Tomatoes are fussy nitrogen feeders.
Tomatoes grow best in slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 Ã¯Â¿Â½ optimum is between 6.5 and 7.0. If your soilÃ¯Â¿Â½s pH isnÃ¯Â¿Â½t within that range, make proper adjustments. To lower your soilÃ¯Â¿Â½s pH, work sulfur into the soil. To raise your soilÃ¯Â¿Â½s pH, work lime into the soil. An appropriate pH is an important component to preparing the soil for planting tomatoes.
Check soil test results for an even balance between nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all necessary for strong tomato production. Evaluating nutrients will go a long way in preparing your soil because you will know what you need to add.
Nitrogen helps your tomatoes maintain healthy, green leaves. Yellowed older leaves and slowed growth indicate nitrogen deficiency. But when you apply too much nitrogen before fruit is set, stems become quite large, leaves are deep green and soft, and there are few if any flowers. Tomatoes need about 1-3Ã¢ÂÂ4 pounds of nitrogen per 500 square feet. Incorporate nitrogen into soil just before planting.
Good organic fertilizer sources of nitrogen:
Good inorganic nitrogen sources:
Phosphorus helps your tomatoes develop strong root systems, build disease resistance, and cultivate fruit and seed formation. Slow, stunted growth and reddening stems and foliage indicate a phosphorus deficiency. Incorporate phosphorus-containing fertilizers into the soil before planting, rather than sprinkling them on the surface.
Good organic fertilizer sources of phosphorus
Good inorganic phosphorus sources
Potassium helps promote growth and disease resistance in your tomato plants. Weak plants and slow growth indicate a potassium deficiency. In more severe cases, leaf edges will brown. An easy way to amend the soil is to add wood ash, which is 5% potassium. Best rate is about 10-15 pounds to a 300 square foot bed. Work in wood ash in the fall or winter.
Good organic fertilizer sources of potassium
granite dust (also called rock potash) Ã¯Â¿Â½ slow-releasing leaf mold
Good inorganic potassium sources
Compost is broken-down organic matter. ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s not particularly high in nutrients but itÃ¯Â¿Â½s a fantastic way to improve your soil. Compost improves soil structure, increases its cultivability, aids in nutrient retention, reduces compaction, attracts earthworms, increases microbes, and protects plants from disease. Adding compost is the singular most important step you can take to preparing your soil for planting tomatoes.