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Food

How to Choose the Best Fertilizer for Your Tomato Plants

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 17, 2020 • 1 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Tomatoes are heavy feeders that sometimes need a little extra boost. Whether you choose an organic tomato fertilizer from the store or a homegrown DIY kind, fertilizing tomatoes can help supply the essential nutrients these plants need. If you find your soil lacking in certain elements, adding the right tomato plant food can make all the difference for your plant growth.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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When Should You Fertilize Tomatoes?

Your tomato plant’s growth stage will largely determine how you should fertilize it. Tomato seeds do not need fertilization to germinate, so as long as you have a healthy, balanced soil to begin with, your tomato seedlings should sprout. Once the tomato plant starts to set fruit, you can lightly fertilize the garden soil surrounding the area every 10 to 14 days.

How to Choose the Best Fertilizer for Your Tomatoes

Determining the best fertilizer for your tomatoes depends on your soil composition and the ratio of its nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) elements. Perform a soil test to figure out which specific nutrient your soil lacks to help you choose the best tomato fertilizer for your vegetable garden.

If your soil is well-balanced or slightly higher in nitrogen, choose a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus and lower in nitrogen, like a 5-10-5 ratio. Conversely, if your soil is low in nitrogen, use a more balanced fertilizer, like a 10-10-10. Be mindful of your nitrogen content, however, as too much nitrogen inhibits fruit production.

You can use an organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, which is high in all three N-P-K elements, as well as sulfur, magnesium, and calcium, which can help prevent blossom end rot. Sometimes you only need to boost a specific element: For instance, bone meal is specifically high in phosphorus, where Epsom salts are only used to add magnesium and sulfur to deficient soil.

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How to Fertilize Tomatoes

When fertilizing tomatoes while transplanting, mix fertilizer with the soil and place the blend at the bottom of the planting hole, as straight fertilizer will burn your tomato plant’s roots. For fertilizing after fruiting, water well before spreading the fertilizer, and then place the organic matter about six inches away from the plant’s base (to prevent burning).

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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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