This will be my second year of growing tomatoes in 5 gallon pots. Last
year I think I did pretty darn good considering it was my first year,
the weather was unstable, and I have a black thumb (I'm so bad at
gardening I even kill grass).
I think last year my biggest mistakes were not using a good fertilizer
(I used imitation Miracle Gro) and lack of calcium. That and those
pesky hornworms that ate two out of three of my tomato plants (I
really hate those creepy little things).
I live in a small town and it's very difficult to buy fertilizers
unless you want to get something in bulk, which I don't. I think I can
get Bone Meal at a local store and I have some imitation Miracle Gro.
Other than that, there's not really much available.
My plan was to mix the potting soil and Bone Meal when I plant the
tomatoes, but how much Bone Meal should I add?
After that, how often should I feed the tomatoes? And what can I use?
Like I said before, I limited in choices and I know I can get Miracle
Gro and maybe Bone Meal. I may be able to get Fish Emulsion, but what
kind of store typically sells that?
Will the Bone Meal and possibly Fish Emulsion be good enough for
fertilizing? And will they provide enough calcium? I'm assuming
Miracle Gro is a poor choice of tomato fertilizer, correct?
I use limestone and regular garden fertilizer bought in 40 lb bags.
Maybe too much for you but both combined are only about $10 and will
last for years. Last years crop was not that great so this year I've
changed dirt. I use cheapest bagged top soil. Too much fertilizer
too early has done in a few of my seedlings in the past so I don't
fertilize heavily until there is a lot of growth. I find calcium and
water are most important to stave off blossom end rot.
Set up good conditions, plant and, keep soil humid, not soggy. The three
numbers on the fertilizer e.g. 5-2-2 stand for 6% nitrogen, 2%
phosphorous and, 2% potassium, respectively.
Nitrogen: Promotes leafy growth and green colour; organic sources are
blood meal, fishmeal
Phosphorus: Aids root health and seed development; organic sources are
bone meal, rock phosphates
Potassium: For strong stems and roots, proper water balance and disease
resistance; organic sources are kelp and wood ash.
5-2-2 is about what you would expect from fish emulsion. Fish emulsion
is good because it is nearly foolproof. In gardening, it is easy to kill
out of kindness because we want to give the plant everything that it
needs and we end up giving too much. Just follow the instructions. If
anything, the manufacturer will have you using the maximum required, so
that you will hurry back to buy some more.
If used according to instructions, the imitation Miracle Gro should be
OK for the plants. (If you were growing in the ground there would be
another long conversation about stewardship of the soil and your
responsibility to life on Earth but, we can save that for another time
because you are growing in pots, I presume with potting soil. The medium
is the message.)
Nitrogen is good early in the season because it encourages vegetative
growth but once up, you will want to cut back on it because you want
flowering and fruit development.
I find it usually takes me about three time at doing something new to
get the hang of it, so don't beat yourself up if you gaff it.
You may want to plant some basil as well. Nothing goes together better
than popping a fresh tomato wrapped in a basil leaf into your mouth.
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
Hornworms can be hand-picked, so that's a fairly easy fix for that.
I assume your "lack of calcium" showed up as blossom end rot? If so,
the bigger problem is actually uneven watering. A small drip irrigation
system would probably be a better choice (and bigger than 5 gallon containers,
if possible.) Mulch the top surface of the soil with several inches of
clean grass clippings from a lawn that has not been treated with weed
killers -- that will also help even out the water availability to the
As to fertilizer... you need to read the numbers on the label, not the
name of the maker. The order of numbers is N-P-K -- a higher first number
in relationship to the others promotes vegetative growth, at the expense
of root and flower (and fruit) development. Generally something with
ratios of about 1:2:2 or 1:2:4 or 1:4:2 or 1:4:4 is suitable for tomatoes.
Follow the package instructions as to amounts. However, my own preference
when using highly soluble fertilizers like Peters' or Miracle Grow, is to
use 1/4 the advised "monthly amount" weekly, properly diluted in water.
If you start seeing salt crusts on the soil or leaf tip burning, you're
using too much too often. Back off on the fertilizer and leach the soil
with extra water -- multiple gallons running out the bottom of the pot.
You might also choose a long-release fertilizer
like Osmocote, mix it in with the soil, and be mostly done with it.
Or you can use various organic fertilizers -- just know that the ratio
is the important part.
Watch the soil pH, too.
I tried a raised bed garden. 10X10. Last year, used potting soil and 1-2-2
ratio fertilizer. Didn't fare that well. May have been the hot weather, no
This year, added 4" more depth. Used sandy loam, and a little pine bark
mulch, with the same 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer. All mixed with last years
stuff. 2 better boys are sprouting flowers already. Think I'm in trouble
cuz I've got 12 going. 6 big boys/6 better boys. They did have leaf
trouble for awhile, some kind of blight. All but one is over it.
Maters seem to like feast and famine with water here. They seem to fight
back if I don't keep them wet everyday. Otherwise, mostly just lay there if
I do. Guessing its promoting root growth.
Try fish emulsion until they are a couple of feet tall, then go back to
the 1-2-2. The ground needs to be dry on top and moist below, not soggy.
Maybe try some black plastic around them to warm them up.
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
When I plant my tomatoes in the containers I use half potting mix,
half finished compost (no animal products in the compost)
I then mix in a slow release organic fertilizer with the ration of
8-2-4 which is also 4-1-2 etc. Certified organic fertilizer is much
better than synthetic fertilizer because it feeds the soil as well as
the plant and in turn gives a buffer against problems with lack of
calcium, etc. However, after about a month in the container I use
powdered skim milk mixed with the proper ratio of water and water the
tomato plants with that and it is enough calcium. You can also use
crushed up Tums or equivalent. I wouldn't use limestone as that can
also reduce the pH and tomatoes like it a little on the acid side or
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