Homegrown tomatoes taste much better than the bland store-bought version. I have found tomatoes are not hard to grow but do need lots of fertilizer to grow big, juicy tomatoes. You may wonder, “How do I make my own tomato fertilizer?”
There are lots of recipes for homemade tomato fertilizers on the internet. I have collected a few of the best recipes here for you.
Best HomemadeTomato Fertilizer
The best homemade tomato fertilizer supplies nitrogen and calcium when the tomatoes are transplanted outdoors. Recipes one and two are what I use at this point. When the blooms begin, and the first tomatoes are one inch in diameter, I mix up recipes three and four. These are low in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium. I use these last two recipes until the tomato vines stop bearing tomatoes.
What Fertilizer Does
Plants need nutrients the same way we do. Vegetables need a lot of water and nutrients to produce the wonderful vegetables we eat. I have found that most soils do not have enough nutrients to meet the needs of vegetable plants. Because tomatoesneed large quantities of nutrients, I fertilize them many times throughout their growth. Fertilizers give tomatoes the nutrients they need to make big, juicy tomatoes.
Crucial Ingredients in Fertilizer
Tomato plants need large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. They need smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sulfurand trace amounts of iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, and molybdenum. For a more in-depth discussion of what each element does, see my article about tomato fertilizer.
When to Fertilize
Tomatoes need fertilizer at fourspecific points, and the major nutrients they need change with each stage.
I start my tomato plants from seed, so I have a wider choice of tomato varieties., I start fertilizing the seedlingswhen they have their first true leaves. I use a weak solution of liquid fertilizer so I do not burn the tender seedlings. The fertilizer should be heavy on nitrogen but contain some phosphorous and potassium. I fertilize every two weeks until I transplant the tomatoes into the ground.
When Planting Outside
Before planting my tomatoes, I do one of two things: 1) spread fertilizer around the area I will put my plants and mix it in the first three inches of soil; 2) put fertilizer in the hole I dig to put the transplant in, then cover the fertilizer with 1/2 inch of soil before putting in the tomato plant. In either case, I water the area well to activate the fertilizer. At this stage, tomatoes primarily need nitrogen.
For those who want to know about tomato plant spacing, read another article from me about how far apart do I plant tomatoes?
When the first tomatoes are one inch in diameter, I apply fertilizer around the plants. I always make sure the fertilizer does not touch the tomato plants so it does not burn them. I then water the fertilizer in well. Here, the tomato plants need phosphorus for blooms and fruit set.
Two weeks after I fertilize at fruit set, I start fertilizing again. I fertilize every two to four weeks until the tomato plants stop bearing fruit. The fertilizer needs to have a little nitrogen and lots of phosphorus and potassium. I also make sure there is lots of calcium to prevent blossom end rot.
Top 15 Ingredients for Homemade Fertilizer
There are several ingredients I use in my homemade fertilizer. Here are the most common and how I prepare them.
Eggshells are a good source of calcium. If tomatoes do not get enough calcium, they get blossom end rot. This is a rotten hole at the bottom of the tomato which can spread to engulf the entire tomato. There is nothing more frustrating than to watch a beautiful tomato suddenly start rotting.
Research has shown eggshells have to be ground into a powder to make the calcium available to the tomato plants. Just crushing them won’t work. After I use the eggs, I rinse the eggshells out. I then spread them out to dry on newspaper or something similar. Once they are dry, I use a mortar and pestle, and I grind the shells into a fine powder.
Worm castings are a good source of nitrogen. They can be used as a dry ingredient or soaked in water to form a liquid nitrogen fertilizer. I don’t grow earthworms, but you can buy the worm castings from different places.
You can use whole fish, fish scraps, or fish bones as part of your fertilizer. Many people put these in the hole before they plant the tomato seedlings. I have pureed the fish parts in a blender with water to make a fish emulsion. I warn you that fish smells, so mix this outside and use what you mix the same day or the next day. I have also found that using fish can draw rodents and raccoons to my garden who have dug up my tomato plants to get the fish.
Bone meal is ground bones. Most bone meals are made from the ground bones of beef cattle that are slaughtered for food. I like using something that would otherwise go to waste. I like Espoma Organic Bone Meal 4-12-0. Espoma has been producing organic products since 1929 and is a very reputable company. Bone meal supplies phosphorus and calcium, which help with blooms and fruit set, so I start using it once the first tomatoes are an inch in diameter.
Blood meal is also a by-product of the cattle industry. I use itwhen I transplant my seedlings into my garden. The blood meal slowly releases nitrogen, helping my tomato plants grow strong vines and foliage.
