When is it too late to fertilize tomato plants?

blurose

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I planted my tomato plants the first day of May and fertilized them with tomato fertilizer at that time. The plants are blossoming and there are a very few scattered fruits already. Can and should I fertilize them one more time? The soil they are in isn't very nutrient rich and is somewhat sandy feeling. I know it only takes about a day to dry out after I water, so I water a little every day.
 

davaroo

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blurose said:
I planted my tomato plants the first day of May and fertilized them with tomato fertilizer at that time. The plants are blossoming and there are a very few scattered fruits already. Can and should I fertilize them one more time? The soil they are in isn't very nutrient rich and is somewhat sandy feeling. I know it only takes about a day to dry out after I water, so I water a little every day.
First, apply a "collar" of compost or rotted plant material around each plant. If you have no compost pile, just go out to the nearest patch of woods, remove the top layer of leaves and scrape up the damp leaf mold down below. It should be brown and crumbly and smell like dirt - that'll do.

Then add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch, two feet around each plant. Use the raked leaves from the woods, grass clippings, pine straw, whatever you have handy. Might as well make it look neat while your at it, too.

Here's the deal. Tomatoes need to be watered deeply, about 2-3 times per week. By comparison, frequent shallow watering (especially in sandy soil) keeps roots near the surface where they can dry out.
So between deep watering and the compost/mulch "carpet," water is held around the plant much better, and gives some nutrients as the compost decays.

(You may also wish to gently work the tines of a fork down into the soil, about a foot from the plant, once per week. This will allow water to seep down deep.)

So, since tomatoes are deep feeders, lots of rotted compost/manure/peat/ditch muck should have been worked into the soil before planting. There is no substitute for this - fertilizer cannot make up for it if it is missing. But if it wasn't dug in first, don't worry - it can be done next time.

Once tomatoes begin fruiting, you then want to fertilize them with a high potash fertilizer every 2 weeks. Any of the special blends made for tomatoes will do, like the one you have. Or just a general fertilizer, like one of the 17-17-17 types will work. So long as the last two numbers of the analysis are high, you're in business with toms!

Another simple thing you can use that costs no money is a trowel full of wood ashes, worked in around the base. Burn all your woody yard and garden waste, sift the cooled fire ashes and use the fine, dry ash as a top dressing. Or, you can sprinkle a tsp. of Epsom salts around the plant base and work that in gently, the same way...

Remember to remove all suckers from the inter-branch forks and trim the growing tips of the plant once you set 4-5 clusters of fruit.
Do these simple things and your tomatoes will yield lots of juicy fruit.
 

Greenthumb18

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Hey davaroo, you mentioned that a 17-17-17 fertilizer is good for tomatoes i have 15-30-15, would this be ok??

Thanks!
 

davaroo

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Greenthumb18 said:
Hey davaroo, you mentioned that a 17-17-17 fertilizer is good for tomatoes i have 15-30-15, would this be ok??

Thanks!
I would think so, yeah. Certainly better than nothing.
What is wanted is to avoid a high first number, which is nitrogen. When that is too high, the plant makes lots of foliage - but not as much fruit.
 

HiDelight

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Davaroo what a great description on how to feed tomatoes! Thank you! ... I have some San Marzano's growing (and also some good looking heirlooms) and they are going to be my "famous" marinara if they do well (so far they are and I am very excited to see those baby tomatoes looking so great!) growing tomatoes here can be iffy we have a huge problem with blight

I usually build my soil in the raised beds ...and then plant and deep water but I never feed or recompost ..they do ok but I want spectacular this year so I am going to folow your adivse and start feeding them when I get more clusters

I do trim suckers off because we need good airflow here to prevent disease from rain sitting on the plants ..but also so all the energy goes into those fruits!

side note and off topic I am sorry : this year is the first year I have put a plastic roof on my plants..and a drip hose so the plants stay dry and the soil gets a deep watering ..I hope that helps!

Blurose thank you so much for starting this thread ..
 

Ridgerunner

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Davaroo mentioned pruning the suckers off. These two articles discuss this process. Both mention to NOT prune determinate varieties.

I find the first article to be fairly balanced about why you should or should not prune. There are reasons for both. The second is certainly not balanced but does give very good information about how to prune.

Why Prune tomatoes
http://www.growing-tomato.com/Pruning_Tomatoes_A_Guide_to_Pruning_Tomato_Plants.html

Benefits of pruning tomatoes
http://www.lifescript.com/Life/Timeout/At-home/The_Benefits_Of_Pruning_Tomato_Plants.aspx?trans=1&du=1&gclid=CKL8tY-joJsCFRmbnAod3yWNCw&ef_id=1350:3:c_1078523575347a17db2dee5acaf20a02_2540979905:Mfxz7ENIYWQAADtyy9YAAAAQ:20090623112143
 

HiDelight

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I only prune the suckers off the vining tomatoes I did not think you need to off the determinate ones but even those if it looks like water will collect I will pinch a few of the suckers off to let light and air in .... thanks for the info I will read it when I get home from work later

so much to learn about things you think you already know :)
 

vfem

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I rarely prune the suckers off the tomato.... they force the fruit that's on to ripen as is, and you are losing a chance at a later developing crop, or a heavier crop....

Now, I think it is a good idea to do in places with short growing seasons.... in the south it seems wasteful.... like pulling extra melons from the vines.
 

davaroo

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AS for pruning, it is something that you choose to do. I do it to a degree, but not religiously. The idea being that fewer parasitic branches is probably a good thing. If I miss a few, it 'aint the end of the world.

Somewhere along the way, I strike a balance between quantity and quality. I'm more interested in tomatoes that are full-fleshed and uncracked, along with plants that are healthy and not blighted. If I don't manage a blue ribbon branch buster, I'm okay with that.

I normally end up with more tomatoes than an entire neighborhood can eat, anyway, so it all comes out in the wash.

================================================

In the garden, our true characters are laid bare. As I like to say, "All Men Are Kings Before Potatoes!"
 

HiDelight

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I think everything to do with tomatoes ..is relavent to where you live and what your weather and soil is like.....we have horrible rot here ..I have had years where I had full plants of beautiful tomatoes and never pruned or tented them and right as they were starting to blush ..all the plants literally died on the vines! it is so freaking heart breaking ...of all the things I grow ..quality tomatoes are the most important to my family ...so I have fought this battle ..try to learn from my mistakes and advice of others...

this article explains a lot in a short statement .. about how to grow in our Pacific NW mainly temporate and sometimes quite wet climate and I do prune my vine tomatoes to almost one main stem an espiliar fashion... ..since I have been doing it I have beautiful productive vines and no plant death
http://gardening.wsu.edu/column/06-16-02.htm

as it mentions here even on the determinate varieties ...I take any shoots that are anywhere near the soil off as well ..I find this all makes for a hardy main stem that does not tip as easily either

this year for sure I am going to add some organic fert (thanks to this thread) and try to get an even better yeild so thanks for the advice!
 
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