Fertilize Tomatoes Wisely

Andrea Burns
Ford County Extension Agent

The recent moisture is making everything look so lush and green, gardens are looking wonderful as well.

However, some plants in your garden, if care is not taken, will spend all their energy and resources growing and forget to grow fruit.

Tomatoes are one of these plants.

Though tomatoes need to be fertilized to yield well, too much nitrogen can also result in large plants with little to no fruit. Tomatoes should be fertilized before planting and side dressed with a nitrogen fertilizer three times during the season.

The first side dressing should go down one to two weeks before the first tomato ripens. The second should be applied two weeks after the first tomato ripens and the third one month after the second. Common sources of nitrogen-only fertilizers include nitrate of soda, urea, and ammonium sulfate. Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that contains primarily, but not exclusively, nitrogen. Use only one of the listed fertilizers and apply at the following rate:

  • Nitrate of soda (16-0-0): Apply 2/3 pound (1.5 cups) fertilizer per 30 feet of row.
  • Blood Meal (12-1.5-.6): Apply 14 ounces (1.75 cups) fertilizer per 30 feet of row.
  • Urea (46-0-0): Apply 4 ounces (½ cup) fertilizer per 30 feet of row.
  • Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0): Apply 0.5 pounds (1 cup) fertilizer per 30 feet of row.

If you cannot find the above materials, you can use a lawn fertilizer that is about 30 percent nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number in the set of three) and apply it at the rate of 1/3 pound (3/4 cup) per 30 feet of row. Do not use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer or weed preventer.

For more information on growing tomatoes, contact the Ford County Extension Office at 620-227-4542.