User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Tomato plants are pretty easy to grow.  You really could give them minimal attention and they would still grow and produce fruits of some quantity as long as they get watered.

So in the past, I've never really given them much more than the initial organic soil amendments/fertilizer, organic mulch which breaks down aided by the plentiful earthworms (so I guess I'm indirectly "feeding" with earthworm castings), and AACT a few times through the season.

This year, I'm experimenting with the idea of getting the most production out of the plants. So I've read that right now when they are loaded with fruits that are near color-break stage is when I should be fertilizing again. Is that correct?

Right now I only have a big bag of Dr. Earth all-purpose (4-4-4) and Espoma Plant-tone (5-3-3). I think I should go get Tomato-tone, or would adding Rock Phosphate and Green Sand to the fertilizer help?  (Those and pellleted lime are the only amendments besides compost I have at the moment.... Oh, I also have bags of buckwheat hulls, alfalfa pellets, and bran.)

What does everyone else use and what kind of fertilizing schedule do you use for in-ground plants?

For my plants in containers, I just gave them fertilizer "tea" made of the 4-4-4 and algae water last week, and I water them with "supplemented" water from the goldfish-guarded buckets of rainwater, but they could probably use High P and K fertilizer about now too, especially since its been raining a lot lately.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Tomato-tone (current) formulation is 3-4-6... So highest in K.

According to opabina's NPK values sticky at the top of this forum (which seems to have been -- ah -- "borrowed" or "adapted" by various blog sites, BTW)

...

Alfalfa Hay: 2.45/05/2.1
Buckwheat straw: 0/0/2.0 (NOT Buckwheat hulls)
Greensand: 0/1.5/7.0 (my bag of greensand doesn't list the K ratio as high as that)
Wheat Bran: 2.4/2.9/1.6

...
Wow, I hadn't looked at that list in a while....

Isn't alfalfa pellets basically compressed alfalfa hay? But I'd always thought it was N and plant growth hormone source...
Bran, I think of also more as an N but according to opa's list, it's equally a P source.

...I need to look up buckwheat hulls again...
Anybody know how totranslate these numbers into NPK? (if they can be at all?)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Grain or by product: Hulls

Moisture 8.0
Protein 4.5
Fat 0.9
Fiber 47.6
N-free extract 36.8
Ash 2.2
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Source: https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/buckwheat.html


Was thinking I could fire up the patio firepit if I could find some wood dry enough (after all that rain) and mix the resulting small quantity of ash with compost and 4-4-4 .... (still trying to work with what I have on hand, and avoid going shopping you see... -- it's dangerous to let myself go to the garden center for "just one thing" because that never happens.... ) Tricky because wood ash raises pH, but my clay soil is generally lower in pH and with all the rain creasing anaerobic conditions, it's likely to be lowering pH again, though the lime added this spring may be breaking down more....
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
RogueRose
Green Thumb
Posts: 563
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 8:28 pm
Location: Buffalo, NY

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Not that *I* know anything but I just fertilized my tomatoes the other day. I used E. B. Stone Tomato & Vegetable Food, mixed in a little bit of blood meal, crushed egg shells and a bit if epsom salts. Mixed it all together and used this. I do fertilize every two weeks with a foliar organic liquid kelp. Sometimes I put in worm casting tea in that too. But I have slacked on this one with all the rain since it would just wash away and it's more effective foliarly. I seem to be having good luck with all this. One fertilizer that I am using this year that everything seems to be absolutely loving and I am calling "magic" is this "Peruvian Seabird Guano" https://www.groworganic.com/sunlvs-prvn- ... 10102.html - I used it in the tomatoes when they first were transplanted. Everything I have used it on LOVES it.

Dillbert
Greener Thumb
Posts: 955
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:29 pm
Location: Central PA

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

>>what does everyone else....

hold on, got a quote here.... ""I've never really given them much more than the initial organic soil amendments/fertilizer, organic mulch which breaks down aided by the plentiful earthworms"" - that would be me, as well.....

if over-fertilized, you get huge amounts of vine growth, but seems like the same amount of tomatoes....
you don't get more suckers, you don't get more branches, you don't get more bracts, you just get bigger / longer / leggy-er of all those.

the more important issue is the weather & temps during pollination. two years ago it was blinking hot all day all night all month I had trillions and trillions of flowers/blooms and just about no tomatoes. last year I had three fewer plants, that looked ratty and scraggly, but more tomatoes per day than I could cook down in two pots. go figger.

the tomato fruit is the reproductive bit of the plant, and the plant will kill itself to develop the tomato - it's the survival thing. so, any even minimal decent care will get you fruits....and reasonable care gets you top quality fruits.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

I rarely try to answer your questions, applestar, because I feel like you are way ahead of me on this stuff.

