How to use Fish Emulsion

GTNateJune 8, 2011

I bought fish emulsion fertilizer this year as a recommendation from a friend, and am wondering how to properly use the stuff for my tomatoes. I understand that I must dilute the emulsion according to the instructions on the container, but once I have the liquid fertilizer, how should I apply it to the plants?

I have read some places that I should actually pour the liquid over the plants, drenching the leaves. I would like to know if this is correct, as I have also read that you want to avoid getting the leaves of your tomato plants wet.

And another question, should I add fish emulsion throughout the growing season? I have read that this is the case. However, I have also read that too much N will give you big green plants with no fruit. Since the makeup of the fish emulsion is 5-1-1, I wonder if I should only apply it once or twice at the beginning of the season (along with a more balanced fertilizer), and then go with only the more balanced fertilizer once the blossoms and fruit start to come on.

One other thing, does any of this change for tomatoes in containers vs those in the ground?

Thanks for any advice.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think you can use it as a spray for the leaves etc.

I just watered my plants today. I soaked the ground first with just water. Then I mixed the fish fertlizer and poured on each plant. I did not soak the leaves this time but I might next time.

Try a search on the subject. I found a lot of info. This year was my first time with the Fish Fert. It is very smelly and mine says it is deodorized. YUCK.

I did spray the leaves of some of my flowers with it last week. It is just too hot to spray plants leaves today. I am afraid I might burn the leaves.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I wouldn't use it as a foliar (dump on the leaves) feed without diluting it by at least half or even more. Foliar feeding can be quite effective but it also can be very tricky if you have no experience with doing it. It is easy to damage the plants as many have discovered.

You dilute heavily, mist lightly (never drench), and only do it out of the direct sun and not in the heat of the day.

The most common way, and I would argue the best way, to use fish emulsion fertilizer is as a soil drench just as one would water the plant.

As to how often to use it? That all depends on if the plants are in ground or in containers and if in containers how big the containers all. As is often discussed here, container plants need regular weekly or every other week feedings depending on the container size. In-ground plants also need regular feeding through the season but not nearly as often.

It is just as possible to over-feed with fish emulsion as with any other form of fertilizer.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 7:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jimster(z7a MA)

I believe soil application is more effective than foliar feeding.

Fish emulsion is less economical than most other fertilizers, but I like to use a weak solution of it for the first few feedings of my seedlings. Being a product of the sea, it has a little of just about every known mineral. My seed starting medium has no nutrients prior to applying the fish emulsion.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 7:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've used it as both a foliar feed and a soil drench. For a foliar feed, I dilute to about 1/4 strength. I usually only do a foliar feeding as a little bit of a boost after initial fruit set. I add it to the soil as a drench throughout the season, every month or so if I feel they could use it, but I definitely don't stress about it.

I like to keep some around each year because liquid organic fertilizers are few and far between. It does wonders for the roses in what little experience I have using it on them, and the garlic and asparagus seem to like it as well. My tomatoes have always done well with it, and on the years I skipped using it, you could tell (at least I feel I could) the difference in the fruits. I wouldn't say it's a magic bullet, but fish emulsion can be a great thing if you're into organic gardening.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I believe soil application is more effective than foliar feeding."
This is good to know. Since this is all I have done with my tomatoes.

I sprayed some flowers with a weak solution so they should be ok. I hope the bunnies hate the smell and stop eating my Rudbeckias. lol

I also diluted my mix quite a bit. I was not sure if my plants even needed fertlizer since I planted them all with worm compost. I figured it would be easier for me to water them with a lower strength right now and see how well it works. I figured I could always water them with the fish fertlizer more often at a lower strength if necessary. Might be the wrong thing to do but I am learning. :)
I think I was doing about 1/2 strength.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 1:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jimster(z7a MA)

"I believe soil application is more effective than foliar feeding."

This statement is based on the reasoning that roots are "designed" to absorb water and minerals. Foliage has a different function.

I believe leaves are capable of absorbing small amounts of liquid. In fact, I once did an experiment to find out. There was an effect but it was negligible. That also supports my belief that foliar feeding is not very effective. When good growth results from foliar feeding, I'm inclined to think it is a result of fertilizer dripping into the soil. My experiment controlled for that.


Here is a link that might be useful: Foliar Feeding Experment

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 9:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the info Jim. I learn more everyday.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 9:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This was really helpful, as I am planning on trying it this year too. Any plants it shouldn't be used on??


    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 10:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Anybody know if it will attract bears? We have a bear problem as it is, I don't it to start digging up my plants looking for the fish!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 8:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the great info. I think I will just stick to using fish emulsion as a soil fertilizer as opposed to foliar.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello Jimster, fancy seeing you here.

I am not sure how I got here. Haven't been in this forum in a long while.

I have not done any studies regarding foliar feeding, because from the start I just can't understand how it can work. Not very scientific, I know.