Wood ashes supply potassium, which is sometimes referred to as potash. I do not use ashes from wood that has been treated, so I do not introduce poisonous treatment chemicals into my fertilizer.
I feel compost is the foundation of good fertilizer. Compost uses food scraps, grass clippings, straw, and manure from herbivores and turns them into good, fertile humus. Compost can be thought of as farming microbes so they can convert waste into garden gold. The microbes that work this magic will enrich your garden, too. I love good, rich compost.
I do not use poultry, human, cat, dog, or other omnivore or carnivore manure. These manures can spread disease because home compost piles do not get hot enough for long enough to sterilize that sort of manure. Never use raw manure on your tomatoes because you may give yourself some serious illnesses like salmonella or E. coli. I don’t know about you, but I can do without that!
Seaweed has many trace elements in it that help your tomato plant. I don’t live near the ocean, so Ihave to buy seaweed meal for my garden. I like Kelp meal, which comes from sustainably harvested kelp and has an NPK ratio of 2-0-4. When used with fish emulsion, it really perks up my tomatoes.
Coffee grounds have nitrogen in them, and lots of people use them for fertilizer and mulch. I have found that coffee grounds should be no more than twenty percent of my fertilizer, or they cause problems. A layer of coffee grounds can be easily compacted and form a barrier to water and nutrients, so they need to be mixed well in the fertilizer. I feel using them as much can cause problems unless I use a thin layer of no more than ½ inch under a larger mulch such as tree bark.
Tea leaves are much the same as coffee grounds.
I find alfalfa pellets at my local feed store. They are a good source of nitrogen and potassium (NPK 3-0.5-3). Because the alfalfa is pelleted, it dissolves slowly. I find crushing the pellets into dust helps my tomato plants take the nutrients they contain faster.
Cottonseed meal is cheap and has lots of nitrogen with moderate phosphorus and potassium levels (NPK 6-2-2). I worry about using it in my garden because conventionally grown cotton is sprayed with a lot of chemicals while it is grown. Unless I am lucky enough to find cottonseed meal from organically grown cotton, I won’t use it.
Pet or Human Hair
Some people use pet or human hair for the nitrogen and keratin in it. I don’t use it because I worry about it having chemicals on it, especially human hair.
Epsom salts are ten percent magnesium. I use Epsom salts because magnesium is an ingredient in chlorophyll, so tomato plants need some, or they cannot photosynthesize. Too much Epsom salts can poison tomato plants with sodium, so I am careful to just use a little and water well after applying it.
I cut banana peels up and use them for their potassium. I compost the banana peels instead of using them directly on my plants. I find fruit flies and other flies are attracted to banana peels, as well as some rodents, so don’t put them directly around my plants.
Recipes for Homemade Fertilizer
Here are several recipes for homemade fertilizers. You will need a five-gallon bucket and a long stick to stir the solution.
Recipe #1: At Planting
- Put one-half gallon of compost in a five-gallon bucket.
- Add two cups of worm castings.
- Add two cups of powdered eggshells.
- Add one cup of wood ashes (if you can’t find wood ashes, use one cup of kelp meal and ½ cup of bone meal).
- Add one cup of used coffee grounds or two cups of ground alfalfa pellets.
- Mix the ingredients carefully, so everything is combined well.
- Put a lid on the bucket and let it cure for a month.
When cured, I use ½ cup of fertilizer per plant when planting. I only use this at planting because of the high nitrogen level.
Recipe #2: At Planting
- Take one-half gallon of compost.
- Add two cups of chopped fish or fish bones.
- Add two cups of kelp meal.
- Mix well.
I put ¼ cup of this mixture in the hole below the tomato transplant. I do not use this later in the season as it has too much nitrogen.
Recipe #3 At Fruit Set and Beyond
- Use one-half gallon compost.
- Add ½ cup of powdered eggshells.
- Add one cup of wood ash (or one cup of kelp meal and ½ cup of bone meal).
- Mix well.
I spread ¼ cup of this mixture around each tomato plant when the plant starts blooming. I put ¼ cup of this mixture per plant every four weeks until the tomato vines stop producing.
Recipe #4: Fruit Set and Beyond
- Take one part bone meal.
- Mix one part of wood ash
- Mix ½ part kelp meal
- Mix ½ part worm castings
- Stir well.
I use one cup of the mixture for ten feet of row when blooms begin and spread it parallel to the row but six inches from the tomatoes. I repeat the fertilizer application every four weeks. I water the fertilizer and tomatoes well after spreading the fertilizer.