But it did make me curious, why you decided it was important to go for maximum productivity. How will you know if whatever it is you do now really makes a significant difference? Even if you have really good records, every year is different. This year for me is almost too cool and rainy. Last year was hot and dry.

I just recently did a mid season top dressing with compost and worm castings and everything seemed to perk up a bit with that. I will try some AACT soon. That's all I've ever done (and in fact the worm castings and AACT are fairly recent additions, for years all I did was compost and mulch) and I feel like my results are good enough, but of course I can't say that I couldn't amp up production if I tried harder.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Yeah, what Rainbow said goes for me, too, but...

Last year, when I had some cherry-type tomatoes growing in containers next to the south wall of the house (my warmest available micro-climate), I "fertilized" them occasionally with a 1:9 (10%) worm leachate:water solution. I had added a heaping tablespoon of azomite to the potting mixture when originally planting the transplants. The potting mixture included a healthy proportion of my own compost as well as purchased potting mix (can't remember whether it was "potting soil" or "potting mix").

Once or twice during the season, I side dressed (= distributed on the surface of the container soil) with a scattering of worm castings.

I picked SunGolds and red cherry tomatoes (can't remember the variety) into October, when the vines finally started to die back.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Well you all know how easily I'm influenced/inspired -- in other words I'm a sucker (hehe get it? :P )

I guess it's partly due to all the tomato variety searching I did earlier and looking at all those tomato pictures in various stages of growth. And boy some of those plants were LOADED and I mean LOADED with huge trusses of fruits. Some were looking much more productive than I'm used to. Now that could be just characteristic of the particular varieties.

Partly, it's because I'm trying to find the most productive varieties and I feel that their lack of production can't in any way be attributed to MY deficiency in giving them the nutrients they need to perform at their best.

One of the factors that I intentionally set against them is that the Winter Trial candidate varieties were planted where I know they get less than optimal amount of light. Again, I want them to have sufficient nutrients so it's just the light issue.

You realize this is all very unscientific. At the end of the day, I'm just going to rely on the way it "looks" and "feels like" :>
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

applestar wrote: I guess it's partly due to all the tomato variety searching I did earlier and looking at all those tomato pictures in various stages of growth. And boy some of those plants were LOADED and I mean LOADED with huge trusses of fruits. Some were looking much more productive than I'm used to. Now that could be just characteristic of the particular varieties.

Partly, it's because I'm trying to find the most productive varieties and I feel that their lack of production can't in any way be attributed to MY deficiency in giving them the nutrients they need to perform at their best.

One of the factors that I intentionally set against them is that the Winter Trial candidate varieties were planted where I know they get less than optimal amount of light. Again, I want them to have sufficient nutrients so it's just the light issue.

You realize this is all very unscientific. At the end of the day, I'm just going to rely on the way it "looks" and "feels like" :>
Umm...Applestar...unless the photographs and the text specifically state that this photograph of this particular variety was taken during these specific Winter Trials, you can be absolutely sure that The Perfectly Productive Plant Picture is of the best-producing-ever single plant of that variety, no matter when it was grown.

"Our new Super-Duper Producer Tomato showed well in Winter Trials, is early maturing and long producing! Indeterminate, so you'll pick tomatoes all season long!" Sounds good; right? And there'll be a picture next to this hyped language; right? But nowhere does my faked-up text say, "This photo of our new Super-Duper Producer Tomato taken during 2012-13 Winter Trials in [name a cold state here]" or even "This photo of the Super-Duper Producer Tomato taken in our test fields August 2012." Nope.

Without The Perfect Plant Picture, why would gardeners purchase from that particular source? If each seed/plant source changed its photographs each year to reflect changed (even unfavorable) growing conditions due to the vagaries of Nature, we'd see that their plant yields vary somewhat, although not to the same degree, as ours do. We wouldn't have the brand loyalty we do (if we have such) or the agonized "What did I do wrong?" self-reproaches when our humble plants don't measure up to that Perfect Picture.

Am I accusing each and every seed/plant merchant of fraud? By no means. It's just that, during my adult life, I have pursued two careers--one, that of teaching middle- and high-school students math, history, English, and other subjects; two--editing (anywhere from proof-reading to technical editing to rewrite editing aka line editing) written publications, usually in cooperation with the design/layout/graphics artists. Books, magazines, technical reports, and other written products are all written to sell something, perhaps themselves (and the author's viewpoint/idea), perhaps their supporting advertisers' goods, perhaps a presentation and/or interpretation of raw scientific data to a third party on behalf of a client.

