Growing tomatoes is not an easy task due to the sheer number of factors that you will need to consider which may affect the tomato plants. Fortunately, fertilizers can help in making tomato gardening much easier.
The most important part about using tomato fertilizers is finding out what the best and most appropriate fertilizer is among many choices.
This article aims to help you clear some of your confusion regarding the different tomato fertilizers, their attributes and characteristics, and the ways to use them.
Should You Use Fertilizer for Tomato Plants
To know exactly whether to use fertilizers or not, the recommended first step in the process is to test the soil.
As you may know beforehand, fertilizers supplement the soil. The main goal of fertilizers is to fill up any nutrients that the soil is lacking. Accordingly, if the soil that you intend to use in growing tomatoes lacks a certain mineral, you should choose a fertilizer that can supplement that particular mineral.
This is why testing the soil is important. If you do not know what the soil is lacking, you also will have no idea what nutrients it needs. You may still use fertilizers in this case but they will naturally be less effective and efficient.
Aside from giving supplementary minerals, fertilizer use can also be used to adjust the pH level of the soil. Having either too low or too high of a soil’s pH level can be fatal for a plant. An appropriate fertilizer may be necessary in this case.
Oftentimes, soil can be at a perfect state for growing tomatoes even without the help of fertilizers. In this case, you may proceed with planting tomato seeds without the use of said fertilizers.
Organic vs Chemical: The Two Types of Tomato Fertilizers
There has been a long-standing debate between organic and chemical (inorganic) among scientists and farmers. In present times, it is generally accepted that both types have their own advantages and disadvantages.
1. Organic Tomato Fertilizers
The largest difference between organic and chemical fertilizers is their sources. Organic fertilizers are characterized by them having 100% natural ingredients.
Organic fertilizers may help your soil in the long run. This is due to the fact that the ingredients are biodegradable. They will naturally decay and assimilate with the existing soil, potentially improving its quality over time.
These fertilizers also break down slower than their counterpart. This means that instead of giving all the necessary nutrients immediately, the fertilizer will instead give it gradually over time. With this, gardeners will not need to feed the soil additional fertilizers as frequently.
However, as mentioned before, organic fertilizers do not come without any disadvantages. For starters, they are generally more expensive than chemical ones.
Additionally, organic fertilizers’ nutrient contents are harder to control which may result in a nutrient imbalance. Considering that tomato plants can be relatively sensitive, the negative impact of chemical imbalance may be large.
Lastly, since the nutrients spread out slowly, organic fertilizers are not good to use as a ‘quick fix’ on dying plants. These plants need nutrients immediately to survive, something which organic fertilizers can’t provide.
2. Inorganic or Chemical Tomato Fertilizers
Unlike organic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers are generally derived from byproducts of different industries. To put it simply, they are recycled industrial wastes.
The biggest advantage of chemical fertilizers is their more controllable nature. Since humans are more involved in the process of making these fertilizers, the nutrients they contain are more balanced and controlled.
Next, chemical fertilizers spread nutrients fast. This allows them to affect the soil and plants immediately after use. Plants that are starting to wilt due to malnutrition may just be saved by chemical fertilizer use.
As per natural, chemical tomato fertilizers also have their cons. For one, their ingredients may contain non-biodegradable materials that may harm the plant. This may not be obvious immediately but over time, evidence of soil degradation may be observed more.
Furthermore, even though chemical fertilizers take effect fast, this also means that they run out fast. Frequent use of chemical fertilizers may be necessary to supply the tomato plants consistently enough.
Chemical fertilizers are fast and effective. Meanwhile, organic fertilizers take effect slower and generally require a huge investment in effort, time, and money.
However, chemical fertilizers may harm the soil in the long run while organic fertilizers nurture it instead.
Constant application of inorganic fertilizer may be needed. In contrast, organic ones require less frequent use.
Both types have their own pros and cons and it’s up to you what to choose.
