Tomatoes are vigorous, fast growing, and heavy feeding plants which require fertilization a few times during the season. Tomatoes have specific nutritional needs such as nitrogen, phosphate, potash, calcium, magnesium, potassium and other micro-nutrients to build cell wall structure and increase plant vigor.
There has been much debate about what kind of fertilizer to use, how often to use it, and how to apply it. Here I will explain how I fertilize my tomato plants and what kind of fertilizers I use. I have always had very good results using these methods – producing robust tomato plants and a bountiful harvest.
Fertilizers I Use for Tomato Plants
When fertilizing tomato plants I use two types of fertilizer – granule and a liquid fertilizer. The granule fertilizer is Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer, made by Espoma. I prefer to use Tomato-tone because it has a 3-4-6 guaranteed analysis and features over 3 million beneficial colony-forming microbes per pound. These beneficial microbes help to provide healthy soil which results in stronger roots and a better tomato plant. The 3-4-6 nitrogen, phosphate, potash make-up is ideal for producing large, plump tomatoes. Tomato-tone supplies calcium, magnesium and sulfur for an added tomato boost.
You can check out my review of Tomato-tone, as well.
Another granular tomato fertilizer that works very well is Tomatoes Alive! made by Gardens Alive. It is very similar to Tomato-tone and has a 6-2-2 guaranteed analysis of nitrogen, phosphate and potash.
The liquid fertilizer I use for my tomatoes is fish emulsion. Fish emulsion is just what it sounds like – emulsified fish. It boasts a 5-1-1 guaranteed analysis and will not burn plants like granular fertilizers. This is a great product for giving any plant a boost. A warning though – this stuff stinks to high heaven, so be prepared. The smell is worth the results!
How I Apply the Fertilizers
First thing I do is to gather up the products and tools I will be using – here they are:
- the bag of Tomato-tone
- the bottle of fish emulsion
- a clean bucket or watering can
- a plastic fork
Next I use 2 capfuls of fish emulsion for every gallon of water in the watering can, then fill the can with water, mixing the fish emulsion. Now my watering solution is ready to go.
I use mulch around my tomatoes, so I need to pull the mulch away from the stem to form a circle about 4 inches all the way around the plant.
I take a good handful of the Tomato-tone and sprinkle it all the way around the plant, forming a fertilizer circle. I want the fertilizer to be about 3 inches away from the stem. NEVER let the fertilizer touch the plant stem.
Next I take the plastic fork and gently work the fertilizer into the first couple inches of soil. I am careful on this step not to go so deep that I may damage any plant roots. That would be bad. I just gently chop the plastic fork up and down, working my way around the stem.
Once I have finished working in the fertilizer, I give the area a good drink of the fish emulsion/water solution. I like to give the plant a good soaking of at least a half gallon per plant.
After the watering is complete, I replace the mulch back around the plant and viola! my tomato plant is fertilized and on its way to a promising growing season. I then repeat the steps for all my tomato plants.
I like to give my tomatoes a good watering of the fish emulsion mix about once every two weeks and use the Tomato-tone fertilizer once a month. Once the plants begin to fruit, I may give them a light dusting of Tomato-tone every 15 days or as needed if the plants are producing heavily.