Have you ever tried using a natural tomato fertilizer to grow your tomato plants?
Let’s face it… Tomatoes are undoubtedly the most popular plant grown in many home vegetable gardens.
They are hardy plants and can grow in almost every “hardy” zone.
However, tomatoes are heavy feeders and need a lot of nutrients.
One of the most frequent questions that dominate tomato discussions is:
- “What is the ideal natural tomato fertilizer”?
- “What is the Best Tomato Fertilizer”?
- “Can I use a complete fertilizer on my tomatoes”?
Tomatoes may need organic fertilizer at certain stages of their growth depending on the plant nutrients available in the soil.
In this article, we will focus on good tomato fertilizer using natural methods and products. Some call these “homemade fertilizer”.
What Are The Nutrients In My Tomato Soil?
To know the best fertilizer, or the right natural fertilizer to use for tomato plants you’ll need to know the nutrients present in your soil first. Some like to use an organic tomato fertilizer like this one at Amazon.
If your soil has a high content of nitrogen, you might not be required to add more nitrogen to it.
However, it’s unlikely you will have too much nitrogen content in your potting soil will to be high as it leaches easily from the soil mix.
Perform a soil test to determine the nutrients levels in your soil.
There are home test kits for soil you can use to determine soil pH and macronutrients levels.
Conversely, you can take your soil for testing to the state cooperative extension service.
Nutrients Needed For Different Stages of Tomato Plant Growth
After knowing the nutrients levels in your garden soil and/or pot soil, you’ll now need to know the different nutrients needed at different stages of the tomato plant growth cycle.
This will help you know the type of natural tomato fertilizer to apply at each stage.
Remember tomato plants are heavy feeders and fertilizing tomatoes requires a complete fertilizer package for their needs at different periods during the growth season.
During transplanting, add more phosphorous by using bone meal fertilizer to ensure rapid and strong root development. This will help your tomato plant to grow optimally and faster.
Once your tomatoes are established with a good root system, you can raise the level of potassium to ensure vigorous growth of the plants and the establishment of fruits.
At this stage, avoid high levels of nitrogen on your tomato plants (try blood meal instead) as it might cause excessive foliage growth at the expense of fruit.
Now, with that in mind, we can analyze…
Organic Natural Tomato Fertilizer And When To Use Them
A high-quality compost pile will produce rich, pure organic matter loaded with essential nutrients and beneficial microbes.
It’s why we recommend that you should have a simple compost bin to help build rich soil.
Compost has all the basic nutrients, both macronutrients, and micronutrients, that are usually absent in synthetic fertilizers.
Compost releases the nutrients gradually, thereby providing long-lasting nutrition.
It not only helps in fertilizing tomatoes but also helps the soil to retain nutrients and water, neutralize the soil and adds beneficial microorganism to the soil.
Add a significant amount into the bottom of each hole during transplanting and side dress each tomato several times during the growing season.
During the growing season make a compost tea with some humic acid and apply regularly.
2. Epsom Salt
Tomatoes use lots of magnesium while growing, Epsom salt helps provide tomatoes with the necessary magnesium.
You’ll see more blooms, stronger plants, more fruit production, deeper green color, along with taster, sweeter tomatoes.
Planting Tomato Seedlings – When planting a new tomato plant, place about 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in the bottom of hole.
Make sure to cover the Epsom salt with a thin layer of dirt, before placing the tomato seedling in the hole.
Read our article on blossom end rot and Epsom salts.
3. Fish Emulsion
This is another natural tomato fertilizer that gives them an extra boost, both at transplanting and during the growing season.
It’s rich in phosphorous, nitrogen, and potassium, as well as other important minerals such as magnesium, calcium (helps prevent blossom-end rot), and sulfur.
Fish emulsion is available as a concentrated water-soluble liquid fertilizer made by blending various parts of the fish including bones.
Unlike compost, the nutrients in the fish emulsion are available to the plants immediately.
When applying, read the instructions on the package and foliar spray your plants every few weeks.
You can also boost your seedling by drenching the root zone with the fish fertilizer for plants diluted in water.
