how to grow earlier tomatoes


You can almost taste them already — juicy ripe organic tomatoes, fresh, ripe and warm from the sun.

This is the year you’ve promised yourself to be ready to grow the best tomato crop by setting yourself up for growing success right from the get-go.

And that means beginning with the best possible fertilizers so you have the success you desire. You’re committed to growing organically, so you want to use only organic fertilizers.

But you have found so many options, all with different ways to apply them. There are dozens of products, each with different characteristics and often with bewildering how-to information.

And those NKP numbers on the labels — you’re confused. How will you ever know what is the best choice for growing the luscious tomatoes you envision?

What are the best organic fertilizers so your tomato crop will be truly amazing?

To help you choose, here are my four favourites:

Composted Manure: The 100% Natural Soil Booster

Animal Manures

Manures from grass fed cows, horses, rabbits and chickens make great fertilizers. Garden supply outlets are the best source for this rich soil amender, unless you’re lucky enough to have a source ‘fresh from the farm’ so to speak. Manures must be aged or composted for a minimum of nine months before they are used. Otherwise they will be smelly and can burn your plants.

Dig the composted manure into the soil to a depth of a foot before planting. Cover it with a thin layer of garden or potting soil before transplanting your tomato plants. This will be a rich source of nutrients for long term feeding of the roots.

Composted manure also benefits the structure of the soil, providing organic material that retains water well. It helps loosen clay type soils, allowing better growth of the root systems.

Worm Castings

Another source of manure is what’s referred to as worm castings. This is the manure or excrement from special worms that are raised specifically for their rich leavings.

As the worm digests organic materials — often food waste — it refines them. The resulting castings are a rich source of beneficial microbes as well as minerals and trace elements. An additional benefit is they are not stinky and will not burn plants. The castings also contain humic acid, aiding plant nutrient absorption.

Manures can also be used as side and top dressing around the tomato plants. It will slowly leach into soil with watering, providing long term root feeding.

Seaweed: Bounty from the Sea

Seaweed emulsions are especially beneficial to tomatoes, as they are higher in potassium and phosphorus than many other natural fertilizers. They are also a great source of magnesium, zinc and iron — one of the best organic fertilizers.

Seaweed fertilizers are made from kelp, a seaweed that can grow up to 50 metres. It’s a natural product, harvested without a negative impact on the environment, and is self-sustaining.

Seaweed emulsions or extracts boost the yield of tomato plants, as well as improving the overall quality of the fruits. They contain micronutrients that are chelated, or immediately available for the plant to take up and use.

The liquid seaweed also contains hormones essential to plant health. Auxins and cytokinins help regulate growth, budding and fruit formation. Betaines are essential to osmosis, helping to increase water uptake and reduce stress.

The best way to apply this fertilizer is to spray it directly on the leaves. The leaves absorb the fertilizer and benefit from it quickly. You can easily adjust the concentration by diluting the mixture of emulsion and water.

Just remember to thoroughly wash any fruits before you eat them!

Time Release Spikes: Long Term Growth Enhancers

Timed-release fertilizers are important tools for gardeners, and the spikes are easier to handle and use than granular fertilizers. Insert them into the soil at trans-planting time and your fertilizing is done! Instead of releasing nutrients quickly, they slowly release their nutrients over a longer period of time, giving the plants a steady source of minerals instead of a ‘feast or famine’ kind of feeding.

When looking for a slow release fertilizer spikes for your tomato plants, look for one that is a natural organic and formulated specifically for vegetables or tomatoes.

One of the best slow release spikes I’ve found is Jobe’s Biozome. These spikes are derived from bonemeal, have a NKP formulation of 2–7–4, and contain a combination of necessary bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. These micro-organisms help improve the quality of soil as well as helping plants become more resistant to disease, insects and other problems.

Compost Tea: Secret Weapon for Tasty Tomatoes

Compost tea is one of the easiest ways to fertilize vegetable plants. Make it by steeping compost in clean water. Strain the resulting liquid and use it to water plants. Your plants receive a super-charged drink with essential microbes, nutrients and minerals!

Compost tea can be used to water plants via the soil or as a foliar spray. As a spray, it may help to suppress any diseases as well as increasing the uptake of nutrition to the plants.

Don’t have the compost or the time to make a tea?

You can buy it.

Botanicare PURE BLEND TEA Organic-Based Compost Solution is a natural source of carbon and trace minerals. It is completely water soluble so can work with a hose sprayer.

There is one precaution you should take when spraying any compost tea onto the edible parts of your plants. Be sure to wash up those tomatoes thoroughly before eating them.

Best Organic Fertilizers for the Best Tomatoes

Tomatoes are highly productive plants, so need extra feeding. Use any or all of the best organic fertilizers to supply the nutrients for optimal soil health and a bumper crop of luscious tomatoes.tomatoes

Begin by digging in the compost. Then keep nutrients maintained throughout the season with bi-weekly feedings of seaweed emulsion or compost tea. Use slow release fertilizer spikes to supply long term root feeding. Your plants will thrive, set blossoms and produce quantities of fruit.

And when you see those strong, bushy tomato plants, filled with red or yellow tomatoes, ripe and ready for picking and slicing, you’ll know you’ve found the answer.

But be sure to wash up those juicy tomatoes thoroughly before eating them!

About the Author

Nicki is a dedicated gardener, a creative artist and a published author. Passionate about what she does, her gardening articles, books and paintings reveal her love of nature and the western Canadian scene. She loves sharing her container garden success with others to inspire their creativity.

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