How to Feed Tomato Plants

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New gardeners sometimes feed tomato plants too often, too much or at the wrong time. Too much food too early, or the wrong kind of fertilizer, can harm a tomato plant as much as never feeding it. Feeding a lot of food too early (before blossoms appear) may encourage the plant to pour energy into the leaves rather than the fruit. While avoiding over-feeding, it's also best to choose a fertilizer made specifically for tomatoes. These are richer in nutrients and will help the plants produce fruit.

Things You'll Need

  • Liquid tomato fertilizer
  • Watering can or garden hose
  • Hand garden spade
  • Fertilizer spikes
  • Use liquid fertilizer after planting the seedlings in your garden (or when foliage is at least 3 inches high, if you started them in the ground from seed). To do this, carefully pour fertilizer in a circle at least 2 to 3 inches from the stem and gently disperse it into the soil with a watering can or garden hose.

  • Place tomato fertilizer spikes a few inches from each tomato plant. Do this approximately 2 weeks after initial planting and follow directions on the package regarding how many to use. Usually one to two spikes per plant, placed on opposite sides, is sufficient. Give the plants a deep watering after setting the spikes. The soil should be wet several inches down.

  • Replace the spikes when they have dissolved (after several weeks, depending on weather conditions) or use granular tomato fertilizer. Granules, like spikes, gradually feed the plants. If you use granules, use a garden spade or similar tool to work them several inches into the soil (no more than 4 to 6 inches) and water them well. Covering the granules with soil keeps birds from eating the granules and helps get the nutrients where they need to be. Don't place the granules too close to the plant; 6 to 12 inches away from the stem usually is best.

  • Feed plants at least once more when it is bearing tomatoes, unless granules are not dissolved or, if applicable, the fertilizer spike is still intact.

Tips & Warnings

  • If other gardeners in your area planted at the same time and are getting fruit, but your plants aren't, you may be over or under-fertilizing. If you've been using fertilizer spikes, remove them. If you haven't fertilized in a while, give the plants a dose of fertilizer.
  • Do not pour or place fertilizer directly against the tomato stem. Concentrated fertilizer can burn the plant.

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