Gardening Growing Tomatoes

11 Tips To Pick And Apply The Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes

Tomato plants are heavy feeder so you need to be very careful when you feed them. There is no specific fertilizer that you can consider as the best fertilizer for tomatoes.

Your fertilizer would be best when you choose and apply them perfectly. So the best fertilizer means choosing the right time, the right method, and the right proportion of fertilizer based on your soil test report and your tomato plants need.

In this article, I will share with you some useful tips to pick up the right fertilizer that best suits to your tomato plants.

Best fertilizer for tomatoes

Tip 1: Best Fertilizer Contains All the Necessary Nutrients for Tomato Plants

A good fertilizer for tomato plants always contains two types of nutrients for growing and producing fruits such as-

  • Macro-nutrients
  • Micronutrients

You can get these useful nutrients for your tomato plants from the store brought fertilizer or from the resources around you.

1: Macro-nutrients

Macro-nutrients or primary nutrients are the basic nutrients for tomato plants. They are also known as N.P.K which stands for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Nitrogen

It helps to produce leaves and develop stem growth.

Sources: Weeds, grass clippings, rabbit poo, aged animal manure, corn gluten meal, bat guano, blood meal, feather meal, fish meal (dry), soybean meal (dry), crab waste, shrimp waste, and so on. 

Phosphorous

It develops a strong root system of tomato plants, stems, and setting more flowers and fruits.

Sources: Bat guano, bone meal, cottonseed meal (dry), cucumber skins, crab waste, fish meal (dry), hair, mushroom compost, shrimp waste, wood ashes, wool wastes, and worm castings are good sources of phosphorus.

Potassium

It improves plants’ immunity and makes roots stronger.

Sources: Banana peels, potato peels, orange peels, cucumbers peels, sweet potato skins, wood ashes, soybean meal (dry), alfalfa, bat guano, compost, crab waste are good sources of potassium.

2: Micronutrients

Micronutrients (calcium, magnesium, and sulfur) are also known as secondary nutrients. Your tomatoes will be more vigorous, flavorful, healthy, and disease-resistant when you apply this complex blend of micronutrients.

Calcium

It prevents blossom end rot of tomatoes. Besides, it also develops plant stems and the soil structure.

Source: Eggshells, blackstrap molasses, seaweed, cottonseed meal, alfalfa, fish emulsion, and (cooking water of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, eggs, or food grains).

Magnesium

It gathers sunlight to make photosynthesis and helps the plants grow healthy.

Sources: Epsom salt, blackstrap molasses, seaweed, coffee grounds, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, and alfalfa.

Sulfur

It supplies proteins to the plants and makes overall development.  

Sources: Epsom salt, fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, blackstrap molasses, and head of the matchstick.

Tips 2: Types of Tomato Fertilizer

You may find different types of fertilizer for your tomato plants. These can be divided based on their using methods, growing medium, locations, material, sources, and the output you want.

  • Organic fertilizer
  • Granular fertilizer
  • Liquid fertilizer
  • Chemical fertilizer
BEST FERTILIZER TYPES FOR TOMATO PLANTS

Organic Tomato Fertilizer

Organic fertilizers are 100% chemical-free and environmentally friendly. The ingredients that are used to make organic fertilizer are directly sourced from nature. So, this is completely safe to use for your garden.

However, organic fertilizer feeds the plants slowly for a long time. It also develops the soil condition but sometimes releases a terrible smell.

There are two types of organic fertilizer such as-

1- Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Most of the homemade fertilizers are decomposed into a compost pile. Sometimes the organic ingredients are directly added to the planting hole.

You can also make your liquid tomato fertilizer at home based on the soil condition and your plants need. 

The beginner gardens often confuse to measure the fertilizer ration of their homemade fertilizer. In that case, know the tomato growth stages, soil condition, and the nutrients value of the ingredients you are intending to use.

Besides, you must need to invest time, labor, patience, and a suitable place to make your homemade fertilizer.

2- Commercial Organic Fertilizer

Commercial fertilizers are easy to use than homemade fertilizer. You need to pick a recognized brand fertilizer that has a good product review. You will get all the necessary instructions on the fertilizer pack you choose.

Granular

Typically, granular fertilizer is powdery, grainy, or sandy type. You can spread these fertilizers around your tomato plants and water them to active.

This fertilizer can be divided into two types:

Slow released granular fertilizer

Granular fertilizer releases nutrients very slowly. Your tomato plants can take up the nutrients from the soil around 2 months or more. So, you don’t need to fertilize your tomatoes regularly.

Extreme or low pH levels may reduce the effectiveness of granular fertilizer. So, check your soil pH level first before using these types of fertilizers.

Water-soluble fertilizer

These types of fertilizers are easily dissolved in water and feed your plants quickly. So, your plants will show the result about 1 to 2 weeks after applying these fertilizers.

You can use these fertilizers for drip irrigation and all type of tomato plants such as –

  • Container tomatoes
  • Indoors potting tomatoes
  • Outdoors tomato plants
  • Greenhouse tomatoes

However, you may find some difficulties when using this fertilizer in sandy soil or if the soil receives heavy rain. Besides using an imbalanced fertilizer ratio with water may burn your tomato plants.