NOTE: Another organic tomato fertilizer from the ocean is kelp meal. Apply Kelp fertilizers after plants begin to flower.
Kelp may stimulate flowering due to it containing gibberellin-type compounds.
Early in the growing cycle, tomatoes need to put energy into growing new roots and leaves.
4. Organic Cottonseed Meal
This is an ideal natural fertilizer that can be added as an organic soil amendment at the time of transplanting seedlings. Cottonseed meal is rich in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus in a ratio of 6-2-1.
The high level of nitrogen supports foliage growth during the early stage of plant growth.
The nutrients in cottonseed meal are not available to the plants immediately; they are released slowly and last for close to four months.
It contains essential elements such as magnesium, calcium, copper, and sulfur, and other trace elements such as zinc and manganese.
When purchasing this organic tomato fertilizer option, choose the products that only labeled Certified Organic.
Some cottonseed meal might contain pesticide residuals which are restricted.
5. Used Coffee Grounds
Green waste, aka used coffee grounds, can be used to enrich the soil in your garden and provide a variety of benefits for plants like tomatoes. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that promote healthy growth in your plants.
A study conducted using used coffee grounds from Starbucks found the used coffee grounds contained about:
- 2.28% nitrogen
- .6% potassium
- .06% phosphorous
They also measured some copper and a trace of magnesium. When applied as a soil amendment, the grounds provided some nutrients right away and released some gradually.
Acid-loving plants such as tomatoes can benefit from mixing coffee grinds into the soil.
Coffee Grounds Soil Drench
Used Coffee Grounds and tea are a good low-level source of nitrogen along with potassium and phosphorus.
To use as a soil drench like a “manure tea”, mix 5-6 cups of coffee grounds in a 5-gallon bucket of water. Pour 1-2 cups of the coffee-water mixture around the tomato plant.
6. Animal Manures
Animal manure or cow manure is a classic plant food for tomatoes, but before application, you need to keep several things in mind.
Never use pet manures; cat and dog manures are highly toxic, dangerous to humans, and are full of pathogens.
Only use manure from the vegetarian animals such as horses and cattle. (Don’t use chicken manure).
Manure must be aged or composted before use as it can be too strong for the tomato plants.
Apply manure at the time of planting your tomato seedling.
7. Vegetable-Based Organic Fertilizers
Some of the best vegetable fertilizers include:
Alfalfa Meal – This can be found as rabbit food or hay bales. Alfalfa meal is a complete NPK fertilizer and is packed with loads of micronutrients and helpful hormones.
Tomatoes planted in compost and dressed with alfalfa pellets thrive very well. Mulch tomatoes to help reduce moisture loss from evaporation.
Seaweed – If you live near the beach, try feeding your tomato plants seaweed; they might be low in NPK but has over 60 trace elements that are crucial for fruits formation.
You’ll also find liquid seaweed fertilizers like kelp meal mentioned above on the market.
8. Fertilize With Black Strap Molasses
Here is an interesting organic formula.
TomatoCasual.com shares: Molasses has a 1-0-5 NPK ratio while also containing potash, sulfur, and trace minerals. Molasses for years has been used as a nutritional soil amendment, a carbohydrate source to feed and stimulate organisms, and a chelating agent.
Molasses can come in 2 forms. One is in liquid form that can simply be bought at the store. The second is dry molasses which is molasses sprayed on grain residue and dried. But regardless of which form you use blackstrap molasses is the type of molasses with the highest level of sulfur, iron, and micronutrients, which is excellent for man and soil. via TomatoCasual.com
Details on using Molasses for Plant Fertilizer.
In the Florida Online Journal suggest using of mixtures of urea and blackstrap molasses for control of root-knot nematodes.
This video shows you how.
The Bottom Line
Naturally fertilizing tomatoes is not new to the world of growing tomatoes. For many years, gardeners relied on synthetic fertilizer, believing the chemical fertilizers were better than organic fertilizer.
However, most have come to the realization that the organic gardening methods our grandparents used, made for an ideal and natural solution to fertilize tomatoes. Try any of the above natural fertilizer options to maximize your tomato yield… but always test.