If you want to use liquid fertilizer instead of solid, mix up the recipe you want to use in a bucket. Cover the mixture with water and stir. Put a lid on the bucket and stir twice a day for five days. Pour off the liquid and use it instead of the solids. Saturate the soil around each plant but do not let the liquid touch the stem.
Most internet recipes have too much nitrogen in them, so be careful when using them. I have found too much nitrogen will result in the vine and leaves growing well but few blooms or tomatoes. In extreme cases, the excess nitrogen has burned my plants.
Anytime I fertilize my tomatoes with a solid fertilizer, I water the plants well. The fertilizer can’t work until the nutrients leach into the soil, and that only happens when they hitch a ride on the water. Tomatoes are so juicy precisely because they contain a lot of water, so I make sure my tomatoes get at least one inch of water a week. I break that up into two ½ inch waterings because I live where it gets very hot in the late spring and summer. People in cooler areas should give their tomatoes one inch of water all at once.
There are lots of recipes for fertilizers on the internet. Now that you know some components you can use in your fertilizerand what each adds, you can tailor your fertilizer mix to your soil.
Homemade Tomato Fertilizer - My Ingredients and Recipes for Every Growth Stage - Backyard Gardeners Network? ›
To make your own fertilizer, fill an empty gallon milk container with water and add 1 tablespoon of epsom salt to it. Pour the mixture into a clean empty spray bottle and spray on your tomato plants. Apply this DIY fertilizer for tomato plants every 2 weeks during growing season.What is the best homemade fertilizer for tomatoes? ›
- Wood ashes (source of potassium)
- Kelp meal (source of potassium)
- Chopped banana peels (natural potassium source)
- Epsom salt (rich in magnesium)
- Water (for liquid tomato fertilizers)
To make your own fertilizer, fill an empty gallon milk container with water and add 1 tablespoon of epsom salt to it. Pour the mixture into a clean empty spray bottle and spray on your tomato plants. Apply this DIY fertilizer for tomato plants every 2 weeks during growing season.What is the best fertilizer combination for tomatoes? ›
Some growers prefer to use a high-phosphorus fertilizer, indicated by a larger middle number. You can also keep things simple with a fertilizer especially formulated for tomatoes – usually with a ratio like 3-4-6 or 4-7-10. Most importantly, don't over-fertilize. Too little fertilizer is always better than too much.What fertilizer makes tomatoes grow faster? ›
Give tomato seedlings a boost with a water-soluble fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus is essential for new tissue development so fast-growing seedlings benefit from ample amounts of this nutrient. Begin fertilizing tomato seedlings weekly when they have two sets of leaves.What does Epsom salt do for growing tomatoes? ›
Epsom salt spray can be used late in the growing season to increase tomato and pepper yield and keep plants green and bushy. Early in the season, you can add Epsom salt to the soil to aid germination, early root and cell development, photosynthesis, and plant growth, and prevent blossom-end rot.What are three fertilizer for tomatoes? ›
Tomato plants need three main nutrients from fertilizer—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—as well as some other trace elements. Most fertilizers are a combination of those three components; the packaging will indicate the percentage of each.Can you make your own tomato fertilizer? ›
- Grass Clippings. Grass clippings are rich in nitrogen. ...
- Weeds. Weed tea makes great fertilizer. ...
- Kitchen Scraps. Compost. ...
- Manure. Manure comes from a variety of sources — cows, horses, chickens, and even bats. ...
- Tree Leaves.
- Coffee Grounds. ...
- Eggshells. ...
- Banana Peels.
Once baby fruit is about 1/4 it's mature size, start feeding your tomato plants with an organic tomato or vegetable fertilizer about every other week. That's a side-dressing of dry fertilizer. If you're using liquid feed, such as Hasta Gro, apply it to the roots and foliage weekly.How much Epsom salt do I put in my tomato plants? ›
Make up a solution of about a teaspoon of Epsom salts per litre (quarter gallon) of water in a spray bottle. Simply wet the foliage on your tomato plants every two weeks using a fine spray setting. It will quickly be absorbed by the leaves. Avoid spraying on hot, sunny days or when rain is imminent.
Tomatoes need plenty of room to grow. Commercially, most growers use a two-foot spacing within rows. If you want really large fruit, give them even more room. One of the most common errors by novice gardeners is planting tomato plants too close together.Is coffee grounds good for tomato plants? ›
Coffee grounds contain around 2% nitrogen as well as varying amounts of phosphorus and potassium which are all very important for the growth of tomato plants. By mixing some coffee grounds into the soil below your tomato plants you're introducing these nutrients that the plants need to thrive.How often should tomato plants be fertilized? ›
Tomatoes grown in the ground should be fertilized about every two weeks. Container-grown tomatoes will need to be fertilized more often, usually weekly. If you're growing tomatoes in porous grow bags, you may wish to experiment with fertilizing more frequently than weekly.What are the signs of over watering tomato plants? ›
- Standing water around the base of the plant.
