Hint: Healthy levels of potassium and calcium are key.
What makes tomatoes different?
Tomatoes and peppers differ from many other vegetables in that they are a heavy fruiting crop. Crops that produce large fruit sets are heavy feeders and need lots of fertility to produce to their potential. In order to get the most yield from both your tomato and pepper plants (or any other large sizing crop), you will need to fertilize to ensure that the nutritional needs of the plant are met. To better understand why, let’s talk about how a typical tomato or pepper plant grows.
Why do tomatoes need fertilizer?
Healthy plants grow to achieve a typical height and width, while developing a complex root system and strong stems. After development of the plant systems, the first blossoms flower and set into fruits. These fruits then grow to their targeted size and ripen. During this sizing and ripening phase, additional potassium is needed to ensure that the fruits are developing to their full potential. However, here’s where it gets tricky, before this first round of fruit has been harvested, a second round will have blossomed and set, and a third round will be in blossom. This is exactly what you want your plants to do to prosper and provide maximum yields, but it is taxing on the plant and if adequate nutrition is not available in the soil those second and third sets can be underdeveloped or not ripen at all.
What is the best fertilizer for tomatoes?
The best tomato fertilizer program is a 3-step process.
First, when planting peppers and tomatoes, mix Tomato Grower into your soil. Tomato Grower is a specially formulated vegetable & tomato fertilizer with an NPK of 3-4-7 that contains 3% Nitrogen (N), 4% Phosphorus (P), and 7% Potassium (K). The relatively high amount of readily available K makes this blend appropriate for high fruiting crops, and with phosphorus as well, your tomatoes and peppers will have the slow-release nutrition that they need. Apply either 15-20 pounds per 1,000 sq. feet, 1.5 pounds per 10 row ft or 2/3 cup per plant – depending on how many plants you have.
Second, immediately after planting, water in your peppers or tomatoes using a transplant drench of 1-2 ounces of Liquid #3 per gallon of water. The liquid kelp and fish emulsion in Liquid #3 gets your plants off to a healthy start and stacks the soil with nutrients that your plants can use throughout their growth and development.
Third, once the first fruits start setting, side dress with some additional Tomato Grower to provide a boost during this time when the nutritional demands on the plant are highest. Application rates for side dressing are: 5-6 pounds per 1,000 sq. feet, 1/2 pound per 10 row ft or 1/4 cup per plant.
What else can I do to help my tomatoes grow?
Before planting you should also consider is the overall condition of your soil. Soil that is very hard or compacted, has high clay content, or high sand content can benefit from added Zeolite. Zeolite is a naturally occurring compound that conditions the soil to better hold nutrients and moisture. Zeolite’s versatility is mostly due to its high cation exchange capacity. This means that its molecular structure enables it to hold nutrient components in a readily available form, so that plant root systems can easily access them. This property makes Zeolite is great addition for nearly all soil types. Additionally, Zeolite can hold up to 55% of its weight in moisture, which reduces the need for watering and is most helpful in drought conditions.
One final consideration for growing tomatoes and peppers is the prevention of blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is a common problem that can often be prevented by ensuring that adequate calcium is available in the soil. Aragonite is a great natural and organic source of calcium and is included in our Tomato Grower to provide a complete fertilizer with calcium. Aragonite is a calcium carbonate that is made from seashells that have been broken down over time by the ocean. This provides a not just calcium but a wide range of trace minerals in a form that is easily absorbed by plant root systems. If more calcium is needed than is included with Tomato Grower, Aragonite can be added on its own as well.
Not sure? Test your soil
The application rates provided for these products are estimates based on typical soils. The best way to know exactly what kinds and amounts of fertilizers and soil conditioners (including calcium) to apply for your plants is to have your soil tested. Order a Soil Test today for a professional lab analysis of your soil, including detailed information about fertilization to maximize your plantings’ growth and yield.
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