Liquid Tomato fertilizer

You can get both homemade or commercial liquid fertilizer for tomato plants. Both fertilizers are good for your tomato plants and suitable for containers, indoors, and outdoor plants. 

Dilute the solutions with the right proportion of water and feed your tomatoes.

For homemade liquids, you need to add a different proportion of solutions for their ingredients type. Besides plant growth and other factors also vary how much fertilizer solutions you should apply.

Learn more about the uses of homemade liquid tomato fertilizer.

Chemical fertilizer

Chemical fertilizer works quickly for about less than a week. But it doesn’t last long in the soil. So, you need to apply them more often for better results. 

Nevertheless, I don’t recommend you use any chemical fertilizer for your home garden. Regular using this chemical fertilizer reduces the soil quality, attracts insects, and harms the overall environment.

Tips 3: Take the Soil Test First

You must need to test your garden soil first to determine the best fertilizer for your tomatoes. This mainly depends on your garden soil test report and the soil structure.

Different garden soil gets different types of the test report and it defines the best fertilizer for tomato plants differently.

Without having the soil test report no one can ensure you which fertilizer ratio would be the best for your tomato plants. Also, which nutrients your tomato plants need most.

Besides, if you have a bad soil structure then you must have to amend your soil before planting tomatoes.

Tips 4: Soil Preparation

Tomato plants best perform in loam and sandy loam soil. This soil type ensures a good drainage system, proper aeration, and lets the plant roots absorb the necessary nutrients from the soil easily. So, this soil condition plays a very important role to ensure good quality and more flavorful tomatoes.

Only applying the best fertilizer mix for your tomatoes won’t ensure you healthy, juicy, and flavorful tomatoes. Also, you have to confirm the scheduled watering and good quality soil.  Besides, you may also need to provide other plant care like mulching, staking or caging and pruning if needed.

However, it is so stupid to expect all the garden soil will be sandy loam and perfect as you required. Typically, you may find sandy, silt, clay, rocky, or loamy soil in your local garden area.

Don’t worry! no matter which soil type your garden has; you may turn it into an ideal soil for growing tomato plants.

Learn more: How to prepare the soil for tomatoes.

Tips 5: Choose the Best Fertilizer for Soil Before Planting Tomato Plants

Before planting tomatoes, you have to fertilize your planting hole with a perfect fertilizer mix. In that case, you can fill up your planting hole with homemade fertilizer or store that brought a slow-released organic fertilizer mix based on the soil test report.

There is no fixed standard ratio of the best fertilizer for tomato plants. It may change according to the soil condition and the different growth stages of the tomato plants. But some folks apply a balanced fertilizer ratio 10-10-10 at this stage. Nevertheless, I suggest you go through your soil test report.  

Never use too much nitrogen for tomato plants. This will produce more foliage and fewer fruits. 

However, you may apply two types of organic fertilizer for your garden tomatoes such as:

1: Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Homemade fertilizer comes from the wastages of our daily uses and other household sources. This includes

  • Baking soda makes tomatoes sweeter.
  • Fish heads contain nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and other minerals for tomato plants.
  • Aspirin tablets develop the plants’ immunity and protect blight diseases.
  • Eggshells fulfill the calcium deficiency and protect the blossom end rot of tomatoes.
  • Epsom salt provides magnesium for tomato plants.
  • Old composted manure is a good source of slowly released nutrients.
  • Quality compost develops soil quality and provides basic and secondary soil nutrients.
  • Kelp meal is a good source of potassium and other slowly released micronutrients for tomato plants.
  • Bone meal is a great source of phosphorus that helps setting tomato flowers and fruits.
  • Cottonseed meal is a slow-release organic matter and a good source of NPK and other minerals.
  • Used coffee ground is a slow-release organic fertilizer and soil amendments. It contains phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper.

However you can add the above-mentioned source of ingredients for your tomato plants that contain the necessary nutrients according to your plants’ needs.

The homemade organic ingredients work very slowly. Usually, it will take around 2 weeks to 6 months to break down and releasing nutrients into the soil.  So, if you have a long growing season, you can add the necessary ingredients into your planting hole based on the macro and micronutrient value.

On the flip side, if you have a short growing season, you should prepare the compost earlier using the above mentioned primary and secondary nutrients. Then add the final compost at the tomato planting hole for better results.  

Learn more: Fertilizing Tomato Plants

2: Commercial Organic Fertilizer

There is plenty of organic granular slow-released fertilizer available out there for tomato plants. You may find them in your local gardening stores and online stores.

But before buying them read their product review first. You will get the product information and other instructions on the fertilizer pack. Always try to use a recognized brand fertilizer for a great result.

Tips 6: Best Fertilizer for Tomatoes from Planting to Before Flowering

Tomato plants need to develop their stems, roots, and leaves before flowering. In this stage, they need more nitrogen and some part of phosphorus and potassium.