- Soggy soil or foul odor to soil.
- White, green, or dark crust on the soil surface or lower part of the main stem.
- Leaves and stems droop and wilt but remain green.
- Roots are brown or black and limp or mushy instead of white and turgid.
Although it seems silly, this simple garden trick really works. The baking soda absorbs into the soil and lowers its acidity levels giving you tomatoes that are more sweet than tart.What not to plant next to tomatoes? ›
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi can stunt the growth of your tomato plant because they out-compete them for the same nutrients. These vegetables are in the brassica family.Can I sprinkle Epsom salt around plants? ›
Adding Epsom salts to soil that already has sufficient magnesium can actually harm your soil and plants, such as by inhibiting calcium uptake. Spraying Epsom salt solutions on plant leaves can cause leaf scorch. Excess magnesium can increase mineral contamination in water that percolates through soil.When should I stop feeding my tomatoes? ›
Keep feeding until the last tomatoes have started to ripen. The tomatoes in the growbag are only relying on the added nutrients in the bag until the first truss forms then they will be fed Tomorite, as the plants in the greenhouse.Can you use 20 20 20 fertilizer on tomato plants? ›
This premium, all-purpose fertilizer can be used on any vegetable or plant in your vegetable garden. It works especially great when used early on heavy-feeding crops like tomatoes, onions or corn.What home remedy makes plants grow? ›
Epsom salts, baking soda, and household ammonia can be combined to create a fertilizer that helps plants maintain healthy foliage and stimulates growth.
Coffee grounds can contain nutrients and micronutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other trace minerals. Recycling your old coffee grounds is an easy way to fertilize plants and help reduce your household waste.Can you give tomatoes too much fertilizer? ›
Though tomatoes need to be fertilized to yield well, too much nitrogen can result in large plants with little to no fruit. Tomatoes should be fertilized before planting and sidedressed with a nitrogen fertilizer three times during the season.What plants don't like Epsom salt? ›
Carnivorous plants — Pitcher plants, venus flytraps, and sundews are some insect-eating plants that should not be applied with Epsom salts. Because they are adapted to grow in mineral-poor and depleted soil, supplementing fertilizers with even a tiny dosage could mean death to the bug-trapping ornamentals.What leaves do you remove from tomato plants? ›
The plant will focus more energy on growing the tomatoes if you remove some of the leaves too. I remove all of the leaves up to the first tomato bunch on the main stem. When the plant grows, I cut even more leaves. I make sure to keep a nice plume of leaves in the top though so that the plant can keep growing.Is aspirin good for tomatoes? ›
The use of aspirin (for the salicylic acid) to grow healthier tomatoes has a scientific bases. Spraying or watering plants with an aspirin solution triggers their natural defense systems that fight bacteria, fungi, and viruses.What is the secret to growing big tomatoes? ›
For big juicy tomatoes make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy. An inch and a half of water per week is a good rule of thumb. If you're not getting that much rain, make sure to water your tomato plants either in the morning or evening when the sun isn't too strong.How often should I put coffee grounds around my tomato plants? ›
6. Till coffee grounds into the soil in the fall and allow them to decompose right in the soil. The University of Florida Extension recommends amending the soil with organic matter such as compost, manure or coffee grounds twice a year.Do banana peels help tomatoes grow? ›
While plants need nitrogen (remember the NPK on fertilizers), too much nitrogen will create lots of green leaves but few berries or fruits. This means potassium-rich banana peels are excellent for plants like tomatoes, peppers or flowers. Banana peels also contain calcium, which prevents blossom end rot in tomatoes.Should you cut the bottom leaves off tomato plants? ›
QUESTION: Should you cut the bottom leaves off tomato plants? ANSWER: Once your tomato plants have reached 12 to 18 inches tall, you may notice that some of the leaves are dying or turning yellow. It's fine to remove those leaves as long as they are below the first set of flowers on your tomato plant.Should I water my tomato plant every morning? ›
Water newly planted tomatoes well to make sure soil is moist and ideal for growing. Early in the growing season, watering plants daily in the morning. As temperatures increase, you might need to water tomato plants twice a day. Garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week.