But the cold, cruel fact of life is: If your product doesn't sell, you're out of business. :(

Thus, printed matter has always chosen, and now on-line merchant pages also choose, the absolute best photo available of a given cultivar, no matter when it was grown, so long as that "publisher" has copyright to the photo. (If the publisher doesn't have copyright to the photo, that's the time to contact an attorney, which I am not.)

Be aware, too, that seed/plant merchants have access to greenhouses, temperature-controlled growing conditions, wind-free protected spaces, full-time professional staff with degrees in horticulture/botany, et al., not available to the ordinary home gardener. These advantages, too, have an effect on the productivity of the featured plants and provide additional opportunities for The Perfectly Productive Plant Picture.

You're probably doing an excellent job already and, like most of us, aren't giving yourself sufficient credit for it. :)

Cynthia

User avatar
!potatoes!
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1883
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:13 pm
Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

i'd think that if you're really trying to boost flowering/fruit production, you'd want a low N, high P & K fertilizer.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Right. I'm seeing that too.

So maybe finished compost supplemented with well-blended mixture of 4-4-4 plus rock phosphate, greensand and the buckwheat hulls....

The other ingredients will end up boosting the N. Rock phosphate is slowest release of them all and I'm not even sure giving it to them now will be available, but maybe what was provided earlier should be replenished.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11227
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

You know you can have too much of a good thing. If your plants produce enough to meet your needs and the plants are healthy, does it matter that they are not as big or produce more than some other one?

Whatever you are doing seems to be working just fine.

Another thing, unlike synthetic fertilizers, unless you use something like AACT or fish emulsion that has readily available nutrients, organic fertilizers have to be applied earlier than you would if you were using synthetic fertilizer, just because organic fertilizers take longer to be converted and made available to plants.
]
If you really want to know if you have optimized your fertilizing program, do a soil test. Even organic fertilizers can be overdone.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

Well, they ARE growing well right now -- I've been posting photos of the Spiral Garden (SMSG) and Winter Trial (SF&H) regularly -- and maybe they are utilizing the organic fertilizer and amendments I put in when planting, but won't it make sense to supplement now for them to use later especially from late August, September and until frost when they pump out fruits again?

I don't know why I didn't mention AACT in this thread. Thanks for reminding me. :D
I WILL be brewing some this week (first week of the month). Maybe I'll make another batch at mid-month.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27656
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

cynthia_h wrote:Umm...Applestar...unless the photographs and the text specifically state that this photograph of this particular variety was taken during these specific Winter Trials, you can be absolutely sure that The Perfectly Productive Plant Picture is of the best-producing-ever single plant of that variety, no matter when it was grown.

...

Be aware, too, that seed/plant merchants have access to greenhouses, temperature-controlled growing conditions, wind-free protected spaces, full-time professional staff with degrees in horticulture/botany, et al., not available to the ordinary home gardener. These advantages, too, have an effect on the productivity of the featured plants and provide additional opportunities for The Perfectly Productive Plant Picture.

You're probably doing an excellent job already and, like most of us, aren't giving yourself sufficient credit for it. :)

Cynthia
Great points, Cynthia. It's very possible I've been bedazzled by "The Perfectly Productive Plant Picture" :o
Thanks for the vote of confidence, too. :D Still, it will be interesting to see what happens. 8)

I think I agree though, that like many gardening techniques, this may fall within the realm of "not absolutely necessary" and "qualification for success is in the eye of the beholder". I still remember my very first tomato harvest. That single fruit was the best I ever grew. :mrgreen:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Dillbert
Greener Thumb
Posts: 955
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2010 7:29 pm
Location: Central PA

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

oh wait!

they can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true!!

estorms
Senior Member
Posts: 263
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:04 pm
Location: Greenfield Township, PA

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

I used 1/3 screened top soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 old horse manure in a raised bed and added no fertilizer at all. The tomatoes are bigger every day with green tomatoes. I care about how big and how many because I am a terrible bragger and want mine to be the biggest and the best and the most beautiful.

*dim*
Cool Member
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:40 pm
Location: Cambridge UK

Re: Help me fiddle with fertilizer for tomatoes?

give them a bit of bat

there are different bat guanos (some hign in N, and some high im P&K) ....

use sparingly, as it's potent, and for right now, go the the bat guano that his high in P&K

my hanging basket with tumbling tomatoes has loads of yellow flowers, and loads of tomatoes that have already formed .... if I were to guess, I think that the hanging basket will have over 100 tomatoes

I did however fertilize earlier with bat guano, worm humus (vermicompost), seaweed/algae, AACT and fish hydrolosate earlier in the season ....

my toms planted in the ground are all over 5 feet tall at the moment

at the moment, I am only feeding with bat guano, and have cut back on the watering, so as to force more flowers
Spend sixpence on the plant but a shilling on the hole - Anon

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”