I can't see how thru millions years of evolution, plant leaves have specialized the entire biology in converting solar energy and CO2 to food, all of a sudden it can take over some of root's functions.

I can't see how the two dynamics for liquid/chemicals movements, namely osmosis and capillary action can make it work.

Osmosis makes liquid move from less concentrated to more concentrated. If you spray a more concentrated solution on the leaves it can only draw liquid out.

The roots move liquid from the bottom to the tips of the plants. The hydraulic pressure is always greater going in one direction only. How does the plant know, "OH, I feel fish emulsion on the leaves, let me reduce the pressure so that flow can be reversed"?


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 5:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like to combine kelp emulsion with fish emulsion for a little higher P and K ratio and more micronutes.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 3:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
buford(7 NE GA)

A lot of people on the rose forum use fish emulsion in a spray. I have tried it, it's hard to tell if it made a difference (except for the SMELL). I've always doubted the foliar feeding theory, whether it's fish emulsion or compost tea. Maybe having it on the leaves acts as a slow release because it's washed into the ground each time it rains.

I have read that some on the rose forum bury fish heads/guts in a hold and then plant a rose on top. That would tell me that root feeding is superior to foliar :)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 8:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have three SWCs, two with a tomato plant and one with a pepper plant. All are in 5-gallon buckets. I have started mixing a gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of fish emulsion (as is recommended on the bottle), and then top-watering the three plants with it, splitting the mix evenly between them.

I have no idea if this is the right amount of fertilizer per plant, as the bottle recommends one gallon per 20' or something to that effect. Would be interested to hear what others think.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 9:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My question is, do I need to use a tomato fertilizer in between feeding with fish emulsion? I only use the fish about once a month like the label says. Most of my tomatoes are in containers. I'm not sure if the tomatoes could use more fertilizer.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

What is the analysis of this stuff in terms of N. P. K, Mg, Ca, ...?
It must be very watery that you can spray it directly on plants.

I have found out that in fertilizing what a plant needs are : N. P. K, Mg, Ca. It does not matter where those comes from, fish, cow, horse, chicken, compost, sea weed, ..I buy and use what is :
(1)Economical , (2) Relatively convenient to apply.

The MG in those pouches , in 5 lb can, costing about $11 with 24-8-16 analysis is the best deal around. That is 48% pure fertilizer. So you are paying $4.50 per pound of PURE ferlilizer, not counting the filler.

I can foliar feed with any liquid and water soluble fertilizer. Unless somebody shows me what is the secret in fish emulsion.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 2:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Leave container in shed until it is good and hot.

Shake container.

Discover, too late, that the lid isn't on properly.

Get fish emulsion all over your head, soaked into hair and clothes.

Hose down outside, then run inside, stripping stinky clothes.

Shower and wash hair five times in a vain attempt to remove fishy smell. Give up and smell fishy.

Don't touch the fish emulsion ever again!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since no one else has.....

That story sounds pretty fishy to me.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 4:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, here is what my rule book says
I prefer fish fertilizer that is done by cold press- this way there is more amino acids, enzymes etc saved. I like Neptune for this very reason.
Unless you live at the ocean side and have plenty of fish carcasses washed on the beach, it is not a good idea to get fish heads into your garden under the plants.
Foliar feeding is far more effective that traditional soil drench, it works wonders. Few things- it does not substitute great soil. It should be only used if the product specifically designated for foliar feed at much more diluted rate.
Plants, including tomatoes, do need nitrogen, even more so after they are starting to produce fruits. Yes, it is fine to apply throughout the season. Catch is what else you are doing and adding.
I follow and enjoy using system that Smiling gardener does, you can look up on the right side info on the ferts, including liquid fish

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic gardening

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:16PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need Help with Hydroponic Tomatoes
I started growing tomatoes hydroponically indoors using...
Are You Germinating Yet ?
Now that you've got all the seeds and have decided...
Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
Yeah - we have blossoms on our cherry tomatoes in Zone...
Solo Cups vs Ribbed Pots
Cost factor is in favor of the cups, especially if...
hoosier40 6a Southern IN
Your 2015 Choices - Fianl Answer !
Have You made up your mind yet, to answer this million...
Sponsored Products
Serena & Lily Feather Rug
Serena & Lily
Modern Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Kas Rugs Rugs Soothing Waves Ivory 2 ft. 3 in.
$81.97 | Home Depot
Vap 70 Outdoor Bollard by SLV
$596.00 | Lumens
LBL Lighting | Mini-Dome II Twin Chandelier Head
$196.00 | YLighting
Hampton Bay Ceiling Fans Metarie 24 in. Oil Rubbed Bronze Ceiling Fan AL508-ORB
$59.97 | Home Depot
LED Juno Par 16 Track Bullet
$59.95 | Lamps Plus
Lenox Opal Innocence Carved Large Footed Cake Plate - 813518
$59.95 | Hayneedle
Cassandra Premium Linen Down Wrapped Sofa
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™