Tomato Fertilizer Reviews: 10 Best Tomato Fertilizers
Due to the number of brands and kinds of tomato fertilizers, you may find it hard to decide which of them you are going to buy. This is especially true if you do not know how to choose the best fertilizers for tomatoes.
Fortunately, this section is here to narrow down your choices to some of the best tomato products in the market. It may help you find what the best fertilizer for your tomato plants is.
1. Jobe's Organics Fertilizer
To start off our list, we have this amazing fertilizer from Jobe’s Organics. As its name implies, Jobe’s Organics is an organic fertilizer. It is largely used for fruit-bearing plants.
As an organic fertilizer, you may expect it to be slow-acting. That is not true. Jobe’s Organics fertilizer, despite fully consisting of organic materials, takes effect fast. This is due to the Jobe’s Biozome, a microorganism that breaks down the fertilizer easily,
Not only does the Jobe’s Biozome affect the acting speed, but it also helps nurture the soil and avoid certain plant diseases.
It has 2-5-3 nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium ratio, perfect for growing tomato plants. It is one of the best tomato plant fertilizers in the market.
- N-P-K ratio of 2-5-3
- Completely organic
- Takes effect fast
- Offers additional resistances to plant diseases
2. Fertilizer from Miracle-Gro Heirloom Tomato Seed Kit
This fertilizer is a unique product in our list in that it is part of a gardening kit that includes tomato seeds, fertilizers, and more.
Read more: Best Heirloom Tomato Seeds
There is a need to mention this product because the fertilizer is customized to the needs of the cherry tomato that comes with it. There is nothing more perfect than a fertilizer created to cater to a particular set of plants.
Naturally, it has limitations. If you already have your tomato seeds or seedlings prepared, this will be of no use to you. Even if you still don’t have prepared seedlings just yet, it does not mean that you would want to plant cherry tomatoes. There are too many factors to consider for that.
- Part of a Kit
- Customized fertilizer for specific use
- Comes with planters and other things
3. Espoma Organic Grow Fertilizer
The Espoma fertilizer is an all-purpose fertilizer that can be used for many different plants.
This may not be the best fertilizer for tomato plants. However, if you have plants other than tomatoes, this may actually be the best choice for you. There is no rule that we can only plant tomatoes in our garden after all.
This has a very balanced 2-2-2 ratio which is as much as what you would expect in an all-purpose fertilizer. It gives adequate nutrition for plants but nothing spectacular.
The Espoma Fertilizer shines when you have great soils in your area that do not need large amounts of nutrients to work.
- The formula is designed to accommodate various plants
- Has a 2-2-2 balanced NPK ratio
- Supplement to already good soil
- Has microbes that induce fast growth
4. Plant Magic Fertilizer
The Plant Magic fertilizer is an organic tomato fertilizer that is highly soluble to water.
This is also an all-purpose fertilizer comparable to Espoma that even other plants can use. The NPK ratio of this product is 6-5-5.
Due to its soluble nature, the best potential use of the Plant Magic fertilizer is for any additional application of fertilizer. You can dilute it to water and spray it to the plant’s base once some tomato fruits have grown.
Also since it has an abundant amount of nitrogen, this further highlights the fact that you should use it only after the fruits show up.
The Plant Magic may not be too cheap but it is relatively economical. Since you only need to use a tiny amount to dilute to water, one bag can last for a very long time.
It really is a great fertilizer for plants. It’s magic – almost.
- Relatively economical
- 6-5-5 ratio
5. Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer
This product is yet another great organic tomato fertilizer.
Unlike the last two entries of this list, the Dr. Earth fertilizer is a bit more specialized for homegrown tomato plants. However, it also does retain some versatility by adding a bit more nitrogen than what is typical of tomato fertilizers.
It has an NPK ratio of 4-5-2. As you can see, it is less balanced than Espoma and Plant Magic, but not as specific to tomato as Jobe’s Organics.