At this stage, you need to apply good quality aged compost or old composted animal manure. For the best result make your compost liquid or water-soluble for 1 or 2 weeks and apply to your tomatoes. Your tomato plants will absorb quickly the liquid solution of nutrients than granular and other organic matters.

Getting the best performance, you need to determine the fertilizer ratio following the soil test report. 

For example-

  • If your soil test report says that the soil currently rich in nitrogen, you should apply a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium such as 5-10-5.
  • When your garden soil run-down in nitrogen, you should choose balanced fertilizer like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10

It is difficult to measure the nutrients ratio when you apply homemade fertilizer for tomatoes as a beginner gardener. In that case, you need to get the soil test first to know the basic nutrients deficiency (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) of your garden soil.

After that add those ingredients more into your soil that hold the exact nutrients your garden soil need. Besides, you should also closely observe your tomato plants regularly that if they showing any sign of nutrients deficiency.   

On the other hand, if you apply the store brought organic fertilizer it is easy to measure how much fertilizer you need for your tomato plants. All the fertilizer packet indicates the fertilizer ratios it contains.

Tips 7: Best Fertilizer for Tomato Plants Just Before Flowering to End of the Season

At this stage tomato plants need less nitrogen and more phosphorous and potassium-rich ingredients in your fertilizer to produce more fruits such as –

Banana peels, potato peels, orange peels, cucumber peels, sweet potato skins, or wood ashes that contain phosphorous, potassium, and other traces minerals for tomato plants. At this stage, you should convert these ingredients into liquid fertilizer and apply it to the plants. 

Besides you can also apply good quality compost tea which contains all the necessary nutrients for tomato plants. 

On the other side, if you use the store brought fertilizer to see the fertilizer label instructions to apply them properly. 

Tips 8: Best Micronutrients Rich Fertilizer for Tomato Plants

Once tomato plants start setting fruits you should provide some part of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur mixture to your fertilizer to make tomatoes healthier and diseases free.  

In that case, you should add eggshells, blackstrap molasses, seaweed, Epsom salt, coffee grounds, fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, and head of the matchsticks to provide these micronutrients to the tomato plants.  This will boost up your fruit production.

The best and easiest way to apply these nutrients to your tomatoes to make them water-soluble or liquid fertilizer.

You may also find some commercial brands available in the gardening store or online stores. Using the store brought fertilizer to see the fertilizer label instructions to apply them properly. 

Tips 9: Best Fertilizer for Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

You should find a distinct difference in tomato growth stages, flowering, fruiting and ripening between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes.

Determinate tomatoes produce a bunch of fruits and finish harvesting within 2 to 3 weeks, once they start ripening.  Besides you get the harvest earlier than the indeterminate tomatoes. So, liquid or water-soluble fertilizer performs better during the growing season for determinate tomato plants.

Nevertheless, you should add organic slow-released fertilizer mix into the tomato planting hole at the beginning for both tomato varieties. Then apply regularly the liquid or water-soluble nutrients to your determinate tomato plants until they start ripening.

On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes need continuous nutrients supply because they producing fruits until the frost appears. So, they need both slow-released organic granular fertilizer as well as liquid and water-soluble fertilizers.

Tips 10: Best Tomato Fertilizer for Short and Long Growing Season

Quickly released fertilizer is best suited for the short growing season. Your tomato plants will get a limited time to grow and produce fruits in a short growing season area. So, you need to feed your tomatoes quickly to mature them earlier and finish production before the frost.  

On the other hand, you can grow both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes in a long growing season. So, you can apply both slow-release organic fertilizer and quickly released fertilizer as your tomato plants need.

Tips 11: Best Homemade Liquid Fertilizer for Tomatoes

You can make different types of liquid fertilizer solutions based on the growth stages of tomato plants, soil test reports, and the demand for plants. Besides, you should also keep in mind that your liquid fertilizer can fulfill the demand of primary and secondary nutrients for tomato plants. such as –

  • Fish emulsion
  • Epsom salt
  • Banana peels liquid fertilizer
  • Potato peels liquid fertilizer
  • Cucumber peels liquid fertilizer
  • Seaweeds liquid fertilizer
  • Compost tea
  • Manure tea
  • Boiling water of eggs, vegetables, and foods
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Weeds
  • Coffee grounds

Quick Tips to Get the Best Result When Fertilize Tomatoes

  • Always fertilize tomato plants early in the morning.
  • Choose a cloudy day to fertilize tomato plants.
  • Fertilizer after watering tomato plants.
  • Fertilizer tomatoes after a rainfall.
  • Fertilize tomatoes following the soil test report.
  • Feed your tomatoes often with little fertilizer.
  • Fertilize your tomatoes based on the growth stage.
  • Fertilizer tomatoes based on the soil condition.
  • Never fertilize tomatoes in the middle of the day.

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John Michael
John Michael is a self-help writer and a hobby gardener. He has a bachelor's degree in Library Science. Michael’s passion in writing is to inspire the beginner gardeners to not just “hang in there” or “make it through” but to thrive. He does this through blogging at ofags.com. He began writing in 2017.

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