The best time to water your tomatoes is early in the morning. This will allow any moisture that makes its way to the leaves an opportunity to dry before the heat of the day, and that can help to prevent diseases and burning of the plants.Should you water your tomato plants every night? ›
You should water your tomatoes during the day (ideally in the early morning) to give your plants plenty of time to dry out. Watering at night can trigger issues in the plant, including susceptibility to tomato fungus, blossom end rot, root loss and reduced fruit production.Why are my tomato plants big but no tomatoes? ›
The lack of adequate sunlight can result in the lack of fruiting. A fully grown tomato plant requires six to eight hours of daily sunlight to produce flowers and then fruits. Without proper sunlight, the tomato plant will have leggy and spindly growth and little or no fruits.Why is my tomato plants growing tall but not producing fruit? ›
If you're wondering how to increase flowering in tomatoes, try increasing how much light they receive. Tomatoes need eight hours of daylight to flower. Sunlight gives your tomato plants the energy to produce fruit, so if your plant doesn't have enough sunlight, you're less likely to see tomatoes fruiting.What liquid makes plants grow faster? ›
Thus, feeding the plants with water that has CO2, helps the plants to grow rapidly and greener. Carbonated water contains many macronutrients such as oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, carbon, potassium, and sodium; all of which are advantageous for the growth of plants.
- Yellowing and wilting of lower plant leaves.
- Browning of leaf margins and tips.
- Black brown or rotting roots.
- Slow to no growth.
- Leaf drop.
- Crust of fertilizer on soil surface.
Too Much Water
Watering your tomato plants properly is the key to tomato success. Too much water and the plants drown—too little could cause blossom end rot, when the tomatoes turn black on the bottoms. Inconsistent watering can also cause blossom end rot, split tomatoes, and stressed plants.
Coffee grounds contain around 2% nitrogen as well as varying amounts of phosphorus and potassium which are all very important for the growth of tomato plants. By mixing some coffee grounds into the soil below your tomato plants you're introducing these nutrients that the plants need to thrive.Is baking soda a good fertilizer for tomatoes? ›
I fertilize with a natural fertilizer once a week and then on Fridays I sprinkle baking soda on the top of the soil surrounding the plant (making sure not to get any on the plant itself). Although it seems silly, this simple garden trick really works.How much Epsom salt do I need to fertilize tomatoes? ›
When planting tomatoes: add 1 tablespoon to planting hole and work into the soil before planting tomato seedlings. Early to mid-season: using a tank sprayer, combine salts in a gallon of water. Use 2 tablespoons salts per gallon when applying once a month; 1 tablespoon per gallon if you apply more than once a month.
6. Till coffee grounds into the soil in the fall and allow them to decompose right in the soil. The University of Florida Extension recommends amending the soil with organic matter such as compost, manure or coffee grounds twice a year.What is the secret to growing tomatoes? ›
Tomatoes are a warm-weather crop. They don't tolerate frosts, and they don't like cold “feet”. Warming up the soil prior to planting improves early root growth and gets the plants off to a better start. It's a tomato growing secret many gardeners don't always consider.Should you water tomatoes every day? ›
Water newly planted tomatoes well to make sure soil is moist and ideal for growing. Early in the growing season, watering plants daily in the morning. As temperatures increase, you might need to water tomato plants twice a day. Garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week.What does Coke do for a tomato plant? ›
The absorption of these nutrients encourages more rapid growth in the plant. Therefore, pouring soda on plants, such as Classic Coca Cola, is inadvisable. Coke has a jaw dropping 3.38 grams of sugar per ounce, which would certainly kill the plant, as it would be unable to absorb water or nutrients.How often do you put Epsom salt around tomato plants? ›
Make up a solution of about a teaspoon of Epsom salts per litre (quarter gallon) of water in a spray bottle. Simply wet the foliage on your tomato plants every two weeks using a fine spray setting. It will quickly be absorbed by the leaves. Avoid spraying on hot, sunny days or when rain is imminent.What plants don't like coffee grounds? ›
In most cases, the grounds are too acidic to be used directly on soil, even for acid-loving plants like blueberries, azaleas and hollies. Coffee grounds inhibit the growth of some plants, including geranium, asparagus fern, Chinese mustard and Italian ryegrass.Is beer good for tomato plants? ›
Tomatoes and pepper plants particularly love the nutrients in stale beer. Dumping beer directly at the base of these plants can assist plant growth and help them form more fruit.What do you put around tomato plants? ›
Straw: Straw makes great mulch for tomatoes. But stay away from hay, as it's full of seeds. Spread a 3-6” layer around tomatoes. Newspaper or Cardboard: Newspaper is best for blocking weeds.