Feeding tomatoes the right nutrients

Growing tomatoes require lots of nutrients in order to thrive and grow fast, strengthen their supporting stems, produce flowers and eventually swell, ripen and mature; so feeding tomatoes throughout their growing season is absolutely necessary.

Balanced organic granular fertilisers like Growmore, Vitax Q4 or Osmocote are your ideal choices when selecting fertilisers to add to the soil. These contain all the nutrients the tomato plant needs. Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen that promote too much foliage growth at the expense of fruit production.

Why do tomato plants need feeding

Like other young plants, tomatoes require essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, calcium and magnesium for healthy growth, flowering and harvest. To meet their nutrient requirements effectively, fertilizing tomato plants regularly throughout the growing season is key to their health and success.

An effective and simple natural tomato fertilizer is to dig well-rotted manure into the soil at planting time, or spread mushroom compost in layers throughout your garden beds as this slowly breaks down and releases its nutrients to nourish it.

Mix dry fertilizers with water and apply them directly to the soil around tomato plants, taking care not to get any on their leaves. Some examples of suitable ingredients for this include powdered eggshells, Epsom salts, bone meal and baking soda.

Recognising nutrient deficiencies in tomato plants

All plants need various nutrients for healthy development, but the symptoms for either deficiency or excess of any macro or micronutrient may be difficult for an amateur gardener to distinguish.

Yellowing leaves may be due to either insufficient nitrogen levels or excessive nitrogen, while fusarium infections could also play a part in this phenomenon; it is therefore essential that one determines whether an imbalance of nutrients exists, rather than just disease as the culprit.

When your tomato plants lack nitrogen, older leaves begin to discolour before becoming pale green or yellow and new leaves following suit. A shortage of nitrogen may also reduce fruit set and postpone flowering so it is important to know which products contain high levels of this essential nutrient.

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Feed tomatoes what are showing sign of disease or illness with a good quality tomato food so they can hopefully absorb the nutrients and recover and produce fruits.

Types of Tomato Fertiliser

Tomatoes require plenty of nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphorus for flowering and fruit production, and potassium to regulate photosynthesis. Furthermore, tomatoes also benefit from receiving micro and macro nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, boron, and zinc as micro and macro nutrients.

There are various varieties of tomato fertiliser on the market; which one will work best in your garden depends on your preferences.

Liquid feed 

When it comes to tomato plants, liquid fertilisers have some advantages over slow release fertilisers. They are absorbed more quickly and leach out of the soil quicker as well, that is why you need to feed tomatoes weekly or twice weekly around fruit forming time especially.

This means that they are able to correct nutrient deficiencies much more quickly than granular fertilisers do, which can help improve your tomato yields significantly in a short space of time.

Home made liquid feed

One of the best ways to grow your own fresh tomatoes is by making your own fertiliser from nettles or comfrey; there are a number of different liquid formulas that you can use to provide nutrients for your tomatoes that have been specially designed to work in conjunction with each other to ensure a healthy and productive plant.

This is a great way to save money and have complete control over what goes into the soil to help your tomatoes thrive and to enjoy a great harvest.

Granular slow release feed 

Sprinkle these around the base of the tomato plants and water it in thoroughly. When applying solid fertiliser around the tomato plant, ensure that you don’t leave any on the tomato leaves as when the rain comes the solid fertiliser will burn the leaves.

Granular fertilisers mostly used a general fertiliser before planting.

When to start feeding the tomato plants

Tomato seedlings started in quality potting mix may not require feeding until they have been repotted into an intermediate container or planted outside, after which point weekly tomato feed should be applied around the base of the plant taking care not to get on the leaves.

See also  Sick tomato plants

Gardeners can purchase fertilisers specifically for tomato plants or make their own using blood meal, bone meal and wood ashes as ingredients.

Or alternatively, solid tomato feed can be sprinkled around the base of each plant and worked into the soil with your hands or hand trowel. You should feed your tomatoes at least once a week or even more often if you are after a bumper crop.

Feed tomato plants in containers

Tomatoes grown in containers require additional nutrients that exceed what the compost that they are planted in can supply, increasing their nutritional needs significantly. Therefore feeding tomatoes that you grow in pots is essential.

Tomatoes require adequate calcium in their soil in order to avoid blossom end rot and promote healthy fruiting, so use a liquid tomato feed with high levels of calcium as this nutrient will protect them from blossom end rot while also supporting flower and fruit production.

Tomatoes grown in pots require regular watering in order to keep the compost moist as they grow larger and produce more fruit, and regular feeding is also a must for a great tomato crop.

When in hot weather conditions it’s recommended to water at least twice per day in order to create strong root systems while avoiding dry out between watering sessions. It is best to utilise deep irrigation techniques so as to not leave your growing tomato plants drying out between irrigations. 

Feeding tomatoes in containers is much more important than feeding the plants outside in the garden.

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