When and How Often to Fertilize Tomato Plants?
Before we discuss the best fertilizers for tomatoes, let’s establish when and how often you should fertilize your tomato plants. Here are the general guidelines:
- Fertilize once when you’re planting the tomatoes in your garden.
- Fertilize again right before the plants start producing fruit. You can tell when fruit is about to form because the flowers will drop off.
- Add a light dose of fertilizer every 1–2 weeks until the plant dies back at the end of the season.
Some people also like to fertilize their tomato plants every time they water them. If you choose to do this, make sure that you’re using a very diluted fertilizer mix.
3 Types of Tomato Fertilizer You Can Buy in Garden Stores
Of course, the exact dose and frequency of fertilizer will depend on the type of fertilizer you’re using. Here are three common types of tomato fertilizer that you can buy in garden stores.
Slow-Release Tomato Fertilizer
Slow-release fertilizer is a great option for tomato plants because it provides a steady supply of nutrients over a long period of time. This type of fertilizer is ideal for busy gardeners who don’t have time to fertilize their plants every week.
You can find slow-release fertilizer in granular or tablet form. Granular fertilizer is easy to apply, but it can be difficult to get the exact amount of fertilizer that you need. Refer to the product label for instructions on how to apply it to your tomato plants.
The best thing about slow-release tomato fertilizer is that a single dose will continue to feed your plants for many weeks. How often you’ll need to reapply it depends on the brand and product.
Water-Soluble Tomato Fertilizer
Water-soluble fertilizer is another popular option for tomato plants. This type of fertilizer is easy to use, and it provides nutrients to the plants quickly. It’s the best way to boost growth during the fruiting stage.
To use water-soluble fertilizer, mix it with water according to the instructions on the product label. Then, apply it to the soil around the base of the plant with a spray bottle or watering can.
Water-soluble fertilizer is a great option if you’re looking for fast results. However, it’s important to remember that this type of fertilizer needs to be reapplied more often than slow-release fertilizer.
Liquid Tomato Food
Liquid fertilizers also provide quick results, but they’re even easier to use than water-soluble fertilizer. Instead of mixing and dissolving the product, all you need to do is dilute it with water and apply it to the plants. Liquid tomato food is a great option for busy gardeners who want to give their plants a quick boost.
Organic Tomato Fertilizer Options
What’s the best fertilizer for tomatoes? Many people will say: organic! Unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizer is safe for both people and the environment. It comes in many different forms, including compost, manure, and bone meal.
Organic fertilizer is best applied in the spring, before you plant your tomatoes. You can either mix it into the soil or use it as a top dressing. For best results, reapply organic fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season.
Some stores have dedicated organic fertilizers formulated for tomatoes. They typically consist of a blend of compost, manure, and bone meal. If you can’t find an organic fertilizer specifically for tomatoes, any good-quality organic fertilizer will do. Just check the NPK ratio.
NPK Ratio – What Is It, and Which Is Best?
The NPK ratio is the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in a fertilizer. The best fertilizer for tomatoes will have a high phosphorus content. This is because phosphorus is essential for fruiting and flowering. It will also have a slightly lower nitrogen content. This is because too much nitrogen can encourage leafy growth at the expense of fruit production.
If you’re buying a chemical fertilizer, look for one with an NPK ratio of 3-4-6, 6-18-6, or 6-24-24, or something similar to that. The exact amount of potassium and phosphorus your plants need depend on the composition of the soil. However, there should always be more of these nutrients than nitrogen in the blend.
Best Fertilizers for Tomatoes (Seedlings and Established Plants)
Seedlings need higher amounts of nitrogen than mature plants. This is because they still have leaves to grow, and nitrogen is essential for leafy growth. However, most soils are rich enough in nitrogen that you don’t need to add any extra. Just make sure you’re using a good-quality potting mix for your seedlings.
If you do want to fertilize young plants, use a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-5-5. Once the plants have reached maturity, you can switch to a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus and potassium content. Here are some commercial fertilizers that are formulated specifically for tomatoes:
- FoxFarm Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer – A pH-balanced, organic fertilizer with ingredients like fish meal and bat guano. It also contains humic acid to speed up germination.
- Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer – This organic fertilizer contains probiotics and mycorrhizae to improve plant health.
- Espoma Tomato-Tone – A best-selling, all-natural fertilizer that slowly releases nutrients over time. It also contains calcium to help prevent blossom end rot.
- Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes – A time-release fertilizer in spike form. Simply push the spikes into the soil around the base of the plant.
If you don’t like any of these organic options, you can always go with a chemical fertilizer. Just make sure it has the right NPK ratio for your tomatoes.
Now that you know all about the best fertilizers for tomatoes, it’s time to get out there and start growing! Just remember to give your plants the nutrients they need, and they’ll reward you with delicious fruits all summer long. Happy gardening!