Instead of having a fast-action guarantee similar to Jobe’s, Dr. Earth offers more sustained effects instead.
This is good for you if you need a strong initial fertilizer but don’t want to spend specifically for each of the plants that you have.
- More specialized but still versatile
- 4-5-2 ratio
- More long-lasting effects
6. Greenway Biotech Fertilizer
Just from the name alone, you can see that this fertilizer is very ‘green’ in its approach. Hence, its ingredients are naturally organic.
The Greenway Biotech fertilizer is a very unique one. It is specialized for tomato plants. However, instead of prioritizing Phosphorus for fruit growth, it has more Potassium instead. Its NPK ratio is 4-18-38.
Having high amounts of Potassium means that the tomato plant will have more resistance to plant diseases. This is great to use in areas where plant diseases are known to be very widespread.
Greenway Biotech may also be ideal for gardeners who are only starting and do not have much experience. Rather than having higher yields, planting tomatoes that will survive until the end may be more to your liking.
- High amounts of Potassium
- Offers more disease resistance
- Good for starting gardeners
7. Neptune’s Tomato & Veg Fertilizer
This product is yet another great organic fertilizer. The Neptune’s fertilizer is formulated with more tomato yields in mind. The 2-4-2 NPK ratio mirrors this fact.
The 4 parts Phosphorus value to the 2 parts of Nitrogen means that tomato fruits will likely grow more than leaves and shrubs.
Neptune’s fertilizer also offers some protection against diseases and some weather conditions. Its company emphasizes that this product will largely improve the vigor of the plant, making it healthy and as fruit-bearing as possible.
- Has an NPK ratio of 2-4-2
- Specialized for tomato plants and vegetables
- Offers resistances and protection
- Maximizes the fruit count
- Keeps the tomato plants healthy
8. Gardener’s Supply Fertilizer
The Gardener’s Supply fertilizer is ideal if you want to have well-rounded tomato plants with thick leaves, abundant fruits, and healthy parts.
This organic fertilizer is definitely made for tomato plants. However, despite being specialized, this product has a more balanced nutrient count. It has a decent amount of Nitrogen and Potassium in the mix, not solely focusing on getting more yields.
It is organic and has an NPK ratio of 5-6-5. Despite being a simple product, it is one of the best organic fertilizers for tomatoes.
- Balanced nutrient count
- 5-6-5 NPK ratio
- Also promotes leaf growth and plant health
9. Chilli Feed (Capsicum & Solanum) Liquid Fertilizer
The Chili Feed fertilizer is a fertilizer meant to be used on chili pepper and tomato plants. Since it is specialized for tomato plants, it naturally has more amounts of Phosphorus.
Like Greenway Biotech, though, Chili Feed also adds some extra Potassium into the mix for better plant health. The NPK ratio for this fertilizer is 6-7.4-11.1.
It is unique in that it is liquidized and thus better to be used regularly. Every time you water the plants, you can apply some fertilizer alongside it. Make sure you do not overdose your plants, however.
Being a liquidized fertilizer, it is easily absorbed by plants. Moreover, you have better control over how much you put every time. This can either be a good or bad thing. It’s better used by experienced gardeners.
- 6-7.4-11.1 NPK ratio
- Used regularly
- Good for chili pepper and tomato plants
10. GS Plant Foods Organic Fish and Kelp Blend Fertilizer
This GS Plant Foods fertilizer is to be diluted in water and used regularly. As usual with diluted and liquid fertilizers, you will have more control of its dosage.
Its 2-3-1 NPK ratio tells us that this fertilizer is definitely meant for tomato plants. It has more Phosphorus than Nitrogen, as it should be, although the amount of Potassium may be lacking.
There is no particular unique feature in this product. However, it is quite solid and gets the job done effectively.
