll use rose food same for bulb food and flower food, the only thing i stay away from is tree and shrub food and food for acid loving plants. i sometimes add a little more calcium in the form of bone meal,hydrayted lime and gysom if the soil is too alkalaine. i'm still confused about foiliar feeding as far as how effective it isbut in general the first feeding is liquid fertilizer, when flowering both liquid and granular, when fruit forms granular, at first harvest granular, if they look like they need a boost one more feeding around the second week of august. so far so good, but the plots with lighter soil the plants are twice as healthy with twice the yield. plus i would give them at the least 3 square feet per plant to grow, too close blocks necessary air flow and the second most important element--- the sun !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ginjj

    Thank you for sharing that wonderful information!

  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)

    Windberry, you must have very fertile soil where you are. Unfortunately, not all of us are so lucky. Some of us have to deal with lean sand, packed urban "dirt," etc. etc. For me, soil amendments like compost are great for keeping the plants healthy and the soil friable, but they don't do much for productivity.

    Have you ever thought of conducting an experiment, and growing two plants side by side -- one with compost only, and one with organic fertilizer? It's an eye-opening, fun project.

  • windberry

    "Windberry, you must have very fertile soil where you are."

    Yes, I am getting there! But it doesn't have much to do with luck, unfortunately.

  • Choo Uei Wong

    i feed mine with banana tea once every week or 2. since i am planting mine in a pot :)

  • klem1

    No two are alike so every growing site should start with soil testing.

  • farkee

    Charles Wilber (How To Grow World Record Tomaotes, $14.95) former Guinness record holder for yield and tomato height used a carefully made compost and a small amount of alfalfa to grow his tomatoes. Also planted a cover crop. Very interesting read—explains his whole ’system’.

    ginjj thanked farkee

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