Fertilizer For Tomatoes
Which Fertilizer For Tomatoes Is Best?
It pays to do a little research when choosing a fertilizer for tomatoes. It's not that fertilizing tomatoes is terribly complicated, but if you go about it wrong, you may get a poor crop of tomatoes, or plenty of foliage and no tomatoes at all.
Think Location, Water, And Soil First - The first application of fertilizer for tomatoes will occur before seeds or transplants are put into the ground. A few things need to be taken into account if any benefit is to be gained from applying fertilizer. First, tomatoes like plenty of sun, at least 7 hours per day. If planted in partial shade they won't do nearly as well, and if in full shade, the results will be thick luxurious foliage without any blossoms or tomatoes.
Second, tomatoes need plenty of water. Besides needing it just to survive, the tomato can't readily absorb fertilizer that's in the soil if the soil is too dry. The tomato also needs its share of calcium, and with insufficient water the plant will absorb little calcium and the health of the plant and the size and quality of the fruit will suffer.
Finally, the tomato plant needs good soil to begin with. Mixing plenty of fertilizer into the soil isn't going to accomplish much of the soil is poor to begin with, or does not drain properly. If one gets location, water, and soil right, then attention can be turned to choosing the right fertilizer for tomatoes.
There are a number of different fertilizers available, some of which are better for tomatoes than others, and some which are not good at all. Avoid any fertilizer containing ammonia, ammonium nitrate or urea for example. Tomato plants won't do well if that type of fertilizer is chosen. Don't use left-over lawn fertilizer either, or even "fresh" lawn fertilizer. It won't hurt the plants, but lawn fertilizer is usually high in nitrogen, and you'll get beautiful foliage at the expense of getting quality fruit. A general garden or vegetable fertilizer will be all right, but still may not be the best choice. There are fertilizers on the market developed just for tomatoes, or tomatoes and a few other plants, and one of those would be a good choice.
You don't have to buy fertilizer in boxes however if you have a cow or horse handy. Cow manure is possibly the better of the two, though either will work. Don't use "fresh from the oven" manure though, as there's a risk of burning the plants. There's also a smell involved. Dried manure mixed in with dirt or peat moss is a better approach.
Fertilize Before Planting - The first application of fertilizer should be made a week or two before the plants or seeds go into the soil. This way you'll avoid burning the plants (chemical fertilizers can do this as well as fresh manure), and the fertilizer should be mixed into the soil to a depth of at least six inches.
Know Your N-P-K - When choosing a fertilizer it helps to understand what the N-P-K ratio means. This is the ratio of Nitrogen (B) to Phosphorus (P) to Potassium (K). A general all-purpose fertilizer may have the number 20-20-20 assigned to it, meaning that it has equal amounts of the three elements. A fertilizer having a ratio of 20-10-5 for example would have excessive nitrogen, and would give you plenty of green foliage but little in the way of fruit. Miracle Gro, a popular garden fertilizer, has a ratio of 15-30-15, and is relatively higher in phosphorus and lower in nitrogen. This is a good ratio for tomatoes, though a fertilizer heavier in potassium (15-30-30) would be even better. The ratio of manure will likely vary with a cow's diet, but will normally run 30 - 20 -10. This is higher in nitrogen than you really want, but is fine for the initial application of fertilizer that is going to be worked into the soil before planting time. You want green foliage to begin with in any event, and later feedings can then be given with fertilizers containing less nitrogen and relatively more phosphorus and potassium.
Once the plants have started growing, a side dressing of fertilizer for tomatoes should be applied about every two weeks, until near the end of the growing season. One approach worth mentioning is to spray the foliage with a weaker solution of fertilizer from time to time. This is said to work wonders, though if you try this approach, it should be done in the morning so the foliage will dry off before nightfall.