- Has an NPK ratio of 2-3-1
- Emphasizes yield by having more Phosphorus
- Diluted in water
Best Fertilizers for Tomato Buying Guide: Things to Look Out for when Buying Tomato Plant Fertilizers
You have already been introduced to the best fertilizers in the market. However, you may still need more help in determining how to choose the best fertilizer for tomatoes.
There are certain factors and attributes to consider when picking the best fertilizer for your own use. In this section is a list of a few of them.
1. The NPK Ratio
This statistic deserves a section of its own. The NPK ratio stands for Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium ratio that shows the relative counts of these particular nutrients in fertilizers. These three minerals are what plants generally need to grow well.
Each of these minerals has its own area of responsibility in the growth of a plant.
Nitrogen – Nitrogen is responsible for the growth of the leaves and shrubbery of the plant. Fertilizers with low amounts of nitrogen are ideal for tomato plants. This is because leaf growth hinders fruit growth. Hence, minimizing leaf growth will maximize the fruit yield of a plant.
Phosphorus – This mineral is responsible for the formation of fruits. This is what you would like more in your fertilizers to maximize the amount of harvest you can get.
Potassium – Potassium is responsible for the plant’s protection against diseases. High amounts of Potassium is recommended when in an area that is known to be vulnerable to many plant diseases.
2. Other Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Tomato Fertilizers
Soil – As discussed before, determining the soil will allow you to choose the ideal fertilizer to use based on the number of nutrients already present in it.
Type – Organic or Inorganic? You may have noticed already but most of the products are organic in nature. This is due to the bad stigma that inorganic fertilizers have about them ruining nature. Inorganic fertilizers do have their advantages so it’s up to you whether to use them.
Form – Some fertilizers are meant to be diluted and used regularly. In contrast, other fertilizers are more solid and are generally used only once per plant. Some are also liquidized from the start.
Ingredients – This article did not focus too much on the ingredients used in fertilizers. However, they can actually be important. If a fertilizer with a particular main ingredient does not work, you can use this as a reference and try a fertilizer with a different main ingredient.
When and How to Apply Tomato Fertilizers
Fertilizers are indeed useful in growing tomato plants easier. However, it is also important to know the proper way of using the fertilizers. Otherwise, you’re at risk of harming your plants instead of helping them.
1. When to Apply Tomato Fertilizers
If you are growing tomato plants from seeds, you should wait until it sprouts and grows two or three sets of leaves before applying fertilizers. Alternatively, if you are planting a seedling instead, you can apply the fertilizers as you plant it.
The subsequent use of fertilizers may equally be as important as the initial one. You may want to re-apply fertilizers once you see a few tomato fruits start to grow.
The timing of the subsequent application may vary depending on the variety of the tomato. However, generally, you should apply the fertilizers once the fruits have a size similar to marbles. For, larger tomato varieties such as beefsteak tomatoes, you may decide to apply the fertilizer a bit later.
2. How to Apply Tomato Fertilizers
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that you properly apply the tomato fertilizers. If not applied properly, the best case scenario is that the fertilizers will not affect the plant much. The worst case is that the fertilizers may burn the tomato plant instead.
The most important thing in applying the initial fertilization is the distance between the plant’s roots and the fertilizer-soil mixture. Thus, the first step in the process is to mix the soil with the fertilizer.
The fertilizer-soil mixture should be around 6 inches deep from the top of the soil. This mixture does not need to be at the base of the pot as long as the distance from the soil surface is followed.
Following that, soil containing no fertilizer should fill up the plant until the 3-inch mark from the surface. At three inches deep, the plant should be set. This means that there should be a 3-inch distance between the fertilizer mixture and the roots of the plants to avoid burning.
Subsequent fertilization may be done by using liquid fertilizers. When tomato fruits start to show and gain some size, simply spray some of these at the base of the plant.
There are many fertilizers for tomato plants to decide from. Therefore, choosing one may be a struggle especially for those who are just starting with the activity. Hopefully, this article cleared up some of your confusion regarding the subject so you can choose the best fertilizer for tomatoes